Seeking Alpha presents a cogent argument for HP producing 3D printers in the near future, even though no such announcements or signals have been emitted from that company, recently or in the past.
HP has had some involvement with 3D printers, in that it had an arrangement with Stratasys to resell HP-labelled Stratasys uPrint 3D printers, but only in Europe. It was kind of a strange test, that on the surface seemed to founder. This year it was announced that the two companies were terminating this agreement at the end of 2012.
There are two possible conclusions. First, one could suggest that HP didn’t do very well in this market (and indeed that is the rumor we’ve heard) and thus decided to exit the market before taking more losses.
The second possible conclusion espoused by Seeking Alpha is that HP used the Stratasys arrangement as a kind of experiment to learn more about the technology before launching its own venture. They say:
I think it could mean that HP wants more than just a distribution agreement. It might have needed a termination of the deal as a first step towards launching its own line of 3D printers or buying a company that leads in this new industry. There is a good chance that the agreement it had with Stratasys prevented it from manufacturing or selling other 3D printers, and that would be one of many reasons to terminate the deal. It’s possible that HP will announce a major foray into 3D printing in 2013, after the agreement has expired.
This certainly could be the case. With key patents expiring or about to expire, HP could leverage its massive manufacturing capability to produce machines at potentially lower cost than existing 3D print rivals. The question would be, which market would they strike? The large commercial 3D print market currently occupied by 3D Systems and Stratasys/Objet? Or the lower end MakerBot market?
We’d bet on the lower end. The higher end is more complex to enter and introduces a lot more technological and legal risk.