HP Labs

Summer 2019 Interns at HP Labs – Hardik Hingorani

By Simon Firth, HP Labs Correspondent

August 8, 2019

Hardik Hingorani is currently enrolled in UCLA’s masters program in Materials Science and Engineering where he is focusing on the chemistry of 3D printing. He grew up in Nagpur, central India before moving to Goa to study for a dual B.E. in chemical engineering and M.Sc. in chemistry at BITS Pilani University. When he’s not in the laboratory, Hingorani likes to experiment with food, especially different kinds of Indian cuisine. “It’s all about getting the chemistry of your blend of spices right,” he says.

 

HP: Can you tell us about your summer project at HP Labs?

I’m working on metal 3D printing, which is a new experience for me. HP’s Metal Jet 3D printers are already in limited release production, but we want to try and improve the process. I’m looking at the first step in that process, where we layer steel powder onto the print bed. We want to see if a different chemical mix of this powder can help reduce the cost of printing, produce higher quality parts, minimize the environmental impact of the powder, and make the left over material easier to recycle.

HP: How are you going about that work?

Essentially, I’m creating new chemical blends and then running them through sophisticated characterization and imaging instruments to understand their properties. I’m first looking for formulations that give us the highest possible density and that are as stable and durable as possible. But we also want these formulations to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. As a materials scientist, I’d usually want the freedom to choose my own materials, but I really like the fact that we have this goal of using only biodegradable and biocompatible materials – it’s a great challenge.

“We want to see if a different chemical mix of this (metal) powder can help reduce the cost of printing, produce higher quality parts, minimize the environmental impact of the powder, and make the left over material easier to recycle.”

Hardik Hingorani, HP Labs Intern

HP: Have you made any progress yet?

Yes, we’re close to achieving the density that we need in at least one new formulation. After we get that right, we’re going to go back and study the underlying science of that particular material to understand exactly how it functions in the printing system. Once we know that, we can refine the material and further optimize the system.

HP: What's hard about it this work, compared with what you've done before?

The biggest challenge for me is that before this internship, I'd only focused on 3D printing organic polymers. So there was a lot I didn’t know about the chemistry of metals that I’ve had to learn. I’m getting there, though.

HP: What has it been like to work in an industrial lab environment?

I've worked in academic research environments, but this is my first time working at a corporate lab. What stands out the most is that you have people from very different backgrounds coming together to develop a technology. That gives you access to insights that you wouldn’t be exposed to in an academic lab, where people usually are from the same background. That’s a great thing to have.

HP: Has this work changed how you think about your work?

Definitely - I'm now thinking about things like cost, sustainability, and the environmental impact that a product is going to have. Those weren’t major considerations in the academic environment. Then there are other practical considerations we have to think about, like how long it might it might take for an idea to move into production.  

HP: And has that experience shifted you career ambitions?

Before I arrived here I didn’t have a clear sense of whether I wanted to stick with academic research or move into more commercial research. But now that I’ve experienced it, I'm more inclined toward commercial research. I like the idea of not just developing proofs of concept, but seeing them become products. I've published a number of papers, for example, but none of the things they describe could be used directly by people. The new print technologies that I’ve been working on this summer could be used by thousands, even millions of people in the years ahead.