News has just reached me, via press release, that Stratasys has fully engaged with HP, with the two companies signing a definitive agreement whereby Stratasys is going to develop and manufacture an HP-branded line of 3D printers based on Stratasys’ patented Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology. The plan is for HP to begin a phased rollout of the 3D printers in the mechanical design (MCAD) market in selected countries later this year, with the right to extend distribution globally.
During the recent past (probably going back to mid-2008) I have had numerous conversations that have been geared around how and when 2D printing and 3D printing companies would find some synergy. While some more cynical individuals have intimated that there were no real grounds to draw parallels and assume that 3D printing could ever follow the growth curve of 2D printing, I have believed for a while that it was only a matter of time before the two hooked up in one form or another. I have to be honest though, I didn't think it would be these two!
Scott Crump, Stratasys CEO and Chairman, now "believe[s that] the time is right for 3D printing to become mainstream.”
Ok, well, many people have been saying that for years, and beaten down with cries of "hype - it will never happen." The thing here is that he is backing this comment up with support from a huge, globally recognised brand. It could be a real turning point.
My only reservation about this announcement is the application area. MCAD is a good place to start, and could bring 3D printing centre stage in industrial circles (which is, I think, the aim) but it won't necessarily take 3D printing mainstream.
Another key enabler, as Crump mentions, is HP's "sales and distribution capabilities", something that the 3D printer vendors have struggled with.
All in all, an extremely interesting development, but as ever, we have to wait and watch to see if it fulfills its potential. And, realistically, it is going to be at least a year before there will be any real signs of how it's going.