HP stands out as the market leader in printing. Not only with traditional printing business, but with printing on textiles, industrial-scale printing, and manufacturing integrated 3D printing. With 3D printing, they aggressively added capabilities like colors and metals to their 3D printing portfolio. But we are still some time out from when we’ll have 3D printers in our offices and homes. The foundation that HP is building with their HP+ effort should create a foundation for their future broad market 3D printing efforts still years in the future.
Let’s talk about how HP+ is a game-changer that goes beyond printing on paper, and how they're creating an exciting foundation for when 3D printing becomes as common as printing on paper today.
COVID was good for printing
While the pandemic has undoubtedly done a ton of damage, it has been beneficial to two industries that HP is in—PCs and printers. PCs are manufacturing constrained as I write this, virtually every PC maker is showing a significant uptick in sales, and people adjusted to working from home. But they also started printing a ton more, because printing demand, which had been on a slow decline, jumped 6% as people shifted from working at the office to working from home.
But with that shift to printing from home, many of the management programs designed to support operations in managing on-premise printers weren’t effective. This pivot drove HP to create a new offering. They are calling HP+, which effectively turns printing into a service.
And this service could, and likely will, eventually embrace their likely coming line of home 3D printers and other markets like robotics (a market that HP competitor Lenovo just entered).
HP+ approaches Printing as a Service (we can’t use PaaS because that acronym means something else—Platform as a Service). You buy the printer, and instead of getting an ink supply that runs out in days, you get one that lasts for six months, and a monthly charge automatically ships your new ink or toner before you need it. Additional supplies arrive, and the service handles most of what you’d need an administrator for, like fixing network connections. This program also extends the warranty by a year, so you get additional protection for your printer.
To net the program out for a nominal monthly charge, you get a printer service that assures your printer is always there when you need it to be with critical supplies, updates and patches, and repairs handled by the service. And service is green, pointing you to HP paper at a discount, which is Forest First (from renewable resources, not old-growth forests) and includes recycling for the ink and toner cartridges.
As you’d expect, this also works with an HP Smart App to help employees who work from home to manage this service.
As 3D printing moves into homes and small businesses, you can imagine a similar service will launch with these future printers. This service will also have recycling capabilities, automatic delivery of the 3D print raw material, and included maintenance and support, much like HP+ provides for paper printers. Sustainability is essential to HP, and as with HP+ for paper printers, expect this program to include unique, environmentally safe materials and recycling as part of the package. Much like you never would want to run out of toner, ink, or paper, the program will help assure you don’t run out of 3D printing material either. Similar to existing paper printers, patches and software updates will likely be included, allowing for HP to move on this future market with a far more complete offering than other 3D printer companies can handle.
HP effectively leads the printer market, and they have pivoted hard as a result of the pandemic. To address this new market opportunity, they have created a service like printing to better address those working from home. This service could—and I expect they will—expand to embrace a future line of home and small business 3D printers when they become available. Also, given 3D printers are effectively focused robots, this service could expand to include that product set if and when HP decides to enter that segment.
HP+ may be a game-changer for print, but it is forward-looking and could be a game changer for products HP hasn’t even begun to consider but will eventually bring to market.