SAN FRANCISCO, March 19 Hewlett-Packard Co
will outline plans to enter the commercial 3D-printing
market in June, saying it has solved a number of technical
problems that have hindered broader adoption of the high-tech
Chief Executive Meg Whitman told shareholders on Tuesday the
company will make a "big technology announcement" that month
around how it will approach a market that has excited the
imagination of investors and consumers.
Critics have accused the sci-fi-like technology of being
over-hyped and still too immature for widespread consumer
Industry observers have long expected HP, the largest of
several printer-making companies from Canon to Xerox
, to eventually get into the business. Whitman said HP's
inhouse researchers have resolved limitations involved with the
quality of substrates used in the process, which affects the
durability of finished products.
"We actually think we've solved these problems," Whitman
told an annual shareholders meeting. "The bigger market is going
to be in the enterprise space," manufacturing parts and
prototypes in ways that were not possible before.
"We're on the case," she said without elaborating.
HP executives have estimated that worldwide sales of 3D
printers and related software and services will grow to almost
$11 billion by 2021 from a mere $2.2 billion in 2012.
The nascent 3D-printing market is now dominated by a number
of smaller players like MakerBot, a unit of Stratasys
that is concentrating on selling more affordable devices to
Contract manufacturers like Flextronics however
already use the technology to help craft prototype parts or
devices for corporate clients.
"HP is currently exploring the many possibilities of 3D
printing and the company will play an important role in its
development," CTO and HP Labs director Martin Fink said in a
February blogpost on HP's website.
"The fact is that 3D printing is really still an immature
technology, but it has a magical aura. The sci-fi movie idea
that you can magically create things on command makes the idea
of 3D printing really compelling for people."
(Reporting by Edwin Chan; editing by Andrew Hay)