Stratasys, Ltd. Expects Stronger 3D Printing Market as HP Enters the Segment

1 Nov 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

HP SproutIt’s a PC, and it runs Windows, but it has two displays-one of which is a touch mat that lays flat on your desk, about where you’d place a keyboard. Hewlett-Packard tried to reassert itself as a technology innovator on Wednesday, unveiling two products — a fast 3-D printer for large companies and an interactive desktop computer for consumers.NEW YORK (Reuters) – A day after Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N) revealed plans for ground-breaking 3D printing technology, 3D-printing manufacturer Stratasys Ltd (SSYS.O) said it is expecting more competition and pointed to its strong position in a market expected to explode by the end of the decade.

HP wants to blur the lines between digital and physical creativity and believes the answer is the Sprout, a truly novel new computer that lets people get hands on with designs, literally. The products are seen as key to the company’s push into what it calls “blended reality,” technology that bridges the gap between three-dimensional reality and two-dimensional images on screens.

The Sprout has a downward-facing 3-D scanner/camera/projector, and the machine comes with a touch-sensitive 20-inch mat that allows you to manipulate the digital things projected onto it. Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday said it had developed 3D-printing technology that can print 10 times faster at considerably less expense than current products, and that it plans to launch the technology broadly in 2016.

An all-in-one PC with an integrated 3D scanner, a projector and a 20-inch touch mat where the keyboard would traditionally sit, the Sprout is meant to represent what HP calls the latest in ‘blended reality’. HP says that this unprecedented (and, yes, unusual) combo will let users to “take items from the physical world and seamlessly merge them into the digital workspace.” The screen up top is a 23-inch 1920×1080-pixel touch display. During a launch demo in New York City this week, HP described the machine as the first product in its “Blended Reality” lineup, an effort to streamline the interface between real and virtual objects.

Then the projector will project the digitized image onto the mat and you can manipulate it with your hands. ‘Touch’ it, turn it around, pull it and stretch it — think Iron Man — the computer uses an array of cameras to track your position relative to the object so that everything moves and flows smoothly. Using a technology called Multi Jet Fusion, the machine can produce objects in color and manipulate their form, texture, strength, elasticity, friction as well as electrical and thermal properties, the company said. The company has offered PCs and peripherals with futuristic input technologies in the past year, including laptops, desktops, and keyboards with integrated Leap Motion sensors.

For the desktop market of printers under $10,000, it said it holds 35 percent share, largely through its MakerBot branded printers. “Of course we are concerned about it,” Reis said in the interview, regarding the HP announcement. “But I think that we have a lot in our pocket. HP has given this whole system the auspicious name “Illuminator.” The company says there will be apps built specifically for the Sprout rig that will allow users in multiple locations around the world to work on projects together in real time. Wide distribution of the printer will be in 2016, HP said. “This speed will really help us put 3-D printing in more applications and in more and more cases,” said Ramon Pastor, vice president and general manager of HP’s large format printing business.

Demand for 3-D printers worldwide is expected to increase dramatically, with shipments more than doubling each year between 2015 and 2018, according to research firm Gartner Inc. It runs the latest version of Windows and packs a Core i7 Intel processor, Nvidia graphics and has a 1TB hard disk so should be equally impressive at doing less Iron Man things such as running Photoshop, gaming and video editing.

And it will have to be good at the more traditional things because although the Sprout will be going on sale in November in the US for $1899.99, HP’s first 3D printers won’t be coming to market until 2016. For HP, “this could be their equivalent of the iPad,” said Rob Enderle with advisory services firm Enderle Group. “This is something that could put HP printing back on the map. In addition to acting as a second screen projected onto the surface where your keyboard would normally be, Sprout’s camera/projector mount—dubbed the “HP Illuminator”—also acts as a scanner. And inside, Sprout has internals that should make it a solid performing PC: a quad-core Intel i7 Processor, Nvidia’s GeForce GT 745A graphics card, 8GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

It could take it away from a legacy, dying division to one that is high growth again.” HP also introduced its $1,899 all-in-one desktop computer, called Sprout, that will hit stores Nov. 9. What sets the Sprout apart is its dual-screen interface, in which users can touch and interact with both the 23-inch display and a 20-point touch-pad. You can place documents or objects in front of the computer, scan them with the Sprout’s 14.6-megapixel and depth-sensing Intel RealSense cameras, and then use the multitouch mat to move those scanned objects around and resize them. Users can scan 3-D or 2-D items, or drag and drop images stored in the computer by putting fingertips on the display and flicking the image down to the touch-pad. For example, Microsoft has integrated scanning functions into the Sprout-optimized version of Office, such as the ability to scan and recognize printed text and insert it into a document.

This could entice more people to upgrade their PCs during the holiday shopping season, particularly for professionals in creative fields who are already spending lots of money on computers like Apple’s $2,499 iMac with 5K retina display. “This is not a mainstream, sell hundreds of millions of units type product,” said Tom Mainelli with research and advisory firm IDC. “It really puts HP’s innovative streak front and center. At the launch event, HP stressed the benefits the system will have for creative types, including artists, designers, photo editors, and distributed teams that need to collaborate on projects in real-time. In Sprout’s collaboration software, teams can see and communicate with each other via video chat on the main screen while working on a shared project on the mat.

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