On May 17th, 2016, HP announced to the world that it has entered the world of 3D printing, though technically they yet have anything to sell. Many of us in the industry wondered what took them so long to put their stake in the ground. For an industry that is projected to grow to over $30 billion by 2022 with CAGR of over 28%, HP clearly sees the opportunity. Now that they have made their move, we are left wondering about a whole bunch more. Here are the top 5 things that come to mind:
HP has decided to enter the 3D world on the high end of the spectrum. They are slated to release a couple of new models by the middle of 2017, and if I read the press release correctly, it looks like the smallest unit will start at $155,000 if you include the processing station. The HP Jet Fusion 3D 4200 (a nice nod to one of the network printers that changed the face of office printing as we know it) is no mere Makerbot. It looks like 3D desktops are off HP’s radar for the time being as they focus on industrial-scale applications. Considering HP’s pedigree has been built on affordable desktop and network printers, this seems quite divergent. I guess “the new HP” is serious about change since the company split in two.
Open-standards for materials production?
For those of us that have made their living in the office equipment industry for the past 15 or 20 years we know that HP hasn’t always been fond of “Compatible Toner” and the dent it makes on OEM cartridge sales. I was initially surprised to see that they are inviting people to come up with new and unique materials to be used with their new line of 3D printers. Is HP going to take a cut of all material sales? Are they going to have a stringent authorization and certification process that will ensure that all materials must, first, go through them before hitting the market? When it comes to toner cartridges, HP is dogged about doing all they can to completely own the supply channel. It will be interesting to see how this new “open standards” approach works for them in the world of 3D printing.
HP has arguably been the most channel-friendly OEM in the office equipment market. But judging from the website it looks like there may be a “direct-only” sales model in place for the new units. Of course this may/may not be the case, it’s really too early to tell. Considering the average channel partner currently sells HP print-enabled devices ranging from $200 to $10,000 in range, I don’t see very many partners that would be in the right category to sell these. Certainly there are channel partners that focus on production print who sell devices in the same price range as the new HP Jet Fusion 35 4200, but they are few.
Manufacturing vs. Printing?
As I spoke about in my interview with Channelnomics, should we stop saying “3D Print” altogether? Is it really printing? 2D printing prints pixels on 8.5×11 paper but 3D printing prints/extrudes/adds/etc., onto itself using Voxels. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Perhaps “tool-less manufacturing” or “rapid manufacturing” are better ways to think about it. The HP Jet Fusion 3D printers are targeted towards “3D print service bureaus” and not the typical offices where the majority of their business exists today. Perhaps the moniker of 3D printing will become the standard as most industry giants in industrial-grade 3D printing, like Voxeljet, are using the same terminology.
What the heck is a voxel?
Think of a voxel as the pixel of the 3D printing world. Just like pixels in a bitmap, voxels don’t typically have their location or coordinates locked in place. Unlike a pixel which only occupies a 2 dimensional space, a voxel is a 3 dimensional native. You can read all about voxels here. Beyond that I won’t be much help on this one.
Now it’s your turn!
What do you think about 3D printing and its place in the Channel? Have you added 3D printing to your offerings? Do you think this is a fad or a sleeping giant? Your opinion matters and Print Audit wants to hear it! Be sure to leave a comment and share!