back to article HP Inc won't shake you down for ink in 3D printer era, says CTO

HP Inc is threatening to bring an era of open platforms to 3D printing, one it claims will turn the well used – and much criticised – ink toner supplies biz model on its head. So how exactly does HP expect to print money when it is actually using thermo-plastics? There's one buzz word on the tip of the CTO's tongue – …

  1. JeffyPoooh

    How much for a cartridge of Flying Car paste?

    This is 'The Future'. Over hyped empty promises, and people needing to give their heads a shake.

    Did he say 'printed electronics'? Like CPUs? Or poorly conducting, carbon infused plastic?

    Is this new line of 3D printers 3D printed?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How much for a cartridge of Flying Car paste?

      "Did he say 'printed electronics'? Like CPUs? Or poorly conducting, carbon infused plastic?"

      Perhaps, just maybe, there is something in between?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How much for a cartridge of Flying Car paste?

        I'm guessing the circuits would be very basic, the equivalent of what was possible with ICs in the early 70s. So perhaps it might just be possible to print a circuit that implements a simple four function calculator. If you need more power than that, or external communication, your circuit would be designed to use GPIO to interface between your 3D printed 'object' and a small more capable controller like a raspberry Pi.

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    They'll just get you for ...

    Licenses on anything you make and sell with the 3D printer.

    Gotta protect all that lovely IP now haven't they?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They'll just get you for ...

      If it really is open, they could still have DRM on the designs they sell, but you'd be able to create your own designs and open source them, or download others' open source designs and print them.

  3. Roq D. Kasba

    Great, but I don't trust them

    There's too much momentum in the unicorn tears consumables side, year upon year upon year of artificial barriers for third parties, chips on cartridges, expiry dates hard coded into sealed delivery systems, changing the shape of every single generation of cartridge needlessly, bundling the print head to prevent competition, needless wasteful 'alignment check' prints to use up more ink... To their credit they've been real innovators in the gouging market, and very successful in it. I can't see that hippy spirit of free love laying long beyond whichever C<placeholder character>O is driving this as a pet project. There's just too much momentum.

    Instead, if they really have changed tack, do the same in the 2D space as well, then they might be credible. Or spin this off into a new company not called HP, open source the lot, but make the money on support.

    I just can't trust them.

    1. John Sturdy

      Re: Great, but I don't trust them

      I remember their QIC tape drives; everyone else's QIC drives looked for a physical End Of Tape marker (a small hole in the tape, detected optically). If you missed or ignored that, the tape would come off the reel inside the cartridge. HP's drives looked for a soft marker written into the data on the tape instead, and ignored the hole. The soft marker was written on when the tape was formatted before use; and HP sold pre-formatted tapes, and didn't release the formatting program.

      1. Mike 16

        Pre-formatted tapes

        So, like the "Double Density" 8 inch floppies that DEC sold. Came pre-formatted and the special DEC drives needed to read/write them couldn't format.

        What I didn't see in the (Reg) article was a mention of how one "signs up" to be a vendor of specialty "ink" (access to API/SDK). I have to assume it will be similar to Nintendo managed developers, with a stiff tax per cartridge and complete cutoff of supply if you pissed them off (e.g. the audacity to offer your game on anther platform). So, nobody will be able to compete with HP on garden-variety materials, and no customer will have a second source for the more special stuff.

        Not to mention that having dealt with HP scanner/printer software (... no, that's a trigger even now)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great, but I don't trust them

      Currently 3D printing is a boutique market, and low production volumes of 3D printers are one of the reasons they cost so much. If HP comes out with one that costs a lot less, and adds some "higher end" capabilities (i.e. the varying hardness/translucency/etc.) some 3D printers do not have they will dominate the market. It will set defacto standards as their printers did with PCL.

      So think about what you need for a regular need paper, ink and something to tell it where to put the ink. The 'something to tell it where to put the ink' was existing software like Word or Acrobat, HP couldn't very well require you to use their word processor! So that left requiring special paper or special ink, so they went with the latter. The only reason they did that was because it let them sell the printer at a lower price, and helped them dominate the market.

      Now think about what you need for a 3D need need plastic, and 'something to tell it where to put the plastic'. They'll probably bundle a simple free program that does basic stuff, and you'll be able to buy expensive professional versions if you want to create complex designs. CAD vendors who want to let people export designs to an HP 3D printer will license software from HP - if nothing else that will be required to apply DRM to protect your design. It looks like they plan to dominate the 3D printing market by being the first to do large scale production of 3D printers, and thereby sell them at a much lower (but still profitable) price than anyone else.

