At the latest Formnext event, HP introduced its new HP 3D as a Service (HP 3DaaS) plan. Rather than solely selling 3D printers to customers, the printing giant is also allowing clients to pay on a usage basis. So, what’s the deal with 3DaaS? Or, more broadly, what is hardware-as-a-service all about?
In the case of HP 3DaaS, there will be two possible packages, Base and Plus. Already on the market, HP 3DaaS Base is a pay-per-build model that tracks material usage and charges users with a monthly invoice. Supplies are automatically replenished, and remote and onsite support are included in the package. The Base package is available for HP Jet Fusion 5200/4200 Series and HP Jet Fusion 500 Series 3D printers.
The HP 3DaaS Plus program goes beyond materials by throwing in the hardware itself. Beginning in 2020, customers will be able to get the HP Jet Fusion 340 3D printer over the long-term, as long as they pay a $5,000 up-front fee, $3,500 per month (minimum), and sign a one-year commitment. These fees cover installation, support, maintenance, supplies and consumables.
HP is not the first company to offer its 3D printers in the form of a subscription. Carbon was the first to provide its machines using the label “hardware-as-a-service,” allowing customers to subscribe to the flagship M1 3D printer for $40,000 per year with a minimum three-year term, along with $10,000 for installation and training and a $12,000 initial accessory pack.
As HP announced its 3DaaS plans, Desktop Metal also introduced a subscription plan for its fiber reinforcement 3D printers $3,495 per year for the Fiber LT and $5,495 per year for the Fiber HT, each with a minimum 3-year term.
Though hardware-as-a-service sounds like a new, possibly cloud-enabled product offering, it’s actually a concept we’re all already familiar with. If we wash away the marketing veneer, it’s called “renting”. Instead of putting a lot of money up front in order to purchase a complex piece of machinery, it’s possible to rent the thing. In this case, we’re talking about 3D printers, but this same hardware-as-a-service model is ubiquitous in the car rental industry.
However, hardware-as-a-service actually differs from the auto world in that, if you want to rent a car over a long period of time, you can lease it and your monthly installments actually go toward the purchase of the vehicle. In the case of these 3D printers, renting seems to be indefinite, though Carbon allows you to upgrade to newer systems after your lease is up.
Obviously, the biggest benefit of renting these machines is that the up-front cost is low. This may be particularly valuable to engineers who understand the value of 3D printing but have a hard time convincing management to invest in the equipment. Companies can also be on the ground floor of these much-hyped technologies without suffering the fear of missing out.
For the companies renting the equipment, the benefit is potentially wider adoption of the technology and possibly greater revenues than if they would have sold the machines directly. It’s like the razor-and-blade model (sell the hardware cheap and make money off of materials) except that you’re also indefinitely renting out the razor.
Based on the HP 3DaaS site, there are customers already using the package. Two companies, Avid Product Development, and Paradigm Manufacturing, are quoted as enjoying 3DaaS Base. There will surely be more names released as HP continues to roll out the program and we may get a better idea of whether or not the model has customers pleased or not.
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