Dec.5, 2013 | By Cynthia

HP announced its entrance into the 3D-printing market at the Canalys Channels forum in October. They plan to start shipping their first 3D printers sometime mid-2014. This week Martin Fink, who runs HP Labs, literally pulled back the curtain to give Wired magazine a look at the 'monster 3D printer' located in the basement of the company's famous labs in Palo Alto. The printer is reported to be a whopping five feet tall and 'cobbled together from existing jumbo-scale metal printing parts and some new custom-built equipment that HP isn't ready to talk about.'

Martin Fink in HP's Photonics Lab. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

The printer is a prototype which uses a polymer developed in HP's materials lab. Because a large part of the technology breakthrough in 3D printing is the material, the make-up of this polymer is also confidential.

Although some have been critical of HP's relatively late entrance into the 3D printing market, Fink does not expect that there will be a viable consumer market for 3D printers analogous to that of traditional ink-jet printers. He says consumer 3D printers are currently 'complex, low quality, and too slow to use'. Instead, Fink expects consumers to first use 'print service providers' for specific jobs which require a high quality print.

Fink foresees a future where it is possible to find a replacement part for a consumer product by downloading the plan from the company's website and sending it to a print service provider which would be in possession of a large-scale professional printer such as the one currently being developed in the basement at HP's lab.

Companies such as Shapeways, Ponoko, i.Materialise currently offer a similar 3D printing service which allows people to make and sell 3D printed objects. HP plans to join this market and expands the possibilities for people to access customized products to meet their home, workplace, and transportation needs.

Fink expects this market to be extremely viable. HP is working with partners in San Diego and Barcelona in order to build a printer which will perform at a high level and be profitable for their company. HP spends more than 3 billion dollars each year in research and development. Fink is formerly an executive in HP's server group and part of his mandate in his current function is to make this investment in research worthwhile for the company through products such as the 'monster printer' currently located in HP's basement. Time will tell whether their business plan for the 3D printing market is an effective one.

Posted in 3D Printers



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Dr. Acula wrote at 1/6/2014 9:16:43 PM:

This is the 2d-printer history again in 3d. Big expensive machines, print centers popping up, machines get smaller, more reliable, cheaper machines and use, more and more homeprinters, print centers die, amd then suddenly....3d printing is as common in a house as a high quality ink printer :)

JayNC wrote at 12/6/2013 8:11:37 PM:

I agree with Jon S. The future will not be a print service. It will be like Fink suggest but we'll print from home. Break the knob on your oven? Lose a hose adapter for a sprinkler? Log on to the manufacturers a code...send to 3D printer...Ta-Dah. That and someone selling a printer with the footprint of a typical inkjet at Walmart for $600 will really unlock the 3D revolution. The thing that worries me is people buying these 'home printers' then bootlegging patented parts or copyrights...then they lawyers will get involved. No one wins when they're involved except lawyers...

Jon S wrote at 12/6/2013 5:41:10 AM:

I strongly disagree with Martin Fink's dismissal of the domestic 3D printer market. Unless flying drones start delivering the printed parts to customers' doorsteps within 30 mins, there will be a strong draw to printing in the home. His logic would equally have applied to domestic photo quality inkjet printing versus using a retail printing service at a local photo or drug store. His view is based on a poor vision of the speed, ease of use and quality of future 3D printers. To draw another analogy, I leave you with the following quote: "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." - Thomas Watson, President of IBM, 1943

ThatGuy wrote at 12/5/2013 10:48:59 PM:

HP is 10 times the market cap of Stratasys with enough IP experience to make your head spin. Let's see Stratasys try to take on HP with some of their questionable calls on patents.

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