The 3D printing technology is undergoing a rapid innovation phase. New technologies are emerging and corresponding support products and services are developing. With the need to make the technology faster and more efficient Hewlett-Packard (HP), invented and developed the Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) Technology. This technology is lauded by most industry experts for its Voxel-level control and its speed that is up to 10 times faster than its competitors.
In this article, we explain the Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) Technology in detail. But before that, we will cover a similar technology, Binder Jetting and even the concept of Voxel-level printing.
Binder Jetting 3D Printing Technology
Binder Jetting is a 3D printing technology used to print large and complex parts in industrial-grade materials. It uses a binding agent and material in powdered form. The liquid binder acts as a binding agent to the powdered layers of the material. The print head moves horizontally along the X-Y direction depositing the binder while the bed which holds the powdered material moves in Z-direction. After successive layers, the object is completely printed and is supported by the surrounding powder.
Voxel, simply is a Volumetric Pixel. In 3D printing, we can define a voxel as a value on a grid in a three-dimensional space, like a pixel with volume. Each voxel contains certain volumetric information which helps to create a three-dimensional object with required properties. Voxel is the smallest distinguishable element of any 3D printed object and represents a certain grid value.
Voxel-level printing is the ability of a 3D printer to control each and every voxel and build an object from its tiniest building block. This gives the 3D printer an unprecedented control over the printing of that object. 3D prints with voxel-level control will result in a high print resolution and high accuracy with greater functionality.
Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D Printing Technology
Above: HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) Ecosystem/Video Credit: HP Graphic Arts/YouTube
Multi Jet Fusion Technology is the revolutionary 3D printing technology developed by HP Inc. It has created a buzz around the 3D printing industry with the precision and accuracy it is able to achieve. The voxel-level control it achieves is remarkable and worth the mention and credit. The print quality and detailing have confirmed the potential of the technology and with the subsequent advantages of the technology, this technology, according to industry commentators, is likely to rule the upcoming 3D printing revolution.
HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) also uses powder material for the printing, but it does away with costly lasers. The fusion takes place without the need of lasers, as is the case in Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology.
As mentioned above, MJF is quite similar to binder jetting. It uses a powdered material, a binding agent and does not require lasers. But what separates MJF from BJ is the fact that in addition to the binding agent, it also uses another liquid agent. This second liquid agent, called as a detailing agent, is deposited in the same pattern to bring out the finest details of the design and even give the print a smoother surface. Therefore it is also sometimes called as Multi-agent printing process.
MJF 3D Printing Process
The Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) printing process works similar to a binder jetting process. The process starts with a 3D model which is loaded into the software to convert it into a machine-readable format. The printing starts when one layer worth of powder is spread onto the build platform. The print head carrying the liquid binding agent is then selectively deposited on the material layer where the particles are meant to fuse together. A second print head carrying the liquid agent, called as a detailing agent, is then deposited to bring out the fine details of the print and to create smooth surfaces.
Simultaneously the heating lamps also heat the deposited liquid agents. This helps in even distribution of the heat from the lamps. The entire region is thus exposed to infrared light and reactions between the agents and the material causes the particles to fuse together to form the print geometry for the layer.
This process is repeated for each layer until the complete object is printed. The parts are then allowed to be cooled down inside the build chamber itself. MJF technology uses less energy and so the cooling time is also short.
Once cooled, the residual powder is cleared out with the help is suction pumps and the printed part is thoroughly cleaned and is ready for use in the application.
The Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology is new and so it does not have a huge material library but HP is working hard towards increasing the existing material range. Below are some of the currently available materials for 3D printing with the entire Jet Fusion Series
HP 3D High Reusability PA 12: Ideal for producing strong, quality parts at the lowest cost per part
HP 3D High Reusability PA 12 Glass Beads: Ideal for producing stiff, low cost, quality parts
HP 3D High Reusability PA 11: Ideal for producing ductile, quality parts at the lowest cost per part
To expand its materials portfolio, HP has launched an open materials platform under which they certify materials to be used in the MJF series of 3D printers. Evonik’s VESTOSINT® 3D Z2773 PA 12 is the first certified material under the Open materials platform. It is a modified polyamide-based powder.
Standout Features of Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printing Technology
- The MJF technology is up to 10 times faster than competing products
- MJF does not require lasers and so the machine is much more reliable due to less number of critical parts.
- MJF uses infrared light to fuse the powder particles, which consumes less energy.
- Layer thickness with MJF printing is 80µm, whereas it is up to 100µm for the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology.
- It uses a detailing agent which enhances the fine details of the print.
- The finished parts are smoother than other powder-based 3D printing systems.
- The prints cool faster than other methods.
- MJF has applications in quality production components, tough & durable prototypes, printed colour parts, living hinges, fit, form and function parts as well as printed assemblies.
The only significant limitation observed about the MJF technology is its small material portfolio.
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