Like many of you, I love the idea of 3D printing. I used to be skeptical of its large-scale applications and ease of use. Well, that did not last long! Today’s journey will outline my route from concept to finished production parts, highlighting the ease of setup using Smartstream for the HP Multi Jet Fusion printers. On this trip, I will bring along SOLIDWORKS, my trusted parametric 3D computer-aided design software used by millions of users worldwide. My background as a CAD designer, instructor, and troubleshooter creates a firm foundation for understanding how the 3D world operates. From what I don’t know, countless forums and user groups can help me learn and improve.
So, what happens when an idea becomes a CAD model and asks to become a physical model, or hundreds of physical models, all in the span of a few days?
Sometimes the CAD design is provided by a customer and is downloaded from a 3D printing sharing site such as GrabCAD, or other times I design it myself. If it’s my design, I generally follow a simple process, but first, I have to answer some questions:
Once I answer these questions and create my model, I export it in one of these three file formats: STL, 3MF, or VRML. Today, I am using STL for simplicity and ease of use. If the model is sent from another user in one of these formats, I can use it directly. If not, I can open it in SOLIDWORKS and save it as a preferred file format.
When I save a model from my CAD platform, I check for some very important file format items:
Binary STL is sufficient, as ASCII brings unnecessary information and increases the file size. For VRML, version 97 is the best option, as Version 1 is older and does not work with some slicing software.
Now it is time to set up my print job!
HP Smartstream 3D Build Manager is a straightforward, robust, and easy-to-use tool many use for their printing needs. Users can download it from the HP website here.
This software is FREE! Yes, free, and there are no license requirements. Now, of course, it only works for the HP Multi Jet Fusion, the HP 4200/5200 series, and 300/500 series printers, but I can have as many copies on as many computers as I need. It is very light, occupies little space on my hard drive, and does not use many system resources.
At times, the model is not well meshed, and the surfaces are not watertight. That creates a problem for slicing software in determining where to place material. Smartstream has an integrated Repair tool. It analyzes, kits, and re-meshes the surfaces of the model without altering the geometry. A single click starts the process, and it requires no knowledge of CAD or meshing on the user’s part.
Now that my model is loaded, here are some of the options I have to adjust and prepare my print:
I have tools such as pan view, zoom, cut-away, orthographic views, and orbit to view my results.
Before printing the parts, I can run a wall thickness analysis to determine if the model has any areas likely to fail. This analysis can save me a lot of time reprinting since the HP Smartstream software functions specifically for HP Multi Jet printers. This analysis’s high accuracy is expected because of this integration.
Then, I can add more parts and auto-pack them or arrange them by hand.
For administrative purposes, I can also run a report and see my parts’ dimensions and other necessary information. This is in PDF format and easy to print out.
A special feature of Smartstream is the “Caging” option. This allows me to create a cage around my small parts so they do not get lost during the cleaning process. Below, you see 32 gears and the caging parameters I used on the right side.
Then, I can connect to my printer using the IP address and send the job.
At the intersection of simplicity, reliability, and performance, HP Smartstream 3D Build Manager is a great tool to have available. Suppose more tools are needed, such as internal latticing, manual file repair, or topology optimization. In that case, third-party software such as Materialize Magics or NetFabb have plug-ins specific for the HP Multi Jet Fusion. These software packages are license-based and must be purchased or leased. For the large majority of users, Smartstream is adequate.
The user interface is very simple and similar to the HP wide format printers, thus making it very user-friendly. I select the job and press print.
*I will note here that the printer is already ready by having enough Nylon 12, Nylon 11, or TPU powder material available and fusing, detailing and color agents*
Once it starts, I will have an accurate reading of how long the job will take. The HP 500/300 series printers have built-in material processing, printing, and cooling. The 4200/5200 series has a separate processing station, which requires the build chamber to be moved. This adds a step, but also allows a second job to print while the first one is cooling, increasing production capacity!
I look forward to using this printer every time someone needs parts printed. The ability to produce hundreds of parts per day is amazing! 3D printing has come a long way and is only getting better so be on the lookout for more innovative printers from the HP Multi Jet Fusion line.