HP looks to democratize 3D printing with portfolio expansion and more accessible partner program

The new 300 and 500 series models are significantly smaller and less expensive than HP’s original 3D product, and the new channel program is intended to bring more mainstream HP partners into 3D printing, particularly those whose business touches on education.

HP’s new Jet Fusion 300 / 500 3D printing solution

Today, at the SOLIDWORKS World 3D design conference, HP is making a three-pronged announcement that it says will revolutionize 3D printing, democratize it, and by extension, completely remake how engineers will design and manufacture product in the future. First, HP is announcing a portfolio expansion, with four new models which are smaller, less expensive and have significantly more downmarket potential than their two original models. Secondly, they are announcing a new channel program to broaden out the 65 partners who serve as HP’s 3D printing channel today. Finally, they are announcing what they are terming a game-changing partnership with Dassault Systèmes’ SOLIDWORKS 3D design and engineering applications.

“We want to change how the world designs and manufactures,” said Stephen Nigro, President of HP’s 3D Printing Business. “We want to be a leader in that next industrial revolution.”

Nigro described 3D printing as a key catalyst for what analysts now call the fourth industrial revolution, along with artificial intelligence, the industrial Internet of Things, Big Data and analytics, and robotics,

“In this, everything becomes a digital process,” he said. “We believe it will lead to the democratization of design and manufacturing and will remake the economy of the world. It will permit rapid innovation, shorter time to market, reduction of inventory so that it is much more on demand, more efficient uses of supply chains and more efficient uses of capital.”

To date, Nigro said that 3D printing has been a limitation on this process, which is why in a $12 trillion potential market, it is a relatively tiny $4-5 billion one – albeit one growing at a 30 per cent clip. Making it grow requires foundational improvements to product capabilities, lowering of material prices, which have been very high, and better material selection.

Nigro also said three more things were needed to accelerate this market.

“You have to design for additive,” he stated. “You have to put Multi Jet Fusion in the hands of the designers.” He also emphasized that you need new supply chains, and that some of their 3D parts are not done in China. He said as well that industry standards would be critical.

HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology was introduced in October 2014, and the first product shipped at the end of 2016.

“The first half of 2017 was a controlled ramp-up,” Nigro said. “May of last year was when we really began to sell. With our open materials platform, we have announced eight development partners – and another 50 have expressed interest. We have also been able to build a global business with over 65 resellers.”

Today, HPE is broadening the base for their platform by expanding their portfolio, which to date has consisted of their large and expensive 4200 and 4210 models.

“We will move downmarket to democratize the technology,” Nigro said. “HP will democratize 3D printing with a family of new low-cost 3D printers that enable functional prototyping, and can produce high quality parts like the 4200 and 4210 and injection molding. For the first time, you can prototype and get what the final part will look like, which will change the design cycle.”

“The current 4200 and 4210 are designed for use cases where you print more than 130 parts per week,” said Ramon Pastor, GM of Multi Jet Fusion, 3D Printing Business, at HP Inc. “The large majority of OEMs will print fewer than this, and for them this new printer series will be a great solution. Our intent is to democratize access to Multi Jet Fusion, with much lower cost, as well as the ability to prototype on either full color or black and white.”

Pastor noted that until now, creating colour parts required accepting more fragility as a trade-off.

“Now for the first time in 3D history, we can provide full-range colour parts with no compromise in part quality,” he said.

The new Jet Fusion 300 / 500 series of 3D printers has four models in total.

“The 340 and 540 have 4 agent-capability, while the 380 and 580 are 8 agent-capable, and can provide full color parts,” Pastor said. “The 300 series are for lower production volumes and more for prototyping, while the 500 series can handle more volume.” Compared to the original 4000 series, all of these have a significant physical size difference, as well as a lower cost. Pricing for the new models starts in the low $50,000 range, and extends into the low $100,000s.

“These are very fast printers, which can create 52 parts in 15 hours, which includes cooldown as well as printing,” Pastor said.”

Pastor emphasized that the new models will open up new applications to colour with no loss of functionality.

“We think this will compare to the impact of colour in 2D printing, and will drive the adoption of totally new applications,” he said.

New customer types targeted with these include smaller R&D firms, customized part manufacturers, small service bureaus, manufacturing support teams, and universities, which Pastor termed a very important market for this.

“In education, we can change the way new generations of engineers will design and manufacture in the future,” he said.

The new models are scheduled to be available in the second half of the year.

For HP’s channel, the second part of the announcement, the expansion of their global 3D printing reseller program, will be just as important as the product. The channel which took the initial 4000 series to market was not only small, but highly specialized as well, and included only a tiny number of traditional HP partners. In contrast, the new channel program is designed to democratize the go-to-market strategy in the same way that the new portfolio is designed to democratize the technology’s use.

“When we introduced the first 3D printers, we had a 3-in-1 program, where partners had to be able to sell hardware, and provide app-to-market support in terms of supplies and service,” Nigro said. “The service requirement in particular really limited who could get in.”

The result, Nigro indicated, was that 80 per cent of this first wave of partners had not been HP partners at all previously.

“The new partner program provides an ability for partners to get in without having to build a service infrastructure,” he said. “They do have to make investments in a sales force to demonstrate the products, but for partners, the hurdle to get in and start selling has been reduced in terms of upfront investment.” He said this will be especially important for HP partners whose practices touch on universities and education.

The third component of the announcement is a new collaboration between HP and Dassault Systèmes, a global maker of 3D design software. The partnership will optimize Dassault Systèmes’ SOLIDWORKS 3D design and engineering applications’ ability to take advantage of HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing solutions, and will see the two companies align their future technology roadmaps to that end. It will include upcoming releases of the SOLIDWORKS portfolio to support the new Jet Fusion 300 and 500 models.

“This will be a game-changing partnership with Dassault through SOLIDWORKS,” Pastor said.