      So how will open source figure into this? There is open source CAD software, but it will take a lot of work before it could fully exploit the capabilities of having parts of different flexibilities, printed circuits, etc. and by the time it does HP will have a new generation of printers that do even more. So you'll probably be able to do a lot with it via open source tools, but those will lag behind the professional software and won't be able to apply DRM (which open sourcers will see as a good thing, but will eliminate any interest in using open source software from pros who will want to make money off their designs)

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Great, but I don't trust them

        But doing all that would require engineering effort. HP got rid of all its engineers about 4 strategic re-orgs ago.

  4. Dwarf


    I wonder how much innovation at the consumer end has been hampered by the technology enabled profiteering by the vendors ?

    Trust takes a very long time to earn but is easily destroyed by short term greed.

    As they say, once bitten, twice shy.

  5. msknight

    "and it will be sold at circa 20 per cent of the cost of existing business machines."

    Hmmm... heard that before somewhere.

    New materials? You'd fairly much have to be printing in molten steel to be printing in anything ground breakingly new, IMHO.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Oi, don't knock the chemists! : )

      But seriously, don't. They are always making the lives of people who make stuff easier. Not just in the 3D printing space, but in manufacture and construction. They go largely unsung, too.

      It is just lovely to use two-part car body filler - it doesn't sag, can be carved before it sets, and can be sanded to an incredibly smooth finish with 15 minuses of application. It is just so handy.

      It saves so many headaches to have a tube of moisture-cured polyurethane adhesive/sealant/filler. It can be applied in the wet, is waterproof, over-printable, remains permanently elastic, and can be given a good finish.

      Yesterday I was looking at the wares of a company who make masterbatches (mixed materials) for injection moulding. Chemists are forever fine-tuning every variable for the benefit of their customers. A geeky example - plastic dyes that don't stick to the screws and niches of IM molds, so that switching production between different coloured parts is quicker, easier and more economical.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      And check it out:

      Solder that doesn't require heat at the point of application. The molten is contained within micro-spheres that contain no nucleation points - so the solder remains liquid at room temperature. Upon application, the spheres are broken and the liquid solder solidifies.

      There ain't half been some clever bastards!

      : )

  6. Keith Glass

    I'll believe it when I see it. . .

    . . . especially when generic plastic is dirt-cheap on Ebay and other auction sites, and systems to extrude filament from it have been around for years.

    I can even see a niche for small businesses making custom-color filament, just like inkjet cartridge and laser refill businesses filled. . .

    And HP's model for the Multi-Fusion seems un-necessarily complex, with "fusing agents" and "detailing agents", as well as what appears, at least from descriptions, to be a thermo-plastic ink, instead of the usual filament.

    1. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: I'll believe it when I see it. . .

      The type of 3D printer you are referring to doesn't allow for much in terms of multi-colour printing, high detail printing etc... I've used such 3D printers and the end results are great in terms of a prototype, but are just not great.

      The sort of device HP are talking about here is several steps up from that it seems, allowing per voxel printing! That's pretty amazing if it can be done cheaply.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When ever any Exec/VP/C?? ...

    ...especially from HP (Inc or E) says something like...

    “We really believe with this technology that we have something incredibly disruptive… that will fundamentally change the industry,”

    He is either:

    1. Smoking something

    2. Has no idea what he is talking about

    3. Is talking standard upper management bullshit

    4. All of the above.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: When ever any Exec/VP/C?? ...

      Disruptive and change the industry = Like a wrecked oil tanker does for tourist beaches

  8. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Oh good, I'll use the MultiJet Fusion and the "disruptive new materials" to print my first FTL-drive then!

    Seriously kids - I'm all for HP to enter the 3D printer market, but whenever something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

  9. John Sturdy

    Identifiying the real problems

    From what I've seen of 3D printers in my local hackerspace, the worst thing that's holding them back is reliability and ease of use; a lot of time is spent unclogging the nozzles, fettling the filament feed, etc; as well as re-starting jobs that didn't stick down properly to the bed on the first attempt. Maybe that's what they mean by "quality of parts" but it looks to me like there's still a lot of improvement possible in the design.

