Digging Deeper Into Hewlett Packard’s 3D Printing Aspirations

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When a $60 billion company like Hewlett Packard mentions entering a new market, like their CEO Meg Whitman did a few months ago, people take notice. The 3D printing space is set up perfectly for significant growth, with hp-2or without the entrance of a giant, like Hewlett Packard stepping in. When Whitman announced that the company was working on 3D printing technology of their own, which will not only be ready sometime this year, but also solve two key problems that have yet to be resolved within the industry, a deluge of theories suddenly were presented by the media.

Speculation on just what the company may be working on, who they will compete with, and how significant their research has been, can be found all over the internet. I’m sure the CEO’s of the various large 3D printing firms, like 3D Systems and Stratasys are keenly watching each step made by HP. In fact Avi Reichenthal, the CEO of 3D Systems, specifically stated that he was worried about what HP was up to within the space. As we get closer to Meg Whitman revealing her ultimate plans, little details have slowly been emerging, giving us some clues as to what the company may announce later this year.

The Giant 3D Printer At Hewlett Packards Research Facility

Wired magazine was lucky enough to get invited to HP’s famous Palo Alto research lab, where they met with the man in charge, CTO and director of HP Labs, Martin Fink. Fink showed them a gigantic 3D printer that HP had been working on.  It was 5 feet tall, and made out of custom built equipment which Fink would not provide many details on. The printer used a polymer which was stored in a container measuring approximately 8 inches hp5long and 5 inches high. The polymer was as closely guarded as the actual 3D printing technology being used. When asked by Wired about the polymer Fink stated, “We want to have smooth parts and we want to have resilient parts. Part of the technology breakthrough is the material.”

Fink was very clear in stressing that he believes that consumers will be using high grade, expensive 3D printers offered as a service by companies like FedEx, rather than purchasing a printer for their homes.  The at home 3D printers,which cost $2000 or so, usually only print out rough objects, taking several hours to print an object the size of a human fist. One would think that this is a clear indication that HP will not directly be competing with any of the consumer level 3D printers offered by the Makerbots and Ultimakers of the world, but not so fast…..

The Senior Product Manager of 3D Printing At HP

Just when you thought that HP would likely be staying away from the consumer based 3D printing market, one of their Senior product managers, of 3D printing nonetheless, hp1has indicated indirectly that this may not be the case. Elena Terraz, the product manager, working at the Barcelona office, indicated the following information on her linkedin profile, regarding her experience within the 3D printing space for HP:

Sole Strategic Marketing resource for identifying and analyzing new business strategies for HP to address the emerging 3D Printing market. Covering market intelligence, market analysis, market strategy, sizing, partner management, product definition. Defined HP strategy for both professional and consumer 3D printing, presented proposal to upper management.

Sure, maybe this is nothing.  Perhaps Terraz simply proposed a strategy for consumer based 3D printing to management, only to ultimately have them turn that proposal down.  Perhaps her proposal was simply to “stay out of the consumer 3D printing market”.  We don’t know, but it certainly is clear that HP has been interested in both the professional and consumer sides of the market.  The other possibility is that “consumer 3D printing,” may pertain to consumers who utilize a professional grade printer as a service.

Ultimately we will likely have to wait another 3-6 months to see what the company is up to, but as we get closer to their announcement the big picture is slowly unfolding before our eyes. Feel free to participate in the discussion at 3DPB.com about which companies will come out on top within the 3D printing space.

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