back to article Don't believe the hype: HP CEO says 3D printing hasn't met early hopes

HP Inc. CEO Enrique Lores says orders for 3D printers are falling short of early promise, with some analysts saying the tech has failed to cross into the mainstream despite a relative boom during the pandemic. As of September 2021, HP said more than 100 million parts had been produced with the assistance of 3D printers, though …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a shock. Greedy corporate America overestimated the profitability based on the hype spewed by early adopter fanatics.

  2. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Unhappy

    HP's dreams of another "subscription" service like their printer ink thwarted by lack of interest.

    Seriously, why does anyone still buy their printers? Yes, they're cheap to buy, but they're not cheap to use. I'd rather front load the cost and then use it cheaply forever myself. Just don't understand it. I can't see any benefit to anyone other than HP in that business model.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Ironically the model would make sense in the 3D printer world.

      We have a bunch of printers, from Formlab liquidy-goop-stuff to big scary Titanium machines

      But we also have shelves full of early attempts that didn't quite work, or were superseded, or the makers went bust.

      Having a bunch of specialised (yes specialised) machines that we can use as little as we want because we only pay for consumables, and the makers are incentivised to replace them with newer models would make sense for such an immature market.

      There are a few parts that we can only make with metal printing or are one off prototypes or would need a dozen different processes to make conventionally - but I don't think we are ever going to see 3D printing replacing moulds or CNC for production

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Contract manufacturing is commonplace around here. Its like 3D printing but you don't actually 'print' the part, you just send the drawing files and materials specification off to the manufacturer and you get a batch of parts back.

        In house 3D printing works for prototypes, to visualize something before getting it made properly.

        I don't know what HP was thinking but knowing them they were probably thinking endless sales over overpriced proprietary filament. We've been bitten enough with their printers, thank you very much.

      2. J. Cook Silver badge
        Boffin

        Except that it didn't work; there were several 3d printer makers that tried to lock down their units so that only filament purchased from them (in spools with a NFC chip on them and DRM 'securing' the lot of it) would work; that went over about as well as flatulence in a middle of a church sermon. The names escape me, because... well. they aren't around anymore. :)

        I don't think that 3d printers will ever reach the point where you can apply the copier rental method to it- (i.e., pay for what you use instead of the entire machine up front) for a number of reasons, but mostly the typical end user is ideologically opposed to that scheme.

        The printers are leveling out, as far as price points versus how much fettling you have to do to tune them in and keep them there.

        3d printing can (and does) replace things like the item you are making a mold of for casting (as long as the surface is prepped properly), and CNC is more of a complementary method (the former is additive manufacturing, the latter subtractive)

  3. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "HP CEO says 3D printing hasn't met early hopes"

    Pity this article is only about sales. I'd be really interested in whether 3D printing has come up to technical expectations, on what scales and with what materials.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: "HP CEO says 3D printing hasn't met early hopes"

      The use of 3D printing is mostly still in the one-off or small batch niche regardless of the materials involved, it will be a very long time before continuous 3D production runs get to within binocular distance of traditional manufacturing techniques in either cost or speed.

      One area where 3D is making good progress is in the military. Workshops aboard some larger US warships now have metal printers, avoiding having to fly in an out of stock widget makes space available for other priority cargo. Aviation parts are being made this way now*, with (educated guess) much shorter operational lifespans than OEM parts but that'll be enough keep aircraft flying until the full spec part appears.

      *Avoiding he cost of a destroyer & helo chain playing pass the parcel to move an under slung urgent & fragile load several hundred miles out into the ocean is quite an incentive.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "HP CEO says 3D printing hasn't met early hopes"

        Well hopefully your educated guess is not always right on part operational lifetimes. Some OEM aviation parts are built this way now because they can print parts that cannot be machined in one piece.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: "HP CEO says 3D printing hasn't met early hopes"

          The 3D printed OEM parts will have been designed as 3D so their operational lifetimes will be what they are*.

          A 3D part that replaces a stamped, cast or machined part will likely have a different lifespan, I'd expect that 3D plans for any conventionally manufactured part to have already been through the full testing regime to supply the modified lifespan data before being authorised for use.

          *unless there's a capability difference between the OEM manufacturers printer & the one on board ship.

      2. MrBanana Silver badge

        Re: "HP CEO says 3D printing hasn't met early hopes"

        Also large usage in other hi-tech, fast moving, industries like F1, for prototyping and point of immediate use situations. It's still an emerging market, which is fine for geeky hobbyists, but it will be a while yet before it is mainstream. I would like to see companies offer basic spare parts as €10 if you buy it, or €5 if you want the gcode to make one yourself. But obvious lack of IP control makes that unlikely.

        Given the shitty state that HP has made of the 2D printing world, if they don't think 3D printing is worth it, then I'm happy for them for fuck off out of it.

      3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: "HP CEO says 3D printing hasn't met early hopes"

        >Workshops aboard some larger US warships now have metal printers, avoiding having to fly in an out of stock widget makes space available for other priority cargo.