    He's right about speed, though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Identifiying the real problems

      ....a lot of time is spent unclogging the nozzles, fettling the filament feed, etc;...

      I've been playing with one for some time now. Really interesting toy, but the filaments in the spools, for some reason, gets tangled a lot and stop feeding the extruder. You start a print job that will take some 2-3 hours and after some time the printer is moving but not depositing the plastic anymore.

      Throw everything back, start again. As a toy it is OK but not really productive.

      1. xeroks

        Re: Identifiying the real problems

        hmm, this all sounds like we need an Apple intervention.

        Preexising, clunky HDD mp3 player, difficult to add tracks => cool, usable ipod =>previous incumbents get their act together.

        Preexising, clunky mobile phone, difficult to install apps => cool usable iphone =>previous incumbents get their act together

        Preexising, clunky windows tablet, unusable UI => cool usable iPad => OK, we're not quite there yet.

        Preexising, clunky 3d printer, messy, unreliable, lots of user intervention to get it working =>???

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Identifiying the real problems

          Apple is great at fixing the weak points in design and UI, but gummy extruders are physical/mechanical problems. That's not a really good comparison with making a better music player and making a better smartphone. A company that has a lot of materials engineers and a tradition of that sort of engineering like an HP or a Samsung is much more likely to solve that sort of problem.

          Apple seems to be doing their best to not deal with mechanical devices that have moving parts at all - as the years have gone by they sell a lower and lower percentage of devices containing annoying problem plagued mechanics like hard drives, fans, mouse balls, etc. At this rate they'll reach a point where the keys on a keyboard are the last moving part in a product Apple sells (well, unless/until they sell a car...)

          1. Old Handle

            Re: Identifiying the real problems

            Maybe Nokia, they started with rubber boots after all.

  10. JeffyPoooh

    Flicking between two TV channels (a thought experiment)

    On one channel is a 'How It's Made' (factory tour) episode where the bottle making factory is cranking out six brand new beer bottles a second. BLAM BLAM BLAM - glowing bottles flying out in batches of six every second. Thirty dozen beer bottles a minute.


    On the other channel is a rather-breathless narrator discussing how "...3D Printing is the future of mass manufacturing; within just a few years everything will be made this way...", as the print head slowly goes back, pause, and forth, pause, back, pause, and forth, pause, back, pause, and forth, laying out 100um layer after layer of a crummy plastic bowl.

    Flick: six beer bottles a second

    Flick: one plastic bowl every 14 hours

    Flick: six beer bottles a second

    Flick: print head moves left, pause...

    Flick: six beer bottles a second

    Flick: print head moves right, pause...

    .: The narrator is an airhead. It'll need about 18 Moore cycles (doublings of performance) to bridge the gap. Even at only two years per cycle, this promise is at least several decades away.

    (Of course, it has its niche applications. No argument.)

    1. Roq D. Kasba

      Re: Flicking between two TV channels (a thought experiment)

      Putting on my Manufacturing Engineer hat on, only a babbling TV fool thinks that 3D printing will ever be cost-effective for mass-manufacturing. It's a tool for jobbing/small batches and for anything that can't be made any other way, and will never compete with purpose-built tooling.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Flicking between two TV channels (a thought experiment)

        Yes, 3D printing is what you want if you want to make a unique wedding cake topper that's a miniature of the actual bride and groom, or (when it is a little faster/more cost effective) 100 specially designed beer bottles for your homebrew.

      2. Rafael 1

        Re: only a babbling TV fool thinks ...

        Maybe they're not using Continuous Lifecycle for the manufacturing? Maybe they need some DevOps training to increase whatever they are doing? Put the templates for the bottles in the cloud, maybe? Or connect all printers, computers, light bulbs, fridges and toilets to the Internet-of-Things?

        There is money to be made!

  11. admiraljkb

    Ummm, didn't Carly Fiorini say something pretty close about inkjet cartridges right before she was fired? Just saying.... :)

  12. Justin Clift

    "Open Platform" ?

    Pretty sure his definition of an "Open Platform" will turn out to be very different from most other people's.

    And not in a good way. :(

  13. bill 27

    Got 3 printers for my personal use. 1 is a HP, nice laser printer given to me after it became abandonware. 2 are inkjet/scanner types that I bought after throwing away the HP ones because I got tired of the ink problem.

  14. wayward4now

    Screw HP. They robbed me and beat me with their fine line of products. It's a good thing I am not in possession of the nuclear football.

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