Hewlett-Packard (HP) has announced it is entering the 3D printing market, with the first printer to arrive in 2016.
It is said this could help to drive change in the 3D printing arena, speeding up development of the technology and increasing competition so faster, cheaper and more efficient models are widely available.
HP has not announced any specific product plans, but did say its technology will make headway in the field and spur on competition.
The printers will be targeted at enterprises, similar to how the company’s large format printer are used to make billboards and posters, but to make a range of functional objects and industrial components, replacing conventional machines to make parts and equipment.
Many current 3D printers use outdated technology, but HP's new MultiJet technology draws on conventional 3D printing technology, but uses new techniques and materials.
Analysts who have previewed HP’s 3D printing technology have said it will force competitors to offer better products and services.
"I've seen laboratory prototypes. It will be disruptive, because it has potential for high-quality parts production, and very fast," says Pete Basiliere, research director in Gartner's technology and service provider division.
Tony Wohlers, president and principal consultant at Wohlers Associates has said this could also legitimise and encourage growth in the 3D printing industry, upping quality of products at increasingly affordable prices.
"It is the first time for a very big corporation to endorse the 3D printing area. It speaks to the future of the industry," he says.
According to Wohlers, the 3D printing industry revenue totalled US$3.07 billion in 2013 and will quadruple by 2018.
"The fact that traditional companies like HP see 3D printing as a growing opportunity is very exciting to us," says Jenny Lawton, acting CEO of MakerBot, the desktop 3D printing company.