HP’s 3D printing plans to be announced in June

Posted on 20 Mar 2014 by Tim Brown

Hewlett-Packard is planning to enter the commercial 3D-printing market, saying it has solved a number of technical problems that have hindered broader adoption of the high-tech manufacturing process.

Chief Executive Meg Whitman told shareholders on Tuesday that the company will make a “big technology announcement” in June around how it will approach the 3D printer market.

HP announced its entrance into the 3D printing market back in 2010 with the reveal of the Designjet 3D printers but the product was discontinued. Whitman said HP’s inhouse researchers have now resolved limitations involved with the quality of substrates used in the process, which affects the durability of finished products.

“We actually think we’ve solved these problems,” Whitman told an annual shareholders meeting. “The bigger market is going to be in the enterprise space,” manufacturing parts and prototypes in ways that were not possible before.

“We’re on the case,” she said without elaborating.

HP executives have estimated that worldwide sales of 3D printers and related software and services will grow to almost $11bn by 2021 from a mere $2.2bn in 2012.

Contract manufacturers like Flextronics already use the technology to help craft prototype parts or devices for corporate clients and the technology is developing quickly with more major improvements on the horizon.

The Manufacturer will be hosting a 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing conference on June 11. The event will be part of the Future Factory series of events running this year which are free to attend for subscribers of The Manufacturer. Subscribe now for more information.

“HP is currently exploring the many possibilities of 3D printing and the company will play an important role in its development,” CTO and HP Labs director Martin Fink said in a February blogpost on HP’s website.

“The fact is that 3D printing is really still an immature technology, but it has a magical aura. The sci-fi movie idea that you can magically create things on command makes the idea of 3D printing really compelling for people.”