According to an article in The Register, HP CEO Meg Whitman recently told the Canalys Channels Forum in Bangkok that the company will enter the 3D printer market in the middle of 2014.
The idea of HP getting into the 3D printing business is not new. In fact they were already in it once, in a European partnership with Stratasys. There have been several articles written on the topic, including my take here on 3D4printers.com.
I wrote that article a year ago, after returning from GraphExpo, the largest 2D printing show in the USA. I felt then that HP needed to get into 3D printing and could do a lot for the industry. I’ve been watching them since and am not shocked by the announcement or the timing.
“3D printing is in its infancy” Ms. Whitman said. “It is a big opportunity and we are all over it. We will have something by the middle of next year.”
What I think a lot of people have missed is that HP intends to go after the production part of the market.
Also according to the article, That “something” will be aimed at service providers to help them establish 3D printing bureaus. Whitman said HP is asking “how do we commercialize to print faster, at lower price points?, to enable service providers?”
HP’s goal is to commoditize 3D printing by developing the 3D print-for-pay industry. They know from their experience in digital printing how to make money in production.
Whitman did not say just what form HP’s 3D printing product will take, over than to say it will be a “new technology”.
Here’s a theory. What if its not new technology, just newly retired from patent protection? Several key laser sintering patents expire early next year. It would be a pretty amazing play for HP. Let 3D Systems and Stratasys (among others) spend decades conducting R&D and building a market, only to come in as the patents expire and quickly dominate.
Read a certain way, this sounds more like a forecast than a whimsical statement.
“These businesses go along, get a little traction, go along, get a little more traction, then hit the knee of the curve,” Ms. Whitman said, She went on to say she feels 3D printing’s knee is around three years off.
Very interesting times.
Working mainly in the print industry, John Hauer has nearly 25 years experience in sales, marketing, product management, and technology. John has launched several B2B and B2C websites. In 2012 he co-founded 3DLT and started 3D4printers.com, which evangelizes 3D printing in the traditional 2D printing space.