John Dulchinos and the rest of his team at Jabil Circuit received their new Multi Jet Fusion 3-D printer from HP back in June and, for months, they have fiddled with the technology. Process development. Characterization capabilities. Figuring out the limits of what, exactly, is possible, when you print as quick as 340 million voxels per second.

The catch, of course, was that as an HP foundational partner, Jabil received the pre-production printer — perfect for tinkering, not so much for actual commerce.

“From a legal standpoint, we couldn’t technically make real parts on the pre-production unit,” said Dulchinos, VP of global automation and 3-D printing. “They wouldn’t stand behind the printer’s delivering at a level that would be considered parts that we could conduct commerce with.”

Now, though, after more than five months, Dulchinos and Jabil are ready to shift into a higher gear — and actual production — thanks to a pair of Jet Fusion 3D 4200 Printer production units. As outlined in an IndustryWeek magazine story earlier this year, the new units can print about 10 times faster than any other 3-D printer currently available, potentially producing stronger parts, shortening cycles, even overhauling supply chains.

“These are the first printers that HP has delivered that can be used to produce real production-grade parts,” Dulchinos said. “They have the capability to produce parts that have a level of mechanical integrity, a level of finish and quality and speed that allows us to start to find use cases that move into thousands of units break-even points, and even tens of thousands of units break-even points.”

Dulchinos talked with IW about the buzz of finally receiving the printers and how Jabil plans to incorporate them in the months and years ahead.

Jabil Circuit

Jabil Circuit COO Bill Muir, right, and John Dulchinos, VP, Global Automation and 3-D Printing, show off the first installation of the HP Jet Fusion Printer, which 3-D prints 10 times faster than any other current machines.

IW: What does this do for you, for your customers, and for the industry that wasn’t previously possible?

JD: At the highest level, the real value proposition of 3-D printing has always been to produce parts — in this case, we’re focusing on plastics, not metals — without having to produce custom fixtures and jigs or molds. If you look at a traditional manufacturing process for a plastic part, it’s mold-driven. That mold can be a temporary mold, made out of lower-cost materials like aluminum, or it can be a mold that’s made out of higher-cost materials like stainless steel. You invest in a mold that costs tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on its complexity, so if you want to make a part, you have to buy a very expensive, part-specific mold before you make your first part. By default, if the mold costs $20,000, it costs you $20,000 just to  make the first part.

The injection molding industry has been built around being optimally costed for hundreds of thousands or millions of units, but when you get down to hundreds or thousands of units, it’s not super cost-efficient. So what 3-D printing enables is the ability to produce a part from a digital file without having to make a mold. The cost of part 1 is the same cost as part 1,000 is the same cost as part 10,000. When you think about applications where the volumes are low, … 3-D printing starts to become a viable alternative.

IW: Couple that low volume ability with increased production speed, and you have a favorable solution.

JD: Where it really excels in value is when you start to think about the ability to create more customized and personalized products. Today, because of just the inherent cost to make, … 3-D printing allows you to open up your thinking and say, instead of making 10,000 of the same thing, you can make 10 different versions and more accurately target a market solution. In the extreme case, if you want to make personalized products, like footwear, 3-D printing makes it such that if you’re making 1,000 different variants instead of one, the costs are essentially the same.