HP held an analyst event earlier in which they made some announcements that caused a bit of a tumble on the stock market.
The company is a new entrant to 3D printing compared to their main competitors, long time 3D printer manufacturers 3D Systems and Stratasys. The difference is that HP is much larger than either of those and consequently can bring more resources to bear on the problem.
And this week it seems they are using that muscle a bit. They announced a few interesting things, but one that caught my eye was that they plan to sell 3D printers that produce metal objects.
That’s a humungous change from their previous 3D printing ventures, which have been entirely using thermoplastics. However, it seems that very few details were revealed, particularly regarding when this might appear.
If we go by HP’s previous announcement cycles, it is likely they are not going to release a machine for several years, as this announcement simply states that it is their intent to do so.
I think this is a very shrewd, if long term, move for HP. While they have had some success with their recent 3D printer announcements, their sales figures are not known.
I suspect the reason for this could be that their sales are relatively low. And the reason for that could be that they have been largely shut out of the major 3D printer resellers, who mostly have locked up exclusive contracts to provide Stratasys equipment. There’s no way most of those resellers will abandon profitable Stratasys business for a relatively unknown HP product line, putting HP in not the greatest position.
But then HP says they’re heading for a 3D metal printing world, effectively bypassing the Stratasys resellers, who are marketing to plastic manufacturers, not metal manufacturers.
Accordingly, Stratasys and 3D Systems stocks both took a bit of tumble after the announcement.
What happens next? While 3D Systems does have 3D metal printing capability they haven’t really expanded it greatly since the acquisition of Phenix Systems several years ago. Meanwhile, Stratasys has no 3D metal printing capability, other than a minor relationship with startup Desktop Metal.
Given that both of these companies have some cash, it might not be surprising to see them partner with, or even acquire one of the few remaining independent 3D metal printer manufacturers. At least before GE buys them.