Somehow this wasn't a complete surprise, as we'd been hearing rumors of difficulties in the relationship between IT Giant HP and 3D Printing leader Stratasys. Now it's come to a close, with Stratasys announcing that the two companies have "have agreed to discontinue their manufacturing and distribution agreement for 3D printers, effective at the end of 2012".
But what was this agreement? In January 2010 the two partnered in an agreement to have Stratasys manufacture "HP" labeled 3D printers (similar to Stratasys's Uprint device) and HP would market them. At the time it sounded like a big deal, where an industry giant would bring its massive marketing and sales force to bear on the new technology of 3D printing.
It seems that it didn't work out that way.
Now the two are continuing separately, with Stratasys resuming their path with Objet, according to Stratasys founder Scott Crump:
As the market for 3D printing technology grows, Stratasys is focused on further developing our independent channel distribution initiatives to expand our distribution reach even further. Our recently-announced merger with Objet will help grow customer awareness of the many opportunities to deploy 3D printing and rapid prototyping techniques and will allow us to implement an even broader distribution channel with a more extensive geographic reach.
In other words, they believe their combined sales force (Stratasys and Objet) can do a better job of marketing 3D printing gear than HP.
HP never seemed to carry the 3D printing flag very far. They marketed the device only in Europe and to a somewhat narrow subset of their existing 2D printer clients. Perhaps paper printing clients just aren't that interested in 3D production?
Where this leaves an entry point for other industry giants, we're not sure. HP's experience may scare off other partnerships or acquisitions. We will likely see 3DP giants Stratasys and 3D Systems go it alone for a while - or at least until they get a lot bigger.