All Hail HP 3D Printing

There is a rumor running wild that Hewlett-Packard could one day become the biggest fish in 3D printing, but that won’t be a bad thing for the guppies already in the industry.

HP

That’s the view of David Reis, CEO of 3D-printing firm Stratasys, who in an interview Thursday sounded a mostly positive note about the new competition. HP just a day earlier unveiled plans to enter 3D printing by 2016 with its new technology, called Multi Jet Fusion.

“My initial reaction is it’s good news,” Reis said during an event his company hosted at the headquarters of Normal, a Manhattan-based company that makes custom earbuds using Stratasys machines. “It’s good news to the extent that a company like HP endorses an industry that’s a relatively small industry. I think HP coming into the market will increase awareness of what we’re doing.”

To date, 3D printing has carved out a niche helping manufacturers with developing and prototyping products before they go into mass production. However, the industry has yet to break into mainstream manufacturing and isn’t often used in finished products or tools. Some industry watchers expect that to change in the coming years as 3D printers improve in making stronger products and generating them faster. Starting from a tiny base today, worldwide shipments of 3D printers should more than double every year from 2015 to 2018, according to market researcher Gartner. Shipments of 3D printers should hit more than 2.3 million by 2018, compared with the roughly 100,000 shipped this year.

HP, which has been selling printers and personal computers for decades, hopes to take advantage of that rapid expansion by becoming one of the first major tech firms to jump into 3D printing. It could substantially reshape the industry, which currently involves several much smaller players, including 3D Systems and ExOne. For example, Stratasys, based in Israel and Minnesota, has a market value of under $6 billion, while Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP is worth $66 billion. Time will surely tell.

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