HP’s new 3-D system to print Nikes, BMW parts – USA TODAY
PALO ALTO, Calif. — Mass-produced sneakers and car parts are about to roll off assembly lines at Nike and BMW — 3-D printer assembly lines.
HP on Tuesday announced the world’s first 3-D printer for large-scale manufacturing. Nine companies, including Nike, BMW and Johnson & Johnson, are testing the HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution, says Stephen Nigro, who runs HP’s 3-D printing business. He announced the news at the RAPID tech conference in Orlando today.
Its promise: 10 times the speed at half the cost.
“We want to change the way the world prints parts,” says Nigro, who previously ran HP’s $20 billion print division. “Customers are looking at how to transform their (3-D printing) business from prototyping to production.”
The printing system marks the first fruits of HP’s announcement in late 2014 to plunge into 3-D printing. HP, a pioneer in the printing business, unfurled two 3-D printers — starting at $130,000 — and a $155,000 end-to-end solution (including software). It co-developed the system with the nine companies who are its business partners so we could better “understand their pain points,” Nigro says.
BMW plans to integrate HP’s printing system into future production of serial parts and personal customization, according to Jens Ertel, head of BMW Group Additive Manufacturing Center.
Nike has been using 3-D printing for what it calls “performance innovations” for its footwear for several years, says Tom Clarke, president of innovation at Nike. The HP deal should allow it to do more.
Neither BMW nor Nike would disclose which products they plan to print in 3-D, and in what quantities, because of competitive reasons.
The foray into 3-D is considered a prime business opportunity for HP, the printer-and-PC division that splintered from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) when the original Hewlett-Packard was split into two $50 billion companies late last year. Meg Whitman, who ran H-P, is now CEO of HPE.
The market for 3-D printers, which improved to $1.516 billion worldwide last year, could mushroom to $640 billion if it penetrates just 5% of the $12.8 trillion manufacturing economy, says Terry Wohlers, president of market researcher Wohlers & Associates.
“The opportunity to use 3-D printing for final-part manufacturing — custom, limited edition and mass production — is vast,” he says. “Consider the 3-D printing of fashion products, food and living tissue.”
HP is entering a market dominated by Stratasys, which garnered 41% of worldwide market share for industrial 3-D printers priced over $5,000 last year, according to Wohlers. 3D Systems and Envisiontec are other notable market leaders.
HP’s printing system is ideal for on-demand, customized printing of goods such as athletic footwear with multiple designs, Wohlers and others say.
3-D printing is not likely to replace the mass production at large factories, many in China, anytime soon. Steep costs for purchasing and installing such futuristic manufacturing systems make them an expensive option. Instead, it’s seen as a way to keep inventories low and reduce turnaround time for customized items.
“The barriers to mass production are pretty high,” says Samantha Snabes, CEO of Re:3D, a maker of 3-D printers based in Houston. “High-end printers are expensive” — she says it can costs millions to buy and install them — “and you can’t pop (product) out every few seconds.”
For highly specialized parts, however, 3-D printing makes it easier to get to market faster, says Kevin Tracy, manager of strategy and corporate business development at Autodesk.
“You’re not going to use AM (additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing) to mass produce a million items that cost a buck each,” he says.
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