Robert J. Mullins
Senior Staff Writer
Oct. 24, 2013 — Hewlett-Packard, one of whose largest businesses is its printer division, has announced plans to start making 3D printers in 2014, a move sparked in part by the profileration of 3D printer startups launched with the help of crowdfunding.
HP CEO Meg Whitman announced at a tech conference in Bangkok, Thailand, this week that HP would begin manufacturing 3D printers that would be available sometime in 2014, according to an Oct. 23 report in the San Jose Mercury News, which in turn was based on a report in The Register.
According to the Mercury News:
“Whitman’s speech focused on enterprise customers, with the idea that they would then market themselves to individual users of the devices, with Whitman saying HP is looking to develop new 3D-printing technology that will speed up the process while making it more affordable.
‘To print a bottle can take eight to ten hours. That’s all very interesting, but it is like watching ice melt,’ she told the Canalys Channels Forum.”
As CrowdFundBeat has reported, 3D printers are one sector that has benefited significantly from crowdfunding, as such projects have attracted contributions from multiple investors on such platforms as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. While the more established 3D printer companies make large industrial printers costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, the crowdfunded startups have developed lower-priced printers costing as few as $2,000 and are targeted at small business users or even home users.
And to further indicate how 3D printing is becoming more mainstream, Microsoft recently announced support for 3D printers in the latest version of its operating system, Windows 8.1. It also began selling a MakerBot 3D printer for $2,199 on its Web site and in its chain of retail stores. MakerBot was acquired by Stratasys in June for $403 million.
In one CrowdFundBeat report, HP was reported to have entered into a manufacturing and distribution agreement with Stratasys to sell its 3D printers through HP’s sales channel, but that the agreement expired at the end of 2012 and was not renewed.
The plans revealed by Whitman appear to indicate that HP has now sized up the 3D printer market and decided to go for it.
“Facing declines in its core businesses of personal computers and printers, Hewlett-Packard is looking to next-generation printing in an attempt to drum up more revenues,” the Mercury News Reported.
Said The Register:
“’We are excited about 3D printing,’ Whitman said, adding that it is a natural business for HP to enter given its heritage in printers. ‘We want to lead this businesses. HP Labs is looking at it.’”
HP Labs, which is adjacent to HP’s corporate headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., is where engineers do research into new technologies and design new products for HP to sell.
While HP has for years been a leader in 2D printers, primarily for consumers, its sales have fallen off as consumers have turned to mobile devices from desktop computers and do less 2D printing than they have done previously.