Why HP Inc. and Deloitte Are Going Big on 3D Printing

August 24, 2017, 11:14 PM UTC

HP Inc. and Deloitte are making a big push in 3D printing.

The personal computer and printing giant and consulting firm said Thursday that they would jointly work with companies interested in using HP’s 3D printers for manufacturing.

HP (HPQ) only started selling its first 3D printers in December after first announcing them in May 2016. Although currently a small market, HP CEO Dion Weisler believes that 3D printing will become a big hit for his company and that it could win a sizable share of what he said is a $12 trillion market.

“We are looking to accelerate what I think is the inevitability of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Weisler told Fortune.

Weisler likened 3D printing’s potential in traditional manufacturing to how Netflix’s streaming movies have changed the entertainment industry and how Amazon has upended both retailing and corporate technology.

Still, HP’s foray into 3D printing is new and Weisler conceded that the 3D printing and manufacturing are “uncharted waters.” Although HP has ample experience selling traditional printers to businesses, it has no track record of helping industrial clients improve how they churn out products inside factories.

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For this, HP is hoping that its new partnership with Deloitte, which routinely works with manufacturing clients, will give it more credibility.

“This is not just a big announcement on paper,” said Deloitte CEO Punit Renjen. “We are making big investments in terms of capabilities, in terms of personnel, that will be focused on going to market with HP and the ability to deliver. “

Deloitte’s interest in 3D printing has grown along with improvements in the technology over the past few years that increasingly let companies quickly print custom designed products with materials like plastics, nylon, and other resins. Those materials have also become cheaper over time, making the economics of 3D printing more attractive, the executives said.

“What was impossible just a few years ago is now possible,” Renjen said.

Deloitte partnered with HP instead of older 3D printing companies like Stratasys and 3D Systems because of HP’s size and its worldwide brand recognition.

“We do alliances with entities that we believe are world leaders,” Renjen said. “That’s why we have an alliance with SAP, we have an alliance with Amazon (AMZN).”

Renjen also pointed to “the chemistry between our two firms,” which includes a history of past technology partnerships and the fact that the two CEOs already know each other. Weisler noted that Deloitte is currently helping HP more efficiently manage its own IT infrastructure through system upgrades.

Weisler declined to name any customers that have bought its 3D printing systems. The only detail he would reveal was that some of HP’s 3D printing customers are making repeat orders and that overall sales are growing, representing a “real measure of success.”

“We are only eight months into this journey,” Weisler said.

In addition to Deloitte, HP has also partnered with a number of companies for help with selling and improving its 3D printers including Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), BMW, and Siemens.

For example, Johnson & Johnson used HP’s 3D printers to make a prototype of a medical device used for spinal surgeries. HP was able to print the prototype for Johnson & Johnson, but needed the healthcare company to coat it with metal materials before it could be implanted in a human.

Johnson & Johnson’s 3D-printed medical device is still just a prototype, and is unlikely to be used in surgeries anytime soon. But the promise of quickly printing custom medical devices for individual patients, based on their bodies, is a big reason Johnson & Johnson is excited about 3D printing, Weisler explained.

Johnson & Johnson 3D printed spinal surgery tool.
Johnson & Johnson 3D printed spinal surgery tool. HP Inc.
HP Inc.


Now that they are 3D printing partners, HP and Deloitte promise that they won’t unnecessarily push 3D technology onto customers interested in updating their current manufacturing—despite the obvious financial benefit of doing so. It would risk hurting the reputations of both companies, the executives said.

“If you are looking to [manufacturer] a million gear cogs, we’re not the answer for you,” said Weisler. “But if you’re looking at a highly customized part and want to do limited production runs, we’re absolutely the right answer for you.”


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