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Got $130,000 down the back of the sofa? Great. Grab an HP 3D printer

That's for the entry-level model. Going up the food chain will cost ya

Tabby cat cuddles roll of one-hundred dollar bills. Photo by Shutterstock

The first of HP Inc’s much-delayed (and cynics might say over-hyped 3D printer) is to hit the market “late” this year – launching into a crowded space with a challenger device the firm hopes will brighten its future.

The Jet Fusion 3D 3200 will sell for $130,000 – add another $25,000 for services including post-processing software and tools when it lands around October.

Businesses wanting the Jet Fusion 3D 4200 will have to wait until next year and then find $200,000 for the pleasure of owning it.

Competitors' products range in price from $100,000 to around $800,000. Desktop or personal 3D printers, an area HP is deliberately avoiding, start at several hundred pounds.

HP's industrial machines are the culmination of five years worth of blood and sweat from the engineering team in the labs at HP – though they were due to be launched in 2014.

“HP is late to this game, and as such they have a lot to prove to the market. However, HP has made the right choice in delaying their entry,” said Joe Kempton, lead 3D printing analyst at Canalys.

He said the business has “one shot to make this work” and risked damaging” the brand if it launched a bum product, and with it “any hopes of trying to crack this market”.

“They could have come in early using an already established type of technology, but instead they have spent serious time and money coming up with a revolutionary new type of 3D printing.

“HP may have also benefited from their delay. Many of the top 3D printing vendors struggled to see growth in 2015, due to difficult economic conditions and currency headwinds,” he added.

HP’s CTO Shane Wall previously told us four things have limited adoption: speed, price, quality of parts and the closed nature of the industry. He said HP Inc’s devices will print 10 to 100 times faster than comparable from rivals, at 20 per cent of the price and print at the voxel level to speed up the process.

Canalys said initial results indicate HP’s devices “far outpace the competition”, but Gartner adopted more of a watching brief.

Pete Basiliere, research veep, told us “the best way to verify HPI’s claims is to have their own parts made by 3D printers that use compatible materials. Part of that is to know the actual, accurate total cost of ownership for existing processes. HPI’s job estimating software, which allows the user to input the company’s costs, will be a helpful tool".

And Terry Wohlers, president at consultancy Wohlers&Associates, claimed it would be “very short sighted” of HP to “exaggerate its claims”.

The products print using thermo plastics and will be largely used for prototyping rather than end-use applications.

“The types of materials on release are limited and restrict the applications,” Kempton told us, but he said prototyping was “by no means a small market”.

Roughly three-quarters of the 3D printers in the market are used for prototyping, though this percentage has fallen rapidly and will continue to do so as material improvements expand, the Canalys man said.

HP is already taking orders directly for the products, but Kempton said the numbers of IT resellers specialising in the area is “certainly limited, mainly because the technology is far more complex than the types of products which these companies are used to reselling”.

“For example, there is a huge amount of training required to enable the teams to understand how best to approach the market. It is not the same as a PC or smartphone, which can be quickly sold off to the end-users. Instead these devices can sometimes take months to install.”

According to Context, 3D printer shipments went up 19 per cent year-on-year in Q4 to a little over 73,000 units. Around 96 per cent of these units were desktop/ personal printers mostly priced below $5,000.

The market is forecast to rise from $4.1bn in 2015 to $16.2bn by 2020, and represents the sort of market expansion that HP Inc is looking to grab a piece of.

The company’s traditional printer products aren’t bringing home nearly as much bacon and neither are its PCs, so it is itching to sink its teeth into an area forecast to take off. ®

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