With the rapid growth of additive manufacturing (AM) it’s easy to forget the market is still relatively small when compared to big business. Even the largest AM manufacturers, 3D Systems and Stratasys, aren’t large when compared to giants of industry like Apple or GE. Industry analysts have long pondered exactly what might happen to the AM field if a large company decided to enter the fray.
Possibly the best contender to dominate the 3D printing market is HP. Already a known brand name for printers, HP has the resources to crank out AM systems in short order if it decided to become a manufacturer. Now it looks as though HP is preparing to take a bite out of the AM pie by entering the market in 2014.
At the Canalys Channels Forum in Bangkok, HP CEO Meg Whitman announced the company’s intention to build 3D printers.
We are excited about 3D printing. We want to lead this business. HP labs is looking at it. 3D printing is in its infancy. It is a big opportunity and we are all over it. We will have something by the middle of next year. -Meg Whitman
Whitman added that HP’s main concerns with the technology at its current state are build speeds and the cost associated with buying a top-of-the-line AM system. She also insisted that when HP launches a product it will be something new. That likely means HP won’t be partnering with existing manufacturers the way it did with Stratasys in the past.
The timing of the announcement is interesting, given many 3D printing process patents are set to expire next year. It seems likely that HP has been waiting out the patents before entering the market, rather than bargaining for licensing rights or attempting to buy out companies that control the patents. Whether the something new that Whitman promised is a new process, or simply a different take on an existing process is yet to be determined.
HP’s entry in AM will undoubtedly shake things up in the market. While some companies have begun to experiment with placing 3D printers is stores, AM systems aren’t exactly commonly seen products outside a few specialty shops or those purchased from online vendors. Within months of launching a 3D printer, HP could have the system in stores around the world.
If HP decided to build industrial AM systems, it has the reach and customer base to make an instant impact in that field as well. Assuming HP produces an AM system that is at all competitive with the options currently available on the market, plenty of businesses will probably turn to a trusted partner for their needs, rather than buying from a company that is new to them.
Below you’ll find an interview with Meg Whitman about her plans to turn around HP’s fortunes.
Source: The Register