Want to sell HP 3D printers? Here’s what you need to do

Christoph Schell, president of HP 3D printing and digital manufacturing

Christoph Schell, president of HP 3D printing and digital manufacturing

HOUSTON — Since former HP Americas boss Christoph Schell took over as president of the vendor’s 3D printing and digital manufacturing business just weeks ago, there’s one question he says he gets “101 times a day” from traditional HP channel partners.

“How do I resell HP 3D printers?”

It’s no doubt a question that makes Schell squirm a little bit because getting involved with digital manufacturing has a lot more moving parts than just reselling the company’s hardware. 

“This is a value-based business, and it requires deep vertical expertise. But it has the potential to have. lasting impact on how mankind manufactures and produces for years to come,” Schell said at the company’s ReInvent 2019 World Partner Forum event here this week. 

So the bottom line for “traditional” HP partners?

“If you know system integration, and have manufacturing expertise, we can talk,” he said.

Otherwise, it’s not likely to be a good fit. It’s not that he doesn’t want to sell them to partners. He even jokes that for a while three weeks ago, due to an errant upload, consumers were potentially able to purchase a Multi Jet Fusion printer on walmart.com for a while. For the record, the company did not make any sales via the website.

“I could see you a demo model, but I’ll never sell you a second one,” he tells partners who don’t have the necessary focus to get into the business now.

It’s not that the company’s general partner-friendly approach doesn’t extend to the space. In fact, partners are just as important or more so as in the rest of the business, and Schell said most of the company’s plays will be co-developed with partners. That’s largely because of the very complex and custom nature of the opportunities in digital manufacturing. And that complexity is a barrier to entry for IT-centric partners that don’t necessarily have the corporate DNA or speak the language of manufacturing. Schell describes building “a digital manufacturing network” to help customers move from injection moulding to 3D printing, particularly as HP adds new media and moves into the metal manufacturing space later this year. 

It’s also important to note that reselling a 3D printer is really the wrong question to ask. This is a business outcomes space, and ultimately, Schell says the ultimate measure on which his products will be measured — and his business unit will be paid — is not on the number of printers sold, or the volume of 3D printing powder sold, but on the number of parts produced.

Manufacturing is a different beast. Even HP’s biggest and best managed print partners might pale at the nature of the SLAs required by the company’s manufacturing customers for 3D print. In one example in the automotive field, he said, the company has to pay 460 Euros for every minute you miss the SLA, which is “usually measured in minutes, not hours.”

“Many of these automotive companies are, like me, from Germany. And we are not known for our flexibility on such things,” he quipped.

Still, for partners undaunted by these barriers, Schell has some advice. Start thinking about design, learning about design, and studying the move from 2D to 3D design, from which much of the additive manufacturing business will flow.

“The more people we get educated on 3D design, the faster we’ll scale,” Schell predicted.

And even for partners without the requisite skill sets or business focus to be more active in 3D print, Schell is happy to talk — particularly if they see opportunities.

“I’m happy to pay you a finder’s fee,” he said.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at ChannelBuzz.ca. He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997.