In a recent interview with CNBC, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) CEO Meg Whitman shed more light on the company's secretive plans to enter the 3-D printing space. By the end of the year, Hewlett-Packard is expected to announce a 3-D printing product aimed at business-related 3-D printing and will not be entering the consumer 3-D printing market. Although this development isn't necessarily news, it clears up some confusion around Hewlett-Packard's timing entering the market. As far as 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) and Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) investors are concerned, it's likely going to take more than a single 3-D printing product from a deep-pocketed company like Hewlett-Packard before the effect is felt on the business level. In other words, the threat that Hewlett-Packard poses to 3D Systems and Stratasys is still likely years away from fruition.
Putting fears at ease
As terrifying as it sounds for 3D Systems and Stratasys that a company with essentially unlimited resources is entering the 3-D printing space, investors shouldn't underestimate the complexity required for a new competitor -- regardless of size -- to become a meaningful competitor in the space. 3D Systems and Stratasys have been successful mainly because they've taken a multifaceted approach to 3-D printing by not relying too heavily on one single product, technology, or service.
Recently, Stratasys acquired Solid Concepts, the largest independently operated 3-D printing service bureau in the U.S., as a way to broaden its technical expertise and portfolio. Stratasys' greater move into the servicing space reinforces the belief that success in the 3-D printing industry isn't based on just one factor -- it's a culmination of businesses, product lines, and people working together.
3D Systems has also been building out its platform, having made more than 50 acquisitions in the last three years alone. Although this strategy has created many 3D Systems skeptics along the way, it has given 3D Systems the unique ability to take an acquisition and quickly bring new products to market based on its existing technology portfolio. Thanks to making use of its existing material jetting 3-D printing technology, 3D Systems' late 2013 purchases of The Sugar Lab, a 3-D printing sugar company, and Figulo, a 3-D printing ceramic company, will be turned into full product lines in the second half of this year.
After taking into account the years of groundwork that 3D Systems and Stratasys had to endure to build out their platforms, it likely won't be for a number of years until Hewlett-Packard can meaningfully compete on the same level as these 3-D printing giants.
Although it wasn't confirmed in Whitman's most recent interview, it is believed that Hewlett-Packard's 3-D printer will focus on speed, affordability, and part smoothness. Going forward, 3D Systems and Stratasys investors should continue to monitor 3-D printing developments out of Hewlett-Packard, but I don't think they should take any action at this time, because the threat Hewlett-Packard currently poses to Stratasys and 3D Systems is still likely far out on the horizon.
Steve Heller owns shares of 3D Systems. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems and Stratasys. The Motley Fool owns shares of 3D Systems and Stratasys. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.