The Lowdown on the HP Jet Fusion 5200 Industrial 3D Printer
It wasn't too long ago that 3D printing seemed like the stuff of science fiction. However, 3D printing has become very real, and it is changing the way people and businesses create their prototypes, architectural models, engineered parts, and so many other things.
It's incredible, isn't it? The thought that you can build anything you can dream of — as long as you can render a virtual 3D representation of it — is hugely empowering.
For those in the market for an industrial 3D printer, this write-up is for you. It will be particularly helpful if you are considering getting the Jet Fusion 5200 Industrial 3D printer from Hewlett-Packard.
What Is Multi-Jet Fusion?
HP Jet Fusion 5200 is an industrial 3D printer that uses multi-jet fusion technology to print 3D objects.
Multi-jet fusion is an atypical 3D printing method. Therefore, to better understand this method, it would be best to contrast it with the most popular or mainstream 3D printing technology, Fused Filament Fabrication or Fused Deposition Modeling.
Fused Filament Fabrication
Fused filament fabrication is an established additive manufacturing method primarily known as fused deposition modeling or FDM, a term that has been trademarked and popularized by Stratasys. It is the most popular 3D printing method, according to Statista, with around 71% of the respondents reporting they use it in-house.
FFF/FDM is a material extrusion method. The 3D printer melts the material used for printing and extrudes it via a heated nozzle onto the build plane one layer at a time.
Each layer is created according to the thickness specified by the printer's slicing software. The thickness ranges typically from 0.01 mm to 0.5 mm. The layers are also placed precisely on the build plane according to the instructions by the printing software.
Multi-jet fusion, meanwhile, is a relatively new 3D printing method introduced by Hewlett-Packard. It is a 3D adaptation of HP's 2D printing technology.
The 3D printing software starts by rendering the 3D file into voxels, the 3D equivalent of 2D printing's pixels. Then the printer spreads a layer of powder-based material on the build plate.
Next, the printer uses its inkjet matrix to fuse the voxels that, according to the computer-aided design file guiding the build, need to be printed.
Specifically, the printer applies a fusing agent, a heat-conducting material, to the voxels that would be printed. It also uses a detailing agent, a cooling substance, on the boundaries of what would later become fused sections.
Another pass, this time by the infrared thermal heating unit, melts the material that has been treated with the fusing agent and strongly binds or fuses them. However, the material treated with the detailing agent does not melt and fuse under the heat. Therefore, the detailing agent ensures the precise contouring of 3D-printed parts and distinct separation between parts (especially if they are printed in stacks).
Now that you know how multi-jet fusion works and how it is different from the mainstream 3D printing method of FFM/FDM, it's time to gauge HP Jet Fusion 5200's fit to your business.
HP Jet Fusion 5200: The Good
The following gives the HP Jet Fusion 5200 3D printer an edge over other printers.
- Excellent 3D Printing Quality: Functional Parts
HP Jet Fusion 5200 creates excellent quality prints. Parts printed using this 3D printer have smooth, highly contoured edges, production-quality finish, excellent design fidelity, and superior dimensional accuracy. Therefore, it can easily print highly complex designs.
Furthermore, this printer creates isotropic prints, which ensures it can create strong parts. Additional layers are likely to have the same orientation as preceding layers. This uniformity in direction contributes to a 3D printed material's strength.
In other words, you can use HP Jet Fusion 5200 to create functional, ready-to-use parts instead of just prototypes or proof-of-concept renderings.
- Low Materials Cost: Great Savings
HP Jet Fusion 5200 uses powder for printing, and it costs around USD 45 per kilogram. This is relatively affordable. Although some materials used in FFM/FDM printing can cost as low as USD 10 per kilogram, many of them can cost hundreds of dollars per kilogram.
Furthermore, any leftover powder from a build may be collected and reused in another build. This adds to your cost savings.
- Quick and Efficient Printing: Faster Builds
HP Jet Fusion 5200 has a maximum build size of 380 × 284 × 380 mm and a maximum build volume of 41 liters. Unlike other printers, however, it will let you maximize the build area so that you can print as many parts as you need simultaneously.
Since HP Jet Fusion 5200 prints objects that do not require a support layer, parts can be stacked up to maximum build capacity. Therefore, depending on the dimensions and size of the parts you're printing, HP Jet Fusion 5200 can print thousands of parts in a single run.
Additionally, HP Jet Fusion 5200 can finish 3D printing much quicker than other 3D printers in the market. Specifically, HP's multi-jet fusion printers can complete prints 10 times faster than other 3D printers.
Finally, you don't need to constantly monitor the printer to ensure it is working. It's basically a load-and-forget printer as long as you set it up correctly.
- Uncomplicated Settings
HP Jet Fusion 5200 works like a 2D jet printer, except it prints in 3D. Since it reduces printing to the voxel level (see discussion on multi-jet fusion above), it works the same regardless of the complexity, size, material, and dimensions required by your print job.
This is in outright contrast to FFM/FDM printers. These printers often require different settings for different print jobs. There are even print jobs that can run only on a specific FFM/FDM printer.
HP Jet Fusion 5200: The Bad
The following are the things that might make you rethink investing in an HP Jet Fusion 5200 3D printer.
- Prohibitive Printer Cost: Not Too Affordable
The price of HP's multi-jet fusion printers is at least 10 times that of FFM/FDM printers. Moreover, the annual cost of maintaining a multi-jet fusion printer is almost equivalent to the price of a brand new FFM/FDM printer.
- Fairly Limited Materials
There are fewer materials certified for HP Jet Fusion 5200 printing than there are for other mainstream printers. If your product requires a material not approved for use with HP Jet Fusion 5200, then this printer is not for you.
HP Jet Fusion 5200 is one of the best 3D printers currently available. However, it is an expensive piece of machinery. It is for you if your company's revenues rely heavily on superior-quality 3D printing — say, for instance, you're a plastic pipe fittings manufacturing company — the fast turn-around on builds and the relatively low cost of materials will make it worth the hefty initial investment.
Antoine El Kara is the Managing Director at Dynagraph, the leading player in the Middle Eastern graphics industry, specializing in offset, large format and 3D printing. A pioneer and early-adopter, backed by solid business sense and a well-defined support structure, Dynagraph offers a comprehensive range of tailor-made solutions, services and products, from preprint, print and post-print, to corrugating, converting and packaging solutions.