Blog: June 02, 2016
Topics: 3D Printing

3D Strategy: Transforming design and manufacturing

Creating a virtuous product lifestyle


Until the rise of the Industrial Revolution, hand-crafted one off design and manufacturing was the norm. Blacksmiths were both designer and manufacturer; each pair of horseshoes they crafted was unique, even when made for the same horse! Production was slow and things were made to order. Save for a few high value items like coffee, tea and spices, products were rarely if ever made in advance, inventoried and ready for sale. Supply chains for manufactured goods were piecemeal.But that changed in the 18th century with the rise of the machine and the First Industrial Revolution. Textiles went from being hand-spun, to woven with a spinning wheel and loom, leading to faster production time with lower cost material. The introductions of the weaving loom, cotton gin, steam engine and factories to assemble product changed the very nature of how things were made.Over a period of roughly 75 years—late 1700s to the mid-1800s—production became increasingly standardized. Each task from design to manufacturing and assembly was broken down into discrete functions. Henry Ford’s Model T took things to a new level at the start of the 20th century, gaining speed and efficiency with the introduction of mass production and factories.


New materials and methodologies from metal casting to injection molding helped to produce most of the products around us today. With refined workforce and manufacturing practices, and the computer automation of previously manual labor-intensive tasks, things have continued to be produced faster and in larger quantity throughout the past century.Despite all this, the basic design and manufacturing process hasn’t fundamentally changed over the past 100+ years. In fact, not only have the processes not improved but they’ve put a substantial strain on ournatural resources pushed production farther and farther from the consumer, and constrained design flexibility and customization.

Approaching the perfect storm

Over the next 10 to 15 years socioeconomic forces, advanced design and production innovation, and highly automated printing processes will intersect to create a massive transformation of design and manufacturing.As we discussed in the last issue of the HP Innovation Journal, how and where we design, sell and manufacture products will continue to become both hyper-global and hyper-local thanks to a globally connected world with a diverse set of local requirements. Production will move closer to the consumer, with local 3D-print service bureaus throughout the world, thus accelerating product delivery, reducing carbon footprint, and simplifying logistics and inventory management. How those products move from design to production to those 3D printing hubs will become easier, smarter and faster.Until recently we’ve been designing products for the 3D world in which we live, using 2D design and compute tools.

We’ve been largely unable to bring our physical inspirations into our digital design process. Sprout by HP marks a first step to overcoming that obstacle, enabling us to bring 2D and 3D objects directly into our product design workflow—allowing designers to manipulate and work with those objects using their hands—seamlessly blending our physical and digital worlds.

Democratizing designand manufacturing

Ultimately the success of this end-to-end transformation will rely heavily on the printing of the final product. With 3D printing comes the move from the traditional manufacturing process to additive manufacturing. In the simplest of terms that means rather than manufacturing mostly 2 dimensional parts and assembling them together to make a product, you add layers of material thus building a product from the ground up with minimum or no assembly and more dimension. With the introduction of HP Jet Fusion 3D printers being showcased at drupa 2016, based on a disruptive HP Multi Jet Fusion technology, new levels of 3D production speed can be achieved, at reduced operating cost, for parts which offer an unprecedented combination of both fine detail and end part strength.

End part production requires a seamless hand-off between the design and intended printer or information can be lost, and the design intent and quality expectations may not be met by the printer. 3D is more than competing for cost and speed optimizations of the same product. The true potential of 3D is realized when one can develop products which cannot be manufactured today. The seamlessness of the interface between design tools and 3D printers becomes even more important as our future printers enable multiple properties within one object, enabling changing colors, textures, transparency, strength, elasticity, and more. Imagine an industrial designer, who could tell the printer which contrasting colors and textures to apply to the knobs of a car, while the mechanical designer could define different levels of strength and elasticity to the same part, all while the design tools assure that these design intents can be printed.

Enabling professional designers to easily specify the design intent that takes full advantage of the voxel printer, the first step towards the transformation of manufacturing and ultimately towards the democratization of design. For this to happen, the printer’s capability needs to be communicated upstream from the design tools to the designers. This will also require that the design software and the printer speak a common and enriched volumetric language that can be translated into volumetric pixels or voxels at the printer.

HP’s Blended Reality vision for 3D printing

But the end to end journey doesn’t end with the printed product. Longer term, by embedding tracing marks and sensors into the product, we’ll also be able to track every step of a product lifecycle from initial 3D object scan, to design, through production, quality measurement, delivery, and real-world use. This will provide in-lifecycle information to improve the design and fabrication of future parts.

This moves the entire manufacturing process seamlessly from physical to digital and back to physical, creating what we at HP call Blended Reality. Imagine the impact this continuous improvement cycle could have on industries and our lives. Artificial knees, hearing aids, and heart valve replacements would be improved and fine-tuned based on actual usage. Airplane and auto parts could be modified based on travel patterns and weather conditions. Sports apparel and equipment could be customized based on performance and use.This type of transformation will allow us to return to the artisan roots of yesteryear, while pioneering a new wave of custom manufacturing around the globe.

  • Unleashing the imagination of designers in ways never anticipated.
  • Moving production locally to where it makes the most sense, making better use of resources (good for the environment) and transporting goods over less terrain (also good for the environment).
  • Building intelligence into the manufacturing process that enables products to continually improve.The transformation will allow inventors to imagine and print objects which cannot be designed and manufactured today. The possibilities are endless to keep reinventing.

The true potential of 3D is realized when one can develop products which cannot be fabricated today. Learn more

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