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HP unveils 3-D printers aimed at shaking up manufacturing

🕐 2 min read

HP Inc., which helped define printing technology for paper, is turning to the industry’s next generation: producing three-dimensional objects.

The company is introducing two 3-D printers aimed at manufacturing customers looking for efficient ways to make items without traditional tools, Chief Executive Officer Dion Weisler said. HP is working with businesses such as BMW AG, Siemens AG and Nike Inc. as co-developers of the technology, reflecting the company’s open approach to building the new products, he said.

HP, which sells printers and computers, is investing in new industries as it looks for ways to drive growth after splitting last year from its corporate sibling, which focuses on business customers with servers, storage and services. The three-dimensional printers will begin to be delivered in late 2016 and may help the company in the future as it seeks to reverse a trend of declining sales amid sagging demand for paper-based documents.

“It’s an incredibly important part of our strategy,” Weisler said. “These are designed for real commercial applications.”

About half of the custom parts inside the new printers are made by the printers themselves, Weisler said. The cost of one of the printer models starts at about $130,000, he said.

“HP really realized now was the time to get involved and take advantage of this growing industry,” said Joe Kempton, an analyst at Canalys. “It’s hugely important for HP to prove themselves as a dynamic company, as an innovative company, who are really disrupting the market.”

The new printers take advantage of more than 5,000 patents and 30 years of research and development, HP Inc. said Tuesday in a statement. The machines craft objects at what’s called the “voxel” level — similar to the pixel for two-dimensional projects — making it simpler and quicker to manufacture parts, according to the company.

“I think they’ll do well,” said Pete Basiliere, an analyst at Gartner Inc. “I think the price point is very attractive.”

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