Not all marriages are made in heaven, and the news that Stratasys and HP have agreed to discontinue their manufacturing and distribution agreement for 3D printers, effective at the end of 2012 proves it. The relationship lasted only a couple of years.
Stratasys said it does not expect the termination of its agreement with HP to have a material impact on its financial results for the current year and intends to work closely with HP to ensure a smooth transition for customers. I doubt, though, if the same holds true for HP.
Under the terms of the definitive agreement signed in January 2010, Stratasys developed and manufactured for HP an exclusive line of 3D printers based on Stratasys’ Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology. Later that year, HP began a phased rollout of the 3D printers in the MCAD market in select European countries, but never made it over here to North America, which was both a mystery and a shame.
When Stratasys made the original distribution announcement with HP, it was regarded as a pretty big deal. The announcment also boosted Stratasys’ stock price. It truly was a big announcement for additive fabrication, but I don’t think many in the industry regarded it as the turning point for the technology. In the end, the annoucement and partnership never did fulfill the initial hype or substantive change in the additive fabrication market.
To be fair to HP, though, it only got Stratasys’ entry level UPrint and Dimension product lines. I think this was done to expand Stratasys market presence and installed base without canibalizing its more lucrative high-end 3D printer market that it wanted to keep. Fair enough.
It always puzzled me, though, why HP didn’t develop and market its own 3D printer for a worldwide market — especially at the low-end, prosumer level. After all, HP has provided 3D print heads for ZPrinters (now owned by 3D Systems) and is a market leader in 2D printers. Why not go the next step to develop and mass market your own 3D printing machine?
Admittedly, these are tough times, and no technology company knows that better than HP.