Tech Data Jumps On 3-D Printing Bandwagon With MakerBot Partnership


As more and more distributors make moves into the 3-D printing market, Tech Data has become the latest one to jump into the fray with a global desktop 3-D printer MakerBot partnership, the company said Tuesday.

The partnership is an exclusive relationship for Tech Data, with the distributor promising to only offer MakerBot 3-D technologies for the next 12 months.

Tech Data resellers will have access to MakerBot's MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer; MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer; soon-to-be released MakerBot Replicator Z18 3D Printer; MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer; MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental 3D Printer; MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner; and MakerBot PLA Filament. All of the solutions run on the MakerBot Replicator 3D Printing Platform.

[Related: Tech Data CEO Highlights 'Best First Quarter Ever' For Sales, But Earnings Down Overall For Q1]

"Partnering with Tech Data is an exciting opportunity for MakerBot to expand the reach of our 3D printing, scanning and software solutions," Mark Schulze, vice president of sales for MakerBot, said in a prepared statement. "With a solid understanding of how quickly the desktop 3D printing market is growing and their commitment to supporting top-tier resellers targeting the professional, educational and consumer markets, signing on with Tech Data was an easy decision to make."

With the partnership, Tech Data joins the ranks of fellow distributors Ingram Micro, Synnex and D&H, which have already begun offering 3-D printing technology. Ingram Micro is the only other distributor out of its 3-D printing peers to also offer MakerBot technologies as part of its portfolio. 

Tiffany Severance, director, Product Marketing, Systems and Peripherals at Tech Data, said that Tech Data is looking to give resellers options, especially in markets, such as 3-D printing, that are primed for growth. According to Gartner, the 3-D printer market will hit $5.7 billion by 2017 from $288 million this year, with growth driven as enterprises pick up more 3-D printer technologies.

"It’s a hot market right now. It's obviously been on our radar for a long time, and we've had quite a few resellers reach out to us about it," Severance said. "I think there's an untapped market out there as well for applications that customers haven't even thought about."

Since the announcement, Severance said that Tech Data has already received requests from resellers looking to pick up the technology for their portfolios. Severance said that the distributor will work with its resellers on educating them about the technology, training on its capabilities and helping them pinpoint appropriate markets and customers. In particular, she said 3-D printing might appeal to resellers in the health-care vertical or resellers also offering Autodesk programs.

Ashok Thakur, owner of Hicksville, N.Y.-based Computer Consultants Network, a Tech Data partner, said that while the 3-D printing market is expected to grow rapidly, it is still a niche market. He said it will stay that way until the technology is cheaper and better.

"None of our clients are asking for it yet, so we are not interested at this time," Thakur said.

3-D printing technology has its place, he said, but there also needs to be a balance between cost, convenience and creativity. Just because something is printed doesn't make it a better option yet than current processes, he said, at least for the time being.

While the distributor is exclusively selling MakerBot technologies for now, Severance said that Tech Data will look in the future to expand its 3-D printing capabilities and portfolio.

"We want to expand in the future, absolutely," Severance said.

PUBLISHED JUNE 4, 2014