At the recent Plastics Design and Moulding show in London, Fabbaloo caught up with Eric Erickson, HP's Product Manager for their Designjet 3D printers.
It's been over a year since it was announced HP would market 3D printers through an agreement with Stratasys. How well has business been over that period? Has HP found this venture profitable?
Yes, we announced our entrance into the 3D printer market in January 2010 and started selling almost exactly one year ago. It has been a fascinating year for 3D printing, and I while I can't discuss profitability directly I can say that HP is pleased with the results so far!
HP's 3D printers are not priced at consumer levels, so what specific market is HP addressing?
We are currently selling to 2 types of customers: technical professionals who need to make models and prototypes as part of the design process in order to optimise designs and reduce costs, and to education for students who are learning to use modeling and prototyping technologies as part of a technical curriculum.
HP is well known for its 2D paper printing, but how did HP decide to venture into 3D printing?
About 5 years ago I was asked to investigate the feasibility of HP getting into this market. We initially saw that, in terms of the current adoption of 3D printing, there was an attractive market overlap with our Designjet line of large-format printers (i.e. our Designjet customer base could also be interested in acquiring a 3D printer). Based on this I did a complete market analysis, and as interest grew internally, so did the team and we were able to convince management that now was the time to enter this market.
Currently you market HP 3D printers only in five European countries. Do you have plans to expand your scope, and if not, what barriers hold you back? When might we see HP 3DP appear in North America?
There are no barriers holding us back; the reason we started in the 5 European countries was because the Designjet headquarters is in Barcelona and we thought it logical to grow from our core geographically. I don't yet have any expansion plans that I can share publicly.
We understand HP's 3D printers are designed and manufactured by Stratasys. How is the relationship with Stratasys? Will we see new 3D printers emerge in the future?
The relationship is going very well and while I would expect to see new models in the future I don't have anything that I can share publicly.