HP Multi Jet Fusion is a modern manufacturing process capable of producing production-grade parts. Check out these 3D printing services offering MJF!
HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) is a powder-based additive manufacturing process, whose parts are valued for their high-quality matte surface finish and nearly isotropic properties. The technology works by laying down an even layer of powder for each layer in the part, after which a print head applies droplets of fusing and detailing agents. Each layer is made solid, fusing it to the previous one, by thermally treating these agents.
MJF has become one of the standards in additive manufacturing for making large quantities of functional parts. The key word, here, is “functional”, as MJF shines in the production of hardware designed for a specific purpose.
There are many MJF printing services throughout the world. HP released MJF in 2017 and is currently on its second generation of machines.
But the technology is still young. Currently, the process is largely limited to PA12 nylon in gray or black. Continually developing the technique, HP intends to soon reach voxel-level control of material properties and color.
The question for the meantime is, where can you get MJF parts made? The answer? Everywhere. HP distributes its machines to any service provider or company that wants to utilize them. But there are some key services that have a long history in the industry as well as with MJF itself.
If you’re having trouble deciding between these services (or any 3D printing services), check out Craftcloud, the 3D printing and price comparison service from All3DP. For no additional fees, you’ll be provided real-time prices (including shipping) from a global network of partners.
Now, let’s get to the services themselves!
In this article, we’ll be discussing companies based on a few aspects:
Perhaps unintuitively, in this article, we won’t be discussing pricing, as MJF costs are mostly dependent on part design and quantity. Additionally, all of the following services have similar pricing models.
Founded in 1994, Forecast 3D has been helping in the development and production of new products for more than two and a half decades. This made them one of the first service providers to receive MJF when it was first released. HP originally set them up with 12 MJF machines, and now they operate 24.
Forecast 3D is currently one of the largest MJF facilities in the world that operates as a service provider. They are very easily able to take you from 1 part to 10,000.
Parts from Forecast 3D can be expected to arrive within one to two weeks. Naturally, this lead time can be longer if you’re ordering hundreds or thousands of parts.
For most single parts and prototyping, Forecast utilizes an automated quoting and ordering system, which doesn’t provide much feedback on the design of the part. However, if you order more than 100 pieces, the part is quoted manually and you’ll be put in contact with an account manager, who’ll work with you to optimize the design and production process. You can even talk with them over the phone.
The site is well-laid-out, and quoting is a simple process of uploading any 3D model (as long as you have the units of measure on dimensionless formats like STL). Note that you do have to register to receive any quote at all.
If you’re doing a large quantity order, you’ll receive a manual quote, often within three to six hours, and be assigned an account manager to help with any questions.
Fast Radius is the youngest start-up in this list. Founded in 2015, they focus on high-quality 3D printing processes, including MJF, SLA, and traditional manufacturing techniques. As the company has grown, its ability to deliver high quantities of quality parts has grown, too.
Since Fast Radius is a single company, they’re not able to leverage networks of MJF machines the way some other companies in this list are able to. However, depending on the designs, they should be able to handle up to 1,000 parts, given enough time.
The speed of a particular order varies, but Fast Radius does have an exclusive relationship with UPS, which gives them access to great fulfillment resources. In general, parts are expected to be completed within five days.
Fast Radius provides several means of direct contact via both phone and email. These allow you to open a dialog before submitting parts. That said, Fast Radius doesn’t explicitly offer any design or engineering resources.
In order to send an STL in for quoting you must create a profile. And then quoting is completed behind the scenes until the official quote is emailed to you. If your 3D model is larger than 10 MB, then it must be emailed in for quoting. For a service that focuses on prototypes, this is a bit cumbersome. But again, it opens a dialogue so that you can have some human feedback on your project.
Xometry is a network of 3,000 manufacturers, a delivery model that’s similar to that of others in this list. The benefit is that you have access not only to MJF but also to most other professional manufacturing processes. You could, for example, have prototypes made using MJF and then move on to injection molding, without leaving the platform.
With at least hundreds of manufacturers utilizing MJF within the Xometry network, you’re certainly able to go from prototype to production on the same platform.
