HP sees lower-cost 3D printers expanding channel reach

Alex Monino, head of marketing and go-to-market for 3D printing at HP

Alex Monino, head of marketing and go-to-market for 3D printing at HP

When HP’s 3D printing business was nascent, it pledged it would be a partner play. And now, as it’s expanding that reach. But it still might be a while before the “average” HP partner is dealing a 3D printer.

3D printing was a hot topic at the company’s Innovation Summit in the Barcelona area last week, and Alex Monino, head of marketing and go-to-market for 3D printing at HP, told ChannelBuzz.ca there would be some channel expansion coming with the launch of new members of the MultiJet Fusion line later this year.

The company is slated to release the MJF 300 and 500 by the end of the year. The new 3D printers are the company’s first additive manufacturing machines to offer colour production, and are smaller and less expensive than previous MJF family members. While the initial HP 3D printers were focused on production manufacturing, the 300 and 500 will be HP’s first designed as a cheaper option for prototyping.

“We’ll double our channel base with the 300 and 500,” Monino predicted.

Of course, they’re not stopping from a big a number — the company has a little over two dozen 3D printing-authorized parnters in the Americas, and three partner “up and running” in Canada today, according to Monino.

“We’re still going to be careful and selective with partners,” he said. “It’s not something everyone can sell. It’s an investment in training and in operations.”

But one key part of HP’s plans to expand its 3D printing channel suggests the door may be open to more partners in the future. To date, HP has required its partners around MJF to be “triple threats” — to sell the printers, to sell the consumables, and to sell services, which in 3D printing includes consultative and implementation services, as well as ongoing operating services

But Monino said that alongside the 300 and 500, a key part of HP’s strategy is to “build out the HP services infrastructure,” meaning the company will have more of its own people to handle design, implantation, ongoing operations and break-fix support. Those HP-provided services will then be available to partners, reducing the need for partners to provide them themselves.

While HP isn’t discussing a dramatically larger channel today, the freedom of the requirement to have what is still a pretty esoteric skill set around operating and maintaining additive manufacturing equipment could be key to opening the door to a much broader array of partners. 

“If you drive the sale of the product, we’ll take on the service aspect if you don’t want to,” Monino said of the model.

HP seems to be going the way of partner choice — with flexibility as to wether hardware, software, services and support are provided by partner or HP, based on customer and/or partner preference, as well as partner skills and business model. That too could potentially support a much broader channel.

Monino suggested that HP will also be open to more referral-type partners, or other partners that don’t actively resell product themselves, which would be one sure way to expand the channel quickly, if the less impactful in terms of the depth and breadth of skills partners offer. Monino said that while it would double its channel ranks, “not all of them will sell products.”

So where is HP looking for new partners for the 3D space? Not surprisingly, Monino said it would look for partners with experience in manufacturing. And given the new printers’ focus on pre-production, design, and prototyping, Monino suggested workstation partners with manufacturing companies would be “a great fit.” And finally, freedom from the requirement to sell the product and/or its surrounding services, could open up a channel with ISVs or software-centric resellers selling into engineering, Monino suggested.

“If they don’t feel comfortable selling the hardware, they wouldn’t have to invest very heavily to build the business and give customers access to this technology,” he said.