        That sounds like exactly the "reason" I would use if I was a geek in an organisation with an essentially unlimited budget and I wanted to justify a cool toy. At least this will kill less people than the V22

    2. Inkey

      Re: "HP CEO says 3D printing hasn't met early hopes"

      Rather lengthy post futher down...

      They lacked the vision basically said how can we use our printers to jump in ... fair play but thier business model is in ink and 3d materials are orders of magnitude above that ... from using am to create new polymers and alloys that will then be used fir am production to new enzimes for biological processes..... check out some others below

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Perhaps it's because HP makes crappy 3D printers

    Or perhaps it's because, until this article, I didn't even know they made 3D printers, and I've been seriously into 3D printing for 4 years now.

    If you want a good 3D printer where you'll be doing more printing than dicking around with the printer, then get yourself a Prusa MK3S+

    People cheap out and get an Ender or an Anycubic then bitch that 3D printing sucks. That's like getting a 486 and complaining that Excel takes forever to load.

    I've printed a ton of stuff, but then I'm also somewhat of a wizard at OpenSCAD, and the two are related. Designs for something you need don't magically appear. There's a ton of stuff on Thingiverse and Printables, but most of it is just STL files that you can't modify or adjust.

    1. MrBanana Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps it's because HP makes crappy 3D printers

      +1 for the Prusa MK3S+ (my first 3D printer built from their kit, and I keep wondering why 3D printing is such a struggle for others). Also +1 for OpenSCAD - a boon for the quick design of a small bracket, spacer, whatever without having to navigate some contorted CAD system that doesn't work on my OS.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps it's because HP makes crappy 3D printers

      Depending on your expectations an Ender3 with silent stepper drivers and a modern 32-bit main board works just fine too. It takes some fiddling to set it up right but once you've got it running and got the settings right, it prints very very nice.

      Taking advantage of a large sale combined with "loyalty points" I bought my Pro for roughly 150 Euro. The price difference to a "proper" Prusa was worth the extra fiddling for me.

      As to why you've never heard of HP before, they're only doing B2B sales for their 3d printers afaik, so if you're looking at the consumer market you've never been in their target market in the first place.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Perhaps it's because HP makes crappy 3D printers

        >As to why you've never heard of HP before, they're only doing B2B sales for their 3d printers afaik,

        The problem is that at the moment it's still a very specialised market - so more like the early days of typesetting rather than the heyday of the LaserJet4.

        Today I'm going to buy a production 3D printer from a specialist company like SLM or EOS. If there comes a time when you have a standard shop 3D printer then maybe HP is a competitor, but i don't know if that time si coming soon.

    3. Ragarath

      Re: Perhaps it's because HP makes crappy 3D printers

      The HP 3D printers were the only ones that could make my limited run 800pcs design I needed at the strength levels I needed. I did not have an in house printer and was weighing up getting one. Also at a lot smaller cost than injection moulding.

      I had my design tested on normal printers and the HP technique ones as I had some fragile bits. Normal 3D printing was very course (even on as fine as they offered) compared to the HP ones and they were brittle. I could snap bit's off easily. Using the HP process I could bend my design a LOT before it broke.

      As others have said though. These are big printers and not for the home crowd.

    4. Corporate Scum

      Also perhaps

      "HP Inc. CEO Enrique Lores says orders for 3D printers are falling short of early promise"

      Perhaps their expectations were unreasonable. Some here have dogged HP's efforts on quality/price. Never used theirs in particular, but a good few other brands, also laser cutters, water jets, plasma and a few other toys.

      The way these things work means that the main stream end-user use cases are pretty limited. The machines are all a bit finicky, and just being able to print something just saves you shipping and batch ordering if you can't build or modify models. And building printable models isn't a mainstream home user skill. HP management listened to the hype and chased a phantom market. They found at least some success in the market that actually exists, skilled tinkerers and professionals. That isn't a market that will save their collapsing growth forecasts. It won't save the company, or turn around the brand.

      Additive printers are exactly the sort of product old Hewlet-Packard would have thrived on in the old days though. But as a company HP has shed it roots in test equipment and technical products. In the old days the company had dozens of small volume product lines. They made high quality gear, and while the individual lines made a healthy profit over costs, the total sales of most of them were a rounding error on the balance sheet during the boom days of cheap pc's and toner that cost more than the printer.

      HP forgot how to be the company that it used to be, but that doesn't seem to have prevented management for falling into that "remember when we were cool" trap. Just because the cool kids are talking about 3d printing doesn't mean they can rehash their failing business model of mass producing cheap hardware and selling it to home users for a low entry price and eye watering supply costs. They cut the scientific equipment lines as a "cost cutting" measure when the PC and ink boom lost momentum. That didn't turn a sinking ship into a new boom though.

      As it turns out, especially for people that don't have modeling skills, it's cheaper and faster to have someone ship small plastic bits that are less than about a 2' cube. And those things can be made a scale, from parts with optimized materials and so on. That's not going to change anytime soon, and most home users want products, not parts. So HP has tried to once again fit a large peg in a small hole. Or market projections based on inflated hype into the reality a small volume market more specifically.

      Much as I hate on the company, I'd have loved to see a world with sub 1,000$ SLS machines though.

