Hewlett-Packard says they're about to entirely disrupt 3D printing technology with a new a computer system and printer which streamlines the entire creation process.
Calling it a "Blended Reality" system, the two new products from HP – Sprout and the Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer – are designed to revolutionize the way users create content and then 3D print the resulting objects.
While the Multi Jet Fusion printers aren't aimed at consumer users, HP says their target markets of commercial, architectural and industrial design users are sure to be interested.
The Sprout is an all-in-one machine with an Intel i7 processor and 1 terabyte hard drive running Windows 8.1. The system includes at touchscreen, a touch mat, depth sensors, high-resolution camera and a 3D scanner.
The Sprout Illuminator scanner lets users scan physical objects into the computer which can be projected onto the touch mat where they can be manipulated as virtual objects.
Ron Coughlin, senior vice president of Consumer PC and Solutions at HP, says it's all about technology bringing computers into sync with users.
"The physical and digital worlds have largely been separated," Coughlin said this week. "Digital creation has remained in 2D. With Sprout by HP, we introduce the first immersive computing platform, seamlessly merging these two worlds together, enabling people to intuitively bring their creations, work, and projects to life in 3D."
It's the output side of the 3D printing equation where HP believes they have found the Rosetta Stone.
The new 3D printing technology the company is touting, Multi Jet Fusion, is said to be capable of building objects 10 times faster than current SLS and FDM 3D printers in internal testing.
Based on HP's thermal inkjet technology, the new process uses a "multi-agent printing process" to apply a group of liquid materials all at once. They say the resulting objects are stronger, more durable and uniform, and that the output features finer finishes and detail and smoother surfaces than current products.
Don't expect a desktop item. Classified as an industrial 3D printer incorporating HP intellectual property, private users will have access via service bureaus. This is not a personal 3D printer.
The Sprout system is available for pre-order now and HP plans to place it at select retail locations and on their official site as soon as November 9. The full end-to-end 3D printing system is expected to be available in 2016, with specific early customers (likely to enterprise clients and service bureaus) chosen for testing in 2015.
The video below includes a short time-lapse view of the Multi Jet Fusion printer in action. It looks a lot like a cross between Stratasys' Objet and 3D Systems' ProJet x60 (formerly ZCorp) technologies. It is full color and powder-based, placing 350 million 21 micron drops of binder onto each layer per pass using HP's synchronous architecture and Thermal Inkjet technology. It is capable of using multiple liquid agents. Possible materials include thermoplastics, biocompatible, ceramic, metal and others. The company plans a certification process for partners to develop materials.