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Dell moves into 3-D printing market with MakerBot

In the wake of a new partnership between Dell and MakerBot, Dell discusses the move and where it sees the 3-D printing market headed.

Three-dimensional printing has been growing in leaps and bounds in recent years, and major technology manufacturers such as Dell are taking notice. The Round Rock, Texas-based IT vendor recently announced it will begin offering MakerBot 3-D printers and scanners as a complement to its Dell Precision workstations, which are compatible with computer-aided design, or CAD. Site Editor Brenda Cole spoke with Pat Kannar, director of product marketing for Dell Precision, and Orlando Lacayo, global product manager for Dell Software & Peripherals, to discuss the Dell-MakerBot partnership and the future of the 3-D printing market.

How will Dell and MakerBot be working together?

Orlando Lacayo: We're going to be reselling MakerBot's products, targeting small and medium businesses, and [MakerBot] will become part of the ecosystems of our workstations.

Pat Kannar: Our emphasis is mostly to work with the ISVs [independent software vendors] themselves and make sure that they are optimized for our workstations. On the opposite side, MakerBot has also been talking with many of these ISVs to make sure their solutions also integrate in with that [MakerBot] software.

What prompted Dell to get involved with the 3-D printing market and MakerBot specifically?

Lacayo: We have been tracking the 3-D printing marketplace for quite some time now, and we wanted to do something to provide customers an end-to-end solution that included 3-D printing, targeting again the small and medium businesses and architects. MakerBot is one of the leaders in this marketplace.

How can manufacturers leverage this 3-D modeling and 3-D printing technology?

Kannar: What manufacturers want is speed to market, and they want to manage risk. Being able to not only visualize a design in 3-D using the applications and hardware, but allowing them to actually touch, feel and get a better sense of what the final product is going to look like faster is a great advantage to them.

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Lacayo: It opens up a whole range of possibilities for our customers. Whenever you have a new technology, there's always a lot of hype around it, but the reality is that this technology can open up new ways of doing business and manufacturing products. We're just at the tip of the iceberg here.

One of the other things that I think is really interesting is that when you have a new technology, it isn't so much the inventors of that technology that decide where it goes, but it's the users. The users are the ones that are really going to take the capabilities of this technology in new directions.

Where do you think the 3-D printing market will be in five years?

Lacayo: There's no question that it's going to continue to grow. If you look at some of the data out there, the market is going at 30% annual growth and is expected to triple from where it was in 2012 by 2017. In terms of number of units sold, the growth is really dramatic. This is one of the great new technologies, and the only question is which way it's going to go in term of usage. Obviously manufacturing is a big user, but there may be other industries that adopt this technology -- it's all still to be seen.

Kannar: [Three-dimensional printing] is a cool technology because it unleashed potential. There are a lot of people out there that have amazing ideas, and right now, it's in some cases very difficult for them to get those ideas into a form that helps them communicