The Hewlett-Packard era of rapid prototyping
officially begins this week.
Additive fabrication system manufacturer Stratasys Inc.
announced it has delivered its first shipments of HP-branded 3-D printers. Under
announced earlier this year, Stratasys will manufacture 3-D printing systems
that are co-developed with HP, which will initially market the systems in
Europe. The agreement is expected to eventually span the globe, creating a huge
new market for rapid prototyping.
The products are called Designjet 3-D printers. †
"The agreement to develop and manufacture a product to
HP's specification is a milestone for us," says Stratasys CEO Scott Crump.
"Today, we're taking a big step in realizing the agreement's potential by
demonstrating we can deliver."†
Stratasys, which is based in Eden Prairie, MN, is the
largest producer of 3-D printers in the world, with a market share of more than
"There are millions of 3-D designers using 2-D printers
who are ready to bring their designs to life in 3D," says Santiago Morera, HP's
vice president and general manager of its Large Format Printing Business.
"Stratasys FDM technology is the ideal platform for HP to enter the 3-D MCAD
printing market and begin to capitalize on this untapped opportunity."
Product designers, engineers and architects who design
with CAD use 3-D printers as peripheral devices to "print" or produce
a tangible 3-D model from plastic or other material to verify the form, fit and
function of designs prior to committing them to production or construction.
Stratasys, which manufactures 3-D printers under the
Dimension brand, uses ABS plastic with a technology called Fused Deposition
Modeling (FDM). The patented process creates parts by extruding semi-molten
plastic in thin layers to build the part, layer by layer. The process of
producing a part layer by layer is known generically as "additive fabrication"
or "additive manufacturing."
The term "3-D printer" was coined by Stratasys when it
introduced its first compact system co-developed with IBM in the mid-1990s.
Recent advances in 3D printers have dramatically reduced
their cost and improved ease-of-use and reliability. Stratasys introduced its
Dimension 3-D printer line in 2002, with the first printer priced under
$30,000. Early last year, Dimension broke the $15,000 barrier with its
which fits on a desktop. The HP versions are cousins of the uPrint line.
Stratasys made the
distribution agreement with HP's Graphic Solutions Business, which is part of
the company's $24 billion Imaging and Printing Group.