Last November, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) officially unveiled its plans to enter the 3D printing market sometime in 2016 with a homegrown technology it's calling Multi Jet Fusion. According to the tech giant, Multi Jet Fusion will be up to 10 times faster than leading extrusion-based and selective laser sintering 3D printing technologies on the market today.
Given the success HP has experienced in the 2D printing world, along with its expertise, resources, and enterprise reach, it's clear why industry watchers have been keeping a close eye on HP's hotly anticipated entrance into the 3D printing space. Here's what the competition and industry experts have been saying about HP's upcoming 3D printer.
Don't underestimate the complexity required to become a meaningful player
Prior to HP's formal announcement, 3D Systems' (NYSE:DDD) CEO Avi Reichental weighed in on HP's 3D printing entrance during the company's first-quarter 2014 earnings call:
As to the questions about HP, look, we think that companies like HP have unlimited resources and capabilities and technology. But we also believe that entering in a meaningful way into the 3D printing space requires multiple technologies and print engines. We've been saying this for about five years. In the last few years, our competitors came to view this in the same way that we have and they all transitioned themselves from pure-play players to multiple print engines [technologies]. We've been saying this for about five years and of course we have seven print engines [technologies]. Again, [3D Systems has] a substantial first-mover advantage and cost advantage in those areas.
And so, we take companies like HP very seriously. We also don't underestimate the degree of complexity that they would have to position themselves as a relevant and meaningful player across the design and manufacturing marketplaces that are demanding these products.
From 3D Systems' perspective, because HP will initially be entering the 3D printing space with a single technology, Multi Jet Fusion, the tech giant won't be able to capitalize on all the growth potential 3D printing has to offer. 3D Systems bases this belief on the assumption that different 3D printing technologies are often best suited for specific applications, and the more 3D printing applications a company can serve, the greater its revenue-generating potential. With seven distinct 3D printing technologies in its portfolio -- the most of any 3D printing company -- 3D Systems' multi-faceted approach has arguably enabled the company to cater to the most diverse range of 3D printing applications.
During EuroMold 2014, the world's largest 3D printing conference held in Frankfurt, Germany, I asked Stratasys' (NASDAQ:SSYS) Fred Fischer, director fused deposition modeling and PolyJet applications, about HP entering the fray.
Stratasys' recent research and development spending aligns nicely with Fischer's comments around the company's commitment of improving and maximizing the value of its products:
Mothballing the competition
Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates, a leading 3D printing insights company that's been tracking the industry since its inception, made an incredibly bold statement about the prospect of Multi Jet Fusion when HP debuted the technology:
When I caught up with Tim Caffrey at EuroMold, Wohlers' senior consultant, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have him elaborate on Terry's comment, which can be found in the video below, between 0:12 and 2:36:
Given that Wohlers Associates is highly regarded across the 3D printing industry in terms of expertise and insights, this endorsement may carry significant weight in favor of HP's 3D printer over competitors and could potentially help the company drive initial sales.
Mcor Technologies, an Ireland-based 3D printing company that utilizes ordinary copy paper for its printers' primary material and can produce full-color 3D printed objects, understands the challenges HP may face when applying color treatment to its plastic-based parts:
What to watch going forward
Although Stratasys and 3D Systems have formally gone on record about how HP's 3D printing entrance is validating for the 3D printing industry at large, the comments made by Wohlers Associates could lead one to believe the tech giant's entrance may pose a significant risk for 3D printing investors.
Considering Multi Jet Fusion will cater to the professional and industrial 3D printing segments with a compelling value proposition in terms of speed, investors should monitor corresponding product revenues from 3D Systems and Stratasys in the quarters ahead of its release to try to gain early indications if HP is on the verge of becoming the next major 3D printing player.