3D Blockbusters: HP Ups 3D Printing Ante With New Low-Cost Color Model And Metals Functionality

HP CEO Dion Weisler Thursday told Wall Street analysts that the company is accelerating its 3D printing march with an industry first – a new low-cost, full-color model and a breakthrough metals manufacturing capability.

Weisler boasted that the new Multi JetFusion would be the "one and only" 3D printing technology in the industry that can produce manufacturing quality full-color parts.

The lower price point, meanwhile, will open new market segments – essentially expanding the 3D printing market to a new class of products designers and creators, said Weisler.

[Related: 7 Questions For HP's 3D Printing Boss Stephen Nigro On The HP-Deloitte Alliance]

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The full cost color model is based on HP's highly regarded Multi Jet Fusion technology delivering to customers "breakthrough speed, quality, and cost," said Weisler.

Speaking at HP's Palo Alto, Calif. headquarters, Weisler held up several full-color manufacturing parts including a multi-colored bracket that highlighted "high-stress areas" with different colors.

"The designer can zoom in on high-stress areas and see where they might modify the design," Weisler said. "Interesting shapes like this in full color are only able to be produced with 3D printing."

The metal printing capability is another blockbuster, and this pushes HP beyond the polymer plastics market. "Now we are going to disrupt metals," said Weisler. "Our 3D printing metals technology is unique and includes extensive HP intellectual property."

Both the full color, lower cost model and the metal capability will be brought to market in 2018, said Weisler.

HP is already producing metal parts in its labs, said Weisler, showing off a box full of small metal manufacturing parts. "These are parts that are produced in the millions because of course where we are taking our technology is not just for small prototyping," he said. "This is for mass manufacturing to disrupt a very large traditional industry."

The combination of plastics and metals is, in fact, aimed squarely at disrupting the $12 trillion production manufacturing market with lower cost and more efficient 3D mass production.

Calling the 3D printing offensive a "massive opportunity," Weisler said the HP 3D drive is "not a one or two year play," but a multi-year journey that "should be a growth engine for this company for decades to come."

Weisler said the 3D opportunity amounts to the fourth industrial revolution. "Little has changed since the assembly line transformed manufacturing more than a century ago," he said. "Our strategy is not just to be a platform player, not just to be a hardware provider; we want to work with our partners in developing an open materials ecosystem."

HP is focused on digital manufacturing at scale, and in only three quarters the business already has a global scale with repeat customer orders and an expanding partner materials ecosystem, said Weisler.

Conceding that current 3D printing revenue is small relative to the company's $50 billion annual sales, Weisler boasted that the separate business unit's progress would make "any venture capitalist captivated with the future potential."

With artificial intelligence advances, new algorithms will open the door to unimaginably complex 3D manufacturing breakthroughs, said Weisler.

"If you wanted to drastically reduce the part weight of an airplane wing while increasing structural integrity, machines will be able to create entirely new complex designs that achieve those objectives, designs and parts that are impossible to make using traditional manufacturing methods," said Weisler.

Adding sensors to those 3D parts – which is already being done at HP Labs – opens the door for an airline manufacturer to be proactively informed of a "stress fracture" of a critical part before it is visible to the physical eye, said Weisler.

The 3D printer market has all the right ingredients for success, said Weisler: a largely untapped market opportunity, a highly differentiated value proposition grounded in "unique" intellectual property and "complex science," and a highly skilled team capable of delivering success. "We have all of those in spades and more," he said.

Bob Venero, CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider Future Tech, No. 119 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500, said the 3D breakthroughs are going to spark dramatic sales growth for partners that get out in front of the technology and invest in new practices.

Venero, for his part, said he is doubling down on HP building a new 3D printer and HP secure printing business. "We are building a whole division around this," he said noting that he expects to triple that HP 3D and secure printing business over the next 12 months. "We are going hard after this."

Venero said there is a "huge" opportunity to redefine the manufacturing landscape with major manufacturing companies in major industries like aerospace and defense. "I see manufacturing companies betting big on HP which has been the market leader in print since the turn of the century," he said. "This is game-changing innovation that is going to change the dynamics of manufacturing and how you make things like medical devices. There are so many different aspects of this. That is what makes it so exciting. 3D changes everything."