Hewlett-Packard officials are giving the industry a look at the company’s initial foray into what they are calling the Blended Reality ecosystem, which includes a new computing platform due next month and a 3D printing effort that is still two years away.
In New York City Oct. 29, HP unveiled the Sprout immersive computing platform, which brings together a scanner, depth sensor, high-resolution camera and projector to create a single device that officials said will enable users to merge physical objects into a digital workspace. At the same time, HP—the world’s largest printer vendor—announced its expected entrance in the nascent 3D printing market with the unveiling of the Multi Jet Fusion system, which officials said will print objects 10 times faster than current offerings and at a lower cost.
The offerings will open up new markets for HP, according to Dion Weisler, executive vice president of HP’s Printing and Personal Systems unit.
“We are on the cusp of a transformative era in computing and printing,” Weisler said in a statement. “Our ability to deliver Blended Reality technologies will reduce the barriers between the digital and physical worlds.”
The product news comes three weeks after CEO Meg Whitman announced that over the next year, HP will break into two new companies—HP Inc., which will focus on PC and printing technologies, and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, which will sell business-focused products, such as servers, storage, networking and software. Weisler will become CEO of HP Inc., and the Sprout system and Multi Jet Fusion offering give the industry a glimpse of the direction the new HP Inc. will go in.
HP officials have been talking for months about plans to get into the 3D printing market, which already includes such vendors as 3D Systems, Stratasys, ExOne and Voxeljet. With the Multi Jet Fusion product, the company is finally giving some details.
The system is built on HP’s Thermal Inkjet technology, and reportedly will be able to run 10,000 nozzles at once, which will enable the Multi Jet Fusion to complete jobs 10 times faster than competing offerings, officials said. It also will offer greater accuracy, detail, strength and durability to products than other systems can offer. The HP system also will be designed to integrate some steps in the 3D printing process, which will help speed up the work and drive down the costs.
“As we examined the existing 3D print market, we saw a great deal of potential but also saw major gaps in the combination of speed, quality and cost,” Stephen Nigro, senior vice president of Inkjet and graphic solutions at HP, said in a statement.
HP officials also are looking to build an ecosystem around its 3D printing efforts, inviting customers via its Open Customer Engagement Program to expand the capabilities in the HP 3D Print platform. The Multi Jet Fusion system won’t be generally available, though some customers reportedly will get early test systems next year.
HP Makes Push Into 3D Printing and Intros Sprout PC System
Gartner analysts are forecasting a growing market for 3D printers. They said in an Oct. 27 report that 108,151 printers will be sold this year, with 271,350 systems selling in 2015. By 2018, that number will grow to more than 2.3 million, though that is a “small fraction of the total potential market for consumers, businesses and government organizations worldwide,” Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner, said in a statement.
The announcement of Sprout comes several days after reports about the system began surfacing. Sprout is designed to enable users to merge the physical and digital worlds to give them a more immersive experience than they can get with traditional PCs, according to HP officials. It includes two screens—an HD touch-screen and a 20-point capacitive touch mat—and the Sprout Illuminator projection system that can be used to scan real-world physical items in 3D. Users can then integrate those objects into the digital space.
HP Workspace is the software platform for Sprout that leverages the two screens, while True Remote Collaboration is an interface that enables people in different locations to work together on the same piece of digital content at the same time. The system is powered by Intel’s high-end fourth-generation Core i7 processors, runs Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 operating system and offers 1TB of storage.
HP also is offering the Sprout Marketplace, an online store for a growing number of apps designed to leverage the platform. Among the Windows-based apps currently in the marketplace are Martha Stewart CraftStudio, DreamWorks Animation Story Producer, Crayola’s Draw & Sing and GestureWorks Gameplay. HP’s own offerings include Create, Collaborate and Capture, for capturing physical items, manipulating them in a digital environment and sharing their creations.
HP also has a Sprout software development kit. The system can be preordered now, and will be available Nov. 9.