Xometry is one of the few services that explicitly allows for expedited production of parts with added payment. Not a common option, this is great if you have an engineering deadline or need parts quickly to complete the manufacturing of a larger product. However, this fast track is only viable for a low number of parts because it would be cost-prohibitive at large scale.
Xometry utilizes an automated quoting system. This requires that you understand the specs and processes that you need for your part. There’s no design advice beyond basic maneuverability, and there’s certainly no direct engineering support.
To get a quote, you do need to create a Xometry profile (which only takes a few seconds). After that, the quote comes quickly.
Some feel that Xometry’s quoting system could be more streamlined, as it may overwhelm the uninitiated with its myriad options. But for the experienced engineer or designer, this is great because you have very precise control over the specs of your part.
3D Hubs is one of the oldest 3D printing platforms in the industry. Starting as a literal hub connecting makers and garage 3D printing services, they later abandoned their grass-roots networking in favor of professional manufacturing.
Today, they link many ISO 9000-certified shops that are able to offer services from 3D printing to machining to injection molding.
3D Hubs holds their manufacturers to a very high standard. Any single MJF part that’s purchased is set to be completed within 6 business days. Larger quantities add time proportional to the quantity ordered.
Since 3D Hubs is a connected network of over 2,300 machines (not just MJF), they’re not really limited in the quantity that they can produce. However, their quoting form stops at 1,000 units. But that doesn’t prevent you from ordering multiple batches.
There’s only the automated system. This can show blatant problems with a design that make it impossible for the process. There are no direct contacting methods, either.
3D Hubs has the best interface of them all. It’s thorough in time, pricing, and features and literally takes one or two minutes to get an estimate.
Another well-known name in the 3D printing world. Shapeways has operated as a 3D printing service and marketplace since 2007, when 3D printing started to take off.
Shapeways is well-versed in producing 3D printed parts of all types and was quick to integrate MJF into its capabilities. Plus, its history and marketplace positioning makes it an ideal resource to test a new product in the real world.
Shapeways rarely, if ever, produces more than 100 parts in a batch. However, through direct contact with its sales team, it might be feasible. Normally, the company is set up to produce 1-100 parts at a time, shipping them out for marketplace users and clients.
Again, Shapeways has a history as a marketplace, and that works to its advantage. Few orders will take more than one week to complete and can often be done in a few days. Large quantities can take longer depending on the available capacity.
Shapeways doesn’t offer anything in the realm of design help, having only the standard software evaluation of a part that looks at basic manufacturability.
You do have to sign up for a profile to get a quote. But once that’s done, Shapeways has one of the most flexible and seamless user interfaces of those in this list.
MJF has been adopted by many small shops. If you live near a large city or manufacturing center, it’s very likely that there’s someone using MJF near you. Very often this close resource can be great because it facilitates face-to-face communication and collaboration.
This will depend on the individual shop. MJF machines are best run with large batches of parts. So your local shop might have to wait until they have a full batch before they can get to your part. This could cause significant delays.
Generally, these shops only have one or two machines available. They’re really only able to do prototypes of larger parts and limited production of small parts (like dice).
Again, this is very dependent on the shop. They may only operate the machine and not give any feedback on your designs, much like a normal machine shop. On the other hand, they could have technicians available who are familiar enough with the MJF process to offer advice.
Again, it depends on the shop. Usually these shops are operated as small businesses. You get to work face-to-face with the owner, but that’s not always a good thing. Being able to pick up your parts when they’re ready and give feedback on the spot is certainly valuable.
This list is by no means exhaustive. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of 3D printing services out in the world. But these are the ones that you can quickly reach and get viable numbers back from.
MJF is a great process for creating functional parts and scaling up quickly. While it’s limited aesthetically and mechanically, it’s still a reliable process that’s been adopted universally for prototyping and production.
If you have a functional part, like a bracket, clip, or gear, and molding isn’t a viable option, MJF should certainly be on your radar.
(Lead image source: Forecast3D)
License: The text of "2020 Best Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D Printing Services" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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