HP are interesting because they are the first major manufacturer to enter the 3D printing space, partnering last year with Stratasys to offer 3D printers directly to designers and architects at the sub $20,000 range. So I questioned Vyomesh Joshi, Executive Vice President of HP’s Imaging and Printing Group, about where HP is going.
Johnny Ryan: HP is unusual among leading consumer technology suppliers in having entered the 3D printer market, which seems to be crowded with specialist firms. What was the thinking on this, and on entering the 3D printer space?
Vyomesh Joshi: We see the 3D printer space as an attractive market opportunity and a logical extension of our longstanding printing and graphics market leadership, particularly in large-format printing. As product design and engineering is evolving from 2D to 3D, customers are looking for a compelling way to demonstrate their 3D mechanical design concepts. The HP Designjet 3D printers create models with working parts that designers can hold, examine and share with clients. This functional capability shortens the design lifecycle and ultimately translates to faster time-to-market and lower product development costs.
We saw there were already a significant number of manufacturing companies using 3D software applications, but the technology still has low awareness and – until now – there have been no major printer vendors in the space. We realized HP has unique assets to address this market and the current inhibitors to adoption of 3D CAD printing – such as price, reliability and technical service and support.
Johnny Ryan: What is HP’s level of interest in 3D printing – what proportion of overall growth do you expect it to account for?
Vyomesh Joshi: We believe 3D printing will be a very important opportunity long-term, and initially expect to see increased uptake in the commercial sector before it carries over to the consumer market. Similar to the growth of inkjet technology, innovative new industry segments are not built overnight. Given we are still in the early stages of 3D printing, customer awareness remains relatively low, and it is too early to speculate on overall growth targets. We expect that adding 3D CAD printers to our portfolio can help drive growth in the technical large-format printing market, which includes both 2D and 3D printing. Combined with our leadership in technical workstations, 3D printers also strengthen HP’s position in the overall technical design market.
Johnny Ryan: Where do you see the future of the industry (in terms of growth, application, and impact over the next 5, 10 and 15 years)?
Vyomesh Joshi: Our lives are multi-dimensional and people see the world in 3D. So, it seems natural that there will be tremendous potential for 3D printing in the long term. In fact, while most companies want to convert atoms into bits, HP wants to turn bits into atoms – transforming concepts into the physical form.
Initial indications from third-party projections and our own analysis are that the 3D printing market could become large and highly profitable, with CAGR of 15% or more over the next five years. The greatest opportunity today is in the mechanical CAD (MCAD) market and associated education applications. For the future, AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) represents another market opportunity.
The solutions we offer today are a great match for these specialized industrial needs, and that is our current focus. Longer term, the opportunity as well as the challenge or barrier is to go beyond specialized applications and find a way to deliver a mass market solution that’s simple and affordable for the non-technical user.
It’s easy to imagine that in the future, 3D printing will enable people to be creative and express themselves in entirely new ways. Just as color inkjet printing opened the door for consumers to use photos and images in creative new applications, I could envision people using 3D printing to design unique, personalized items such as jewelry, eyeglasses or other accessories.
Johnny Ryan: What is your position on the importance/future importance of desktop 3D printing, as opposed to professional 3D printing devices? Where do you see the balance in the future between desktop and professional 3D printing?
- Today we see an emerging opportunity for 3D printing in Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD), Education, Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC), Medical – which are all professional applications. As we have experienced with LaserJet printing solutions, they can be centralized or decentralized (desktop-type) applications.
- Eventually, as the market matures, materials evolve, and costs shift to reflect consumer expectations, we believe there will be numerous applications for 3D printing beyond professional printing.
Johnny Ryan: At what point in the future do you see the low micron, multi material, printing lowering to a consumer price point?
Vyomesh Joshi: With more than 25 years of experience in the printing industry, HP has been closely involved with and shaped the evolution of many printing technologies and market segments. We see 3D printing, like other printing innovations, emerging in the commercial segment as well as select application areas first and gradually moving to the consumer space. Over time as materials, speed and ease of operation improve, prices drop, and the technology becomes more scalable, we expect to see greater adoption of 3D printing. However, it’s hard to predict when this technology will have broad applicability and reach price points that drive mass consumer adoption.
Johnny Ryan: What are the primary hurdles that 3D printing faces technologically at the present time?
Vyomesh Joshi: One of the primary hurdles presently is speed, or “time to part”, which today is more than 8 hours average. Other technology-related hurdles include color, and connectivity — meaning how easy it is to convert a 3D or 2D design into a 3D part. We also believe that significant innovation should be focused on materials developed and used. In addition to the technology hurdles, there are obstacles related to cost, user experience and the development of compelling applications. As with any nascent technology, however, we expect 3D printing to overcome those hurdles as the market grows and matures.