Hewlett-Packard, one of the biggest names in printing, is dipping into the 3D printer market through a deal with Minneapolis, Minn.-based Stratasys, the companies said Tuesday.
3D printers let people create three-dimensional models out of designs created on a computer, constructing the model by either removing material from a block or by building it up gradually from another material. Stratasys will manufacture an HP-branded 3D printer set for release later this year.
This isn't a consumer product you can use to make your own copy of Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker." Instead, it's for mechanical computer-aided design tasks such as architecture or component prototyping.
The technology isn't cheap. Stratasys' least expensive model, the uPrint 3D that's small enough to sit on a desk and can make an object measuring a maximum of 8 inches by 6 inches by 6 inches, costs $14,900. The company's printers use a technology called FDM (fused deposition modeling) that gradually builds up a shape layer by layer out of a material called thermoplastic that turns liquid when heated.
3D printing has been under development for years, but HP evidently thinks the time is ripe to enter the market. "There are millions of 3D designers using 2D printers who are ready to bring their designs to life in 3D," Santiago Morera, vice president and general manager of HP's large format printing group, said in a statement.