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HP is entering the 3D printing market

Hewlett-Packard (HP) wants to get into the 3D printing game, and is preparing an announcement for June. 

According to Reuters, HP has a "big technology announcement" scheduled for June 2014, where it will discuss plans to enter the commercial 3D printing market.

HP has been a player in the traditional printer market for quite some time, and was expected to eventually make a move into 3D printers. But along the way, HP had to solve some issues associated with the technology, such as the quality of substrates used in the process (this affects the durability of the end product).

There's also a lot of questioning as to whether 3D printing will score big in the consumer market just yet. 

"We actually think we've solved these problems," said HP CEO Meg Whitman. "The bigger market is going to be in the enterprise space. We're on the case."

With 3D printing, various materials can be used to create a three-dimensional object for rapid prototyping and other needs. The market is currently dominated by the likes of MakerBot, and while the cost of 3D printers is coming down, it still hasn't made a huge splash in the consumer market.

But HP has said that 3D printing "has a magical aura" where people will want the ability to make their own objects. 

Source: Reuters

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The shortcomings
By homebredcorgi on 3/20/2014 1:30:58 PM , Rating: 1
I've been routinely using 3D printed parts (stereolithography, laser sintered plastics/metals) in industry for several years. Here are the major issues that are never really addressed by the media:

1) Material cost. The plastic is about $6 per cubic inch. Big parts easily cost tens of thousands of dollars in material. You think printer ink is expensive?

2) Surface finish. Some materials are very porous and require significant sanding/smoothing before painting. Others are not porous, but the surface finish is still very rough. You will not be printing a gun barrel any time soon using this technology.

3) Part size. Most printers have a usable volume of about 20" x 20" x 20" - even less for consumer printers. This requires printing multiple pieces and bonding them together to make a larger part. Although given time, I'm guessing printers will get bigger.

RE: The shortcomings
By Marlin1975 on 3/20/2014 1:57:04 PM , Rating: 5
Ha, you think material cost are high now, wait until HP gets rolling. :)

RE: The shortcomings
By homebredcorgi on 3/20/2014 2:20:43 PM , Rating: 2
Forgot to add:

4) Print times. I have had large parts in machines for weeks. It's a great technology, but it certainly has shortcomings and I don't really see it being something every household will want. Unless you like making $30 keychains or something.

RE: The shortcomings
By c4v3man on 3/20/2014 3:43:11 PM , Rating: 2
The biggest problem with 3d printing isn't really cost anymore, it's ease of use. From diagnosing quality problems, calibrating axis, getting material flow rate right, etc, it take alot of work and an inclination towards mechanical processes to handle it.
HP may very well help with some of these issues, new designs are becoming self-leveling and auto-calibrating, and obviously you'll only be able to use HP brand filament, so that solves flow rate (mostly), so that's fine.

That just leaves you with the difficulty of creating a 3d model. Sure you could laser-scan in something and make a 3d copy, but what's the fun in that? This is the biggest problem in my opinion, but there is also a lot of development in this area, making things easier and more consistent over time.

3D printing is far from perfect, but if gives me a way to express my creativity in ways I was unable to before, since I'm not good at drawing, painting, sculpting, singing, playing and instrument, cooking, etc. I run into problems constantly, and 3d printing helps me fix those problems in a reasonably rapid and creative way. Have clutter in your bathroom? Make a custom hairbrush/comb/stuff holder to mount to the wall. Bought a new or unusual firearm and want a way to carry additional magazines when shooting it? Make a form fitting belt slide magazine holder. The possibilities are endless, the ability to do so unfortunately is not yet infinite, but it's getting better rapidly.

3d printing now is similar to smartphones back in 2006. Capable for people who know how to use them (blackberry, windows mobile, etc), they just need some ease of use and consumer appeal (iPhone) even if it's not as powerful, capable, or fast as other equipment. It's also undergoing rapid development similar to that timeframe... our capabilities in 5 years will be dramatically different than what we have today.
I can't wait until we get desktop/consumer SLM metallic powder printers for under $2000... that will change things dramatically IMO.

RE: The shortcomings
By Mr Perfect on 3/21/2014 11:14:15 AM , Rating: 3
The durability of the printed parts aren't quite what I was expecting either. After playing with extruded ABS parts from Replicator 2s, it's pretty clear that they can't stand up to the stresses that a solid, molded ABS part can. Printed parts would be the perfect thing to make a mold from, but I can't see using them directly. They tend to splinter apart into the individual extruded stings of ABS.

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