Just a few years after launching its Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer, HP is ready to get into the world of 3D metal printing with Metal Jet, a new commercial platform. (Did you expect it to be called anything else?) While the consumer buzz around 3D printing seems to be cooling off, it's still a useful technology for large-scale manufacturing — especially when it comes to metallic components. The usual benefits of 3D printing still apply: It can be both significantly faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

According to HP, Metal Jet is a "voxel-level binder jetting technology" that's up to 50 times more productive than existing 3D-printing solutions. It also features four times the nozzle redundancy and double the print bars of the competition. Basically, it can be potentially even cheaper and more efficient than what's currently available.

The company is already partnering with GKN Powder Metallurgy and Parmatech to build shipping parts, and its customers include Volkswagen, Wilo, Okay Industries and Primo Medical Group. VW is using the technology for customizable components like keyrings and nameplates, but eventually, it plans to use it for more significant components like mirror mounts and gearshift tops. And, as you'd expect, Metal Jet could play a major role as VW gets into electric cars.

Starting next year, customers will be able to upload their 3D models to the Metal Jet Production Service, Afterward, HP engineers will help guide them through the process of building their components. (HP admits that some designs won't be compatible with Metal Jet.) The company expects to make Metal Jet printers available to early customers in 2020 for under $400,000, with broader availability to follow in 2021.