Inventing the future of 3D printing in Barcelona

At HP’s new 3D Center of Excellence, a spirit of collaboration and innovation are changing the digital manufacturing industry.

By Jennifer Ceaser — December 17, 2019

It’s 3:00 pm at HP’s new 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing Center of Excellence near Barcelona, Spain, and Metal Jet program manager Carmen Blasco is leading the project’s daily status meeting. Speaking in both Spanish and English, a team of around 20 engineers report on tests they’re running on HP’s cutting-edge industrial Jet Fusion 3D printers. Behind them, visible through a wall of windows, is the Metals lab where workers outfitted in white coats, gloves, and masks hover over the enormous, state-of-the-art machines. 

Anywhere from 12 to 30 tests per day are run on the six printers, measuring everything from the efficacy of the metal powder to the density and cooling of the parts, to the accuracy of the final forms. The Metal Jet program counts high-profile clients such as GKN Powder Metallurgy and Volkswagen — which means there’s a lot riding on the shoulders of the 33-year-old Blasco. 

On a typical morning she commutes from Barcelona to the 150,000-square-foot Center in the northern suburb Sant Cugat del Vallès. The three-plus acre facility, constructed using eco-friendly building materials, was designed with sustainability in mind and with the goal of achieving LEED certification. To maximize Barcelona’s near-constant sun, a photovoltaic canopy provides 110 kilowatt hours of power; additionally, rainwater is captured and reused for irrigation purposes and native plants are used for landscaping. In contrast to the shiny new building, an 18th-century farmhouse, Can Graells, stands nearby — a remnant from when the area was once farms and vineyards. In cooperation with the local city council, HP fully restored it and is still deciding what it will be used for. Inside the two-story Center of Excellence, natural light filters in through skylights and vertical wall gardens add a welcome touch of greenery. 

Marc Herman

Blasco leads a team meeting at the 3D Center of Excellence. The open, airy space, where around 2,300 employees work, encourages collaboration between researchers in the labs and engineers.

On any given day, a number of projects are underway with teams working in the realms of machine simulation, materials design, and software solutions, with the goal of improving additive manufacturing (building a product by adding layers of material). Multi Jet Fusion, which debuted in 2016, was invented here in the Barcelona labs, and the new Center is adding applications to HP’s 3D printing portfolio of new partners, materials, certifications, and software. HP is also developing the new Metal Jet products here in conjunction with the work being done at HP’s center in Corvallis, Oregon. Experts in systems engineering, data intelligence, software, materials science, design, and 3D printing systems are working to transform all kinds of industries, including creating consumer goods such as footwear on its 3D plastic printers, as well as Multi Jet Fusion and Metal Jet printers.

Blasco leads a team of around 60 people helping to define the 3D metal manufacturing process.

Marc Herman

Blasco leads a team of around 60 people helping to define the 3D metal manufacturing process.

The airy, open-plan design where around 2,300 employees work encourages collaboration, and for the first time, the labs and engineering offices occupy the same space. “In the old building, there was a maze of hallways to reach the labs,” recalls Blasco. Today, she can walk just a few steps from her workspace and see right inside the 3D printing labs, which are separated from the offices by a huge wall of glass. 

Another of Blasco’s favorite aspects of the new space is the naming convention of the meeting rooms. They’re each distinguished by a photo and bio of a female inventor—like Grace Hopper, a pioneering American computer scientist—posted outside each room. “It was confusing at first to find the right room, but now I really like it and I’ve discovered a lot about the different women scientists, inventors, and engineers,” she says.

The printers are already executing the first phase of metal parts production for the automotive and medical industries, allowing thousands of smaller pieces, such as valves and aesthetic parts, to be made without requiring manufacturing tools. “The key to this technology is the automation,” says Blasco. “The printers can create customized structures and shapes that can be produced accurately with less waste and at a lower cost. In the future, they will be able to produce more critical parts for the automotive and aeronautical industries that will be significantly lighter, require less material, and be more cost-effective.” 


The new Barcelona Center is adding applications to HP’s portfolio of new 3D Printing partners, materials, certifications, and software.

Born outside of Valencia, Blasco graduated with an engineering degree from Lyon’s prestigious National Institute of Applied Sciences (INSA). She began her career at HP in 2012, working as a research and development engineer with 2D industrial printers on the Barcelona campus. In 2015, she moved over to the company’s first plastics division. “It was a small team of us, just 15 people, and was very stressful but also very rewarding,” says Blasco. “The first thing I worked on was the calibration of the 3D plastic printer so it could work with different temperatures.” 

Her extensive knowledge of 3D plastic printers made her a natural fit when HP began developing its first 3D metal printers. She joined the Metals staff in 2018 as a program manager, working with a team of around 60 people and helping to define the manufacturing process. “As a program manager, my role is to ensure the Metal Jet project’s various teams — R&D, marketing, operations, customer assurance, and finance — are all aligned,” she explains. “We really work in a startup mode because we are developing the product while we already have customers in the field.”

Blasco’s typical day can stretch till as late as 8:00 pm, occupied with a string of meetings to keep the Metal Jet project on track. “Some can be related to technical issues and development, some are management priorities, others are logistical and operational meetings,” she explains.

“We are trying to change the future of industry and this printer will enable us to do it.” 

— Carmen Blasco, Metal Jet program manager, HP Inc.

Blasco’s day also involves juggling multiple time zones, from Asia to Europe to the US’s West Coast. The printers are manufactured in Singapore, so she’s often in contact with offices there about operational issues regarding customer feedback. “We may need to upgrade based upon what customers need and we’ll talk about what we can do to meet those requirements.” Blasco also communicates regularly with teams in Corvallis where much of the stainless-steel powders, polymers, and inks are made, to discuss the materials’ behavior during the 3D printing process. 

During a short afternoon lunch break in the smaller of the building’s two cafés, Blasco speaks with clear enthusiasm about her multifaceted role. “Every day is different and we are constantly improvising. I have to balance what can be done with the time we have and the budget we have.” 

“It’s a lot of work, but being part of Metals, one of the coolest and one of the most innovative departments at HP, is really exciting,” she says. “We are trying to change the future of industry and this printer will enable us to do it.” 


Learn more about HP’s Metal Jet printing program in Corvallis, Oregon.