Ingram Micro Breaks 3-D Printing Ground, Brings Opportunity To Channel

As the 3-D printing market continues to heat up, Ingram Micro has staked a claim in the market by becoming the first distributor to bring 3-D printers to channel partners, the company announced earlier this week.

Partnering with leading 3-D printer vendors 3D Systems and MakerBot, the Santa Ana, CA-based distributor's U.S. Document Imaging business unit will educate, support and sell 3-D printers, said Ryan Grant, director of Document Imaging at Ingram Micro.

"In the last six months or so, we have focused to identify the opportunity for our partner base and clearly there is one," said Grant. "Outside the over-hyped technology around it, we found that [3-D printing] really aligned very well with our customers, like any businesses you want to be in with high-growth categories and there is potential for higher growth,"

[Related: 10 Amazing 3-D Printer Creations From CES 2014 ]

Sponsored post

In its early stage, Ingram Micro is focusing on teaching solution providers about the benefits of 3-D printers for their clients. The distributor will bring marketing, WebEx's and prominent speakers in the industry to demonstrate where 3-D printing is heading, said Grant.

"The challenges for partners, and the heavy lifting on everybody's part, will involve selling the product to the end user," said Grant. "It's a new technology, so the end user doesn't know how to use or do it; there needs to be education for resellers and their end customers."

Ron Robinson, CEO and President of Atlanta-based IT Data and 3DCad Printer, an Ingram Micro partner, said he believes 3-D printers are gaining momentum in the channel. In 2012, 3DCad Printer, a separate solution provider business, was created for that reason, said Robinson.

"It's great for Ingram Micro because now they have something to differentiate them from other distributors out there, because right now, I don't know any other distributors doing it, and they are ahead of the curve," said Robinson. "It's going to be a billion-dollar industry, and it's becoming more commercially available because companies like MakerBot are making it less expensive then it was traditionally."

As a reseller, 3DCad Printer is looking forward to working on joint marketing campaigns with Ingram Micro to educate the public, said Robinson.

"Our clients are in the commercial, federal government, manufacturing [and] education sectors, and it's across the board from art to anybody that designs," said Robinson. "I'd like to work on joint marketing campaigns with Ingram, do a show here in Atlanta, send it out to resellers and different school districts and get MakerBot to do demonstrations."

For resellers' clients, investing in a 3-D printer will help from a cost perspective, and for resellers, it is a new area to succeed in, said Grant.

"From a reseller standpoint, they are going to be aligned with technology that is in high demand with a fair amount of margin, and the bigger piece isn't the product -- but the services that can be tied to it," said Grant. "It's not ink; it's filament, a form of plastic, and resellers can benefit from what they can do around it with their services."

NEXT: Opportunities Around Providing 3-D Printers

For Ingram Micro partner SHI, a Somerset, N.J.-based solution provider, it's eager to learn more, educate customers and provide services in addition to the physical printer, said David Johnson, printing and imaging manager at SHI.

"For SHI, we're not just supporting the devices, but we're also selling the 3-D modeling software, additional accessories and peripherals for not just printers -- but to use their equipment within the broader framework for their overall IT practice," said Johnson. "Particularly for an IT reseller like SHI, we can offer additional value beyond just selling the device itself."

Johnson said SHI, first and foremost, strives to be familiar with the technology. Although many of SHI's clients have heard of 3-D printing, they still need to be educated about it, he said.

"Our plan No. 1 starts with enlightening ourselves, making sure we have training and familiarity with customer use cases. We have the resources set up, and Ingram has done a great job keying of that for us and in making sure we have sales specialists that can speak about the products," said Johnson. "Beyond that, it's just a matter of speaking to the organizations that we're supporting and letting them know this is an offering they can take advantage of from SHI and communicating the value proposition."

Over the next year as the 3-D printer market continues to grow, Ingram Micro's Grant said, the company will continue to further educate and support partners in this dynamic arena.

"Ingram is making a tremendous approach in education around the category. Our partners will see us build out the portfolio, build out the education and get them up to speed on how to make money and how to build a service arm around it," said Grant. "They will see content for the end-user space, and the content will get more 'verticalized' for different industries over time as we start to see success stories, and we will advocate those solutions and bring it back to partners to adopt the technology."