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HP Unveils 4 Lower-Cost Jet Fusion 3-D Printers And A New Partner Program To Expand The 3-D Print Channel Opportunity

The company is recruiting channel partners that may have never sold 3-D printers before to take part in the new program.

HP Inc. on Monday revealed the next evolution of its 3-D printing business with the unveiling of four new Jet Fusion 3-D printer models that will feature the same technology of the original models, but with a smaller footprint and lower cost to reach a broader set of customers.

HP will focus on channel partner sales with the additional Jet Fusion models and is launching a new channel program that will offer margin opportunities for 3-D printer sales and supplies.

[Related: 5 Signs HP's Printer Business Is Firing On All Cylinders]

The expanded Jet Fusion lineup will include models that can print full-color objects as well as models that just do black-and-white. Capabilities include printing at high speeds—up to 52 parts in 15 hours.

Pricing will start in the $50,000 range and will reach into the $100,000 range. That's in comparison to the existing Multi Jet Fusion models, which are priced in the $300,000 range.

"We're expanding the portfolio. You can see we're putting a lot in place. [3-D printing] is a market that's growing at a 30 percent CAGR, and we're actually accelerating the market with our entry," said Stephen Nigro, president of HP's 3D printing business, in an interview with CRN. "We see this taking off into the 2020-plus timeframe — closer to 2020 than 2025."

The ultimate vision, he said, is "changing how the world designs and manufactures."

Along with the lower pricing, the new Jet Fusion 3-D printers differ from the original models by having a more compact size—they are all-in-one machines, in comparison to the three systems of the original Multi Jet Fusion.

The new models, which make up the Jet Fusion 300 and 500 series, will be aimed at customers with lower production volume needs than the original models. The focus is on enabling the production of prototypes at small and mid-sized customers such as design firms, smaller OEMs and universities. HP's existing Jet Fusion printers, by contrast, are aimed at manufacturing of production-ready parts at high speeds.

A main difference in the new channel program is that partners will not be required to provide servicing for the 3-D printers, which was a necessity for partners selling the original Multi Jet Fusion models.

"We really want to broaden our reach," said Alex Monino, global head of marketing and go-to-market for HP's 3D printing business, which has meant removing the servicing requirement in the new channel program.

Channel partners will still need to have dedicated sales resources for selling the Jet Fusion printers and will still need to purchase a demo unit, Monino said.

However, the new channel program will not just be targeted for partners that already work with printers, either 2-D or 3-D, according to HP. Instead, the new program is ideal for any partners that work with customers in target markets such as design and education, and that have experience with selling solutions and services rather than just sales transactions, Nigro said.

Partners told CRN that the new Jet Fusion lineup and channel program could spell major growth opportunities for their businesses.

"While HP's Multi Jet Fusion technology as it currently stands is a game-changing technology bringing true production to the 3-D printing space with its capabilities, the newly expanded portfolio steps up the game even further," said Rob Hassold, CEO and founder of Branchburg, N.J.-based Cimquest.

Until the new 300 and 500 Series lineup, "no 3D printing technology could come close to offering all of the following capabilities: full color, durable materials for end-use parts, fast print speed, nice surface finish, reasonable cost per part and high part accuracy," Hassold said. "Now we can have it all. The new product series with its more aggressive price point will help to enable the adoption of Multi Jet Fusion to a much wider audience."

Companies that "embrace this revolutionary technology will gain a huge competitive advantage over others in their market space," Hassold added.

At Mountain View, Calif.-based Hawk Ridge Systems, vice president of engineering Cameron Carson said that HP "has kept its promise of disrupting the 3-D printing paradigm by introducing the world's first full-color, production-quality plastic parts in an easy-to-use, office-friendly form factor."

The new 300 and 500 Series printers "bring together capability, speed and cost savings to truly allow designers to leverage the advantages of 3-D printing," Carson said. "Hawk Ridge Systems believes this puts us at the forefront of increased adoption and a revolution in manufacturing."

The four new 3-D Jet Fusion models will be available in the second half of 2018. They are the Jet Fusion 340, 380, 540 and 580; the models vary based on whether they print full-color or just black-and-white, and on build volume. The 340 (black-and-white) and 380 (full-color) can print build volumes of up to 7.5 x 10 x 9.8 inches. The 540 (black-and-white) and 580 (full-color) can print build volumes of up to 7.5 x 13.1 x 9.8 inches.

HP executives said the first wave of partners has already received training and certification on the new models. HP is "very open and interested in recruiting [additional] channel partners," Monino said. One focus for HP with the new program is working with solution providers that currently partner with 3-D design software firm SolidWorks, such as Hawk Ridge Systems.

In May 2017, HP launched its channel program for the original Multi Jet Fusion 3-D printers with 13 highly specialized North America partners. That program has since expanded to include 65 channel partners worldwide.

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