UPDATE: Can HP Change 3D Printing’s Trajectory?

Could HPs Entry into the 3D printing market shift the technology’s potential for adoption, or even the design industry as a whole?

HP, 3D printing, invention, product design, design, iteration, cheap, fast, plasticUPDATE: Over the weekend HP walked back their statements that the company will outline their entry into the 3D printing market this June. In fact, that outline will come at the end of their fiscal year, sometime in the fall.

HP’s CEO Meg Whitman has said that her company will have some major news regarding their entry into the world 3D printing sometime this June.

At a recent shareholder meeting the CEO was critical of additive manufacturing, lamenting that current technology is just too slow to be an economical alternative for manufacturers. Ironically comparing prints speeds to “watching ice melt,” Whitman said HP’s entry into the 3D printing market would push the envelope of build quality and print speeds. While not explicitly stated, Whitman’s comments suggest that HP is ready to redirect 3D printing, moving it closer to the realm of practical production technology.

While HP hasn’t announced when it’s first 3D printer will be available, the company has made it known that its first machines will be built for use in the product design field, where prototyping is an increasingly important part of the product design lifecycle.

Although HP might fail to deliver on their promise of a faster, higher quality 3D printer, I can’t imagine someone like Meg Whitman would expose her company to this sort of risk without the belief that they can deliver on most, if not all, of their promises.

On the other hand, if the struggling tech company can produce a printer that solves plastic 3D printing’s speed and quality problem it could move the technology further into the mainstream among industrial designers and consumer product firms. That, in turn, could avalanche into a wider adoption among other industries as physical, iterative design becomes cheap, easy and quick.

Whatever the result, HP says it’s poised to bring the world of 3D printing some big mid-summer news. Hopefully its entry into the market won’t amount to yet another adequate, on-par printer, but something completely transformative for the industry. Both HP and the 3D printing industry could use news like that.

Images Courtesy of HP