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HP Will Enter 3D Printing Space, but Personal Machines Are Not on the Agenda...Yet


CEO Meg Whitman said that the company is poised to enter the enterprise 3D printing space later this year.

In a regular shareholders' call yesterday, HP (NYSE:HPQ) CEO Meg Whitman said that in June, the company will be making a "big technology announcement" related to 3D printing technology. Additionally, she explained that HP has solved some crucial problems with 3D printing.

But for those of you envisioning a 3D printer in your home office, not so fast. As Whitman said to shareholders, "the bigger market is going to be in the enterprise space."

This isn't the first time HP has talked about introducing a 3D printer: Back in February, CTO Martin Fink wrote on the company's blog, "HP is currently exploring the many possibilities of 3D printing and the company will play an important role in its development."

On top of Whitman's statement, the major 3D printing companies are suffering a bit of a sell-off today: After ExOne (NASDAQ:XONE) reported worse-than-expected results for Q4 2013 yesterday, its shares are down 10.43% in today's trading. 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) and Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) are also trading lower. Meanwhile, HP shares are up 0.47% (2:30 p.m. EDT).

Despite this market reaction, the 3D printing industry is far from in trouble. As Brean Capital analyst Ananda Baruah said in a note to investors this morning, today's weakness should be taken as nothing more than a buying opportunity, especially for 3D Systems and Stratasys.

HP has taken its time in getting to the 3D market, but with demand growing, the technology will likely contribute to the company's success in 2014. In February, Citi analyst Jim Suva wrote a research report citing 11 reasons why HP could see its stock price rise substantially in 2014, chief among them being growing earnings per share, improved cash flow, and yes, the company's potential entrance in the 3D printing market. And, according to market research firm IDC, 3D printing has now moved "well beyond adopters and hobbyists." Moreover, the firm expects the number of 3D printers sold in 2014 to increase 67% over 2013 sales.

This, however, does not mean that every home will have a personal 3D printer. Because the technology involved is still very expensive, HP believes that most consumers, at first, will engage with 3D printers outside of the home. As Fink said in February, "Instead of having a machine at home, we think consumers will first use print service providers -- companies similar to FedEx (NYSE:FDX) Office -- where people will send their 3D print jobs for high-quality fulfillment, and we'd be the ones to provide the equipment."

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
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