    5. Fazal Majid

      Re: Perhaps it's because HP makes crappy 3D printers

      I have a Prusa MK3S, and I wouldn’t call it plug-and-play. There is still a lot of art and black magic involved in getting decent prints and avoiding failures, specially when you move beyond PLA.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not bad

    12.6 billion instead of 22 billion after 6 years - I think if you compare that to the over hype of IoT, then 3D printing is a screaming success.

  6. aurizon

    Ah, HP, wants a patent thicket to make their kit very very expensive - think ink jet cartridges..

    There are many things made this way, not by HP kit - think greed/avarice/hubris.

    Down in flames...

  7. tekHedd

    3D printing is actually kind of hard

    Seeing "HP" in this headline, I internally rewrite it as: "Who is currently failing pitifully at an attempt to bring 3D printing to the mass market?" Because they clearly don't have what it takes. At least based on my previous experience with their products (post-laserjet). Nobody I know who has one likes theirs. I'm not going out of my way to be mean here, it's just reality.

    My current highly modified 3D printer is requires expert tweaking to get consistent prints. I can only imagine the horror of trying to get a solitary decent print, if it were made by HP.

  8. Inkey
    Coffee/keyboard

    All depends what your use case is ..

    When hp teased thier kit they claimed they would be faster than anything that was available... voxel technology they said .. and when they mean customer they mean paying guinea pig...(oh the stories i could tell about thier large format stuff).

    Maybe they thought they could just rent out thier IP..and for all i know they might of ..but most of the really interesting stuff is coming from engineers and having some real world problem , not a blanket far fetched kool aid view of "every home will have one you pay a small sum for a file and hey presto life size robot."

    When you look at some of the real benifits of am in general and some solutions the smart companys have achieved,there's no way hp could compete.

    It's hard theres the material science, the machinery, the software>>by comparision ink has been around for centuries paper even longer and printers have been developing since the 1500's

    Icon printed a rocket engine in a week and changed the design spec 3 days in to the print ...undergoing nasa certification 3months ago

    Metalio built a printer inside a Hass milling machine..edm'd a portion of a cracked helicopter blade out and then printed in the repair ...certified airworthy about a week later

    My absolute favourite Mazak have a 6 axis lathe that will swop it's tool head to a metal print head seemlessly, print what ever dodad then swop back to a cutting tool and mill turn or finish dodad...

    Most grades of stainless alloys have now been certified as have most aluminium alloys, titianium, inconel as have most engineering platstics, military and aviation.

    Hp'$ kit uses deskjet technology to spray a binder to (mostly plastic) which is ok if you want to print key rings and marketing crap ... but you could do that with any decent desktop 3d rig (crealityA6 with tasty mods and a smoothie board for shenanigans)

    Desktop metal and others also use a binder but the part then gets aneiled in an oven,,, the part will shrink and thus has to printed 20% bigger, hp goning to start selling ovens?...

    The OH's cannon died a few months back so the perfectly usable 12 year old deskjet came out, the replacement inks came to a £ more than a new desktop printer filled with all the DRM and bloat you could ask for... i admit i hesitated but bought the inks and had to screw around to get the open source driver (thiers) to work... as they deamed it obsolete.. funny how similar vintage machines drivers worked, scans as well.

    Point is a b2b ink reseller was never ever going to make a splash in this arena... it"s moving way to fast in so many directions that avarice is a limitation...what was thier intended use what problem were they trying to solve what inovation could they bring to the greater am industry?? That they made half of what they did almost seems impresive to me ... considering in the time that they anouced they were going 3d,other companys have developed printers on mobile cranes and can print a medium size house in a few days, and no propritey 'voxel" ip in any of it.

    Apologies for the length of this post but this shits important to me and it would be remis of me if i didn't give it the fuller perspective.

  9. stewwy

    More accurately

    3d printing does not match HP's idea of 3D printing, it's great for prototypes and one-offs.

    It's also great for printing all sorts of plastic stuff for use around the home, brackets, hinges, bits you can't get elsewhere at a decent price, and your next great idea( that will end up in the scrap bin shortly).

    It's not easy to monetize when any half-decent engineer can build one that works better than your offering.

  10. david 12 Silver badge

    Cloth cutting

    One of the fascinating offshoots of 3-D printing, is that it's circled back to where it began.

    Readers may know that the first CAD circuit board layouts, and semi-conductor layouts, were done on modified cloth-cutting machines. The basic PCB descriptions still use Gerber files: files that describe how cloth is cut. The 'maker' fad, driven by additive printing, also includes laser-cutters -- if you can produce cheap additive-printing frames, you can also produce cheap laser-cutter frames, and cutting shapes out of plywood turns out to be equally as effective as building up shapes out of plastic, with some advantages and disadvantages.

    And if 'makers' are shaping stuff out of plastic and cutting it out of plywood, why can't people (mostly women), do the same with cloth, paper, vinyl, and other craft materials? Why not indeed: last time I was buying buttons and interfacing, the shop was also stocked with a bunch of CAD fabric cutting machines and CAD craft machines.

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