HP launches 3D printers

HP has launched two 3D printers onto the European market, aiming to do for rapid prototyping what laser printers and inkjets did for 2D printing.

HP said that the time was right for design studios and others to use 3D printing, in particular for prototyping. Mathis Malm, HP's large format sales director, claimed that at only five to ten models a month, the device could pay for itself within a year. “And if only one error is discovered before tooling for production, this can save thousands of dollars,” he added.

“With 3D printing, we can accelerate design and create more product launches per year,” confirmed an early user of the printer, Joseph Congost, design manager at sanitaryware maker Roca. “Moreover, we can make important decisions early and recognize design, fit and function issues.”

The HP Designjet 3D and Designjet Colour 3D use fused deposition modelling (FDM) to create solid ABS plastic objects. As the names suggest, one uses monochrome (ivory) plastic while the other can work in eight different colours.

Developed by Stratasys, the FDM process deposits molten plastic through a nozzle onto a support structure, building up the model layer by layer. The two new printers are rebranded Dimension uPrint models, and under its agreement with HP, Stratasys will no longer sell the same devices in the countries which HP is addressing.

As well as the printer, users will need a Designjet Removal device to wash away any remaining support material after printing. HP added that printer waste – including unwanted 3D models - can be recycled, either in the normal plastics waste collection or through its own Planet Partners programme.

Available from May 2010 in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK, the Designjet 3D will list for €12,500 (around £11,000) and the Colour 3D for €16,200 (£14,250), HP said.

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