HP: Could it buy Stratasys, accelerate 3D printing drive?

If HP acquired a 3D printing rival like Stratasys it could speed up its business by a year or two. An HP exec floated the partner or buy concept last week.

Hewlett-Packard Inc. could acquire Stratasys and speed up its 3D printing roadmap by a year or two, according to an analyst.

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The idea of HP, which is splitting into two companies, buying a 3D printing rival isn't new. But the chatter got a boost Tuesday from Jefferies analyst Jason North.

In a research note, North wrote:

HP Inc. said it's open to make acquisitions and partnerships in 3D printing and that they'll eventually need about 4 different 3D printing technologies. 3D printers are mostly sold via resellers that have exclusive relationships with a specific 3D printing OEM. Since HP will target the middle-to-high-end of the market, we don't think that the general IT distribution channel or the high-end specialty printer channel where HP is well positioned will be of much use unless a substantial of amount of end-customer and reseller education occurs. An acquisition would likely expedite HP's ramp by 1-2 years.

And given the strength of Stratasys' reseller network, North concluded that company was the best fit. Stratasys also has most technology. 3D Systems would also be a contender on the technology front, but has a weaker reseller network. The 3D printing industry has had its struggles in 2015 following HP's news that it will enter the market. Consider:

Following HP's split into a PC and printing business and an enterprise company, the company could go chase 3D printing rivals.

HP's split: HP Inc.'s future growth rides on 3D printing inroads | HP Enterprise: Can it overcome layoffs, split growing pains, and FUD?

At HP's analyst meeting last week, Stephen Nigro, senior vice president of inkjet and Web solutions, said the company would be open to an acquisition. He noted there are at least nine different 3D printing technologies and some company will have to consolidate those to scale the industry.

Nigro said:

It's a very dynamic industry right now. If you think about how we built our 2D printing business, it was built on ultimately three to four technologies. Some of that we've built organically and some of that we bought and some of that we partnered. As you think about this business going forward, we're going drive it off organic innovation because we actually have some assets that will give us a fundamental advantage in the market. But as we understand the market, without a doubt we'll look at partnering. And if there is a kind of the right opportunity out there, we could even acquire. If you think about our 2D model, how we've built it over the years, that's probably not a bad roadmap of how we will build our 3D business.

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