HP's announcement this week that it's entering the 3D printing market with an industrial machine that is 10 times faster and 50% cheaper than current emerging systems. HP's new 3D printer is aimed at manufacturing, not consumers
"The question is, will it print a prototype that's just in black if you're out of Yellow polymer?" Reddit user ILikeLenexa wondered.
"3D printing from the company that charges the moon and stars for ink refills? Full vendor lock in? I don't think so..." wrote another named TotalWaffle.
Cynicism aside, HP is a $112 billion company whose products span the corporate and consumer marketplace, and it can bring to bear 30 years of 2D printer R&D on the 3D printer space. Simply put, the move is unprecedented.
"There's a lot of parallels between document printing and 3D printing, so our company's been looking at HP for a long time, thinking it's an excellent candidate to enter this market place," said Terry Wohlers, president of research firm Wohlers Associates. Recently, Wohlers said he was given a demonstration of HP's new Multi Jet Fusion printer and was "blown away" by the speed, quality, feature details of printed items and by the brilliant colors it produces.
A small part created with multiple colors on the HP Multi Jet Fusion printer. "It's better than I expected. It's many times faster than anything on the market," he said. "It's something that is vastly different than what has even been developed before." In the 3D printing world, buzz about an HP entry has been going on for the past year, and it has evoked both anticipation among those who use 3D printers and fear within the small but fast growing community of 3D machine manufacturers.
Stratasys, the largest maker of 3D printers today, and a company that regularly sees 60% year over year revenue growth, said HP's entry is far from frightening. "This activity will bring more awareness, and it will lift the overall space. We see it as a big opportunity for the industry," the company said in a response to a Computerworld request for comment. Wohlers said that while 3D printing is still in its "early days" HP's move will accelerate growth in ways never seen. HP is claiming its 3D printing technology, called Multi Jet Fusion, will enable mass production of parts instead of just rapid prototyping. The new machine is unlikely to mass produce millions or billions of product parts; think, instead, in terms of tens, hundreds or thousands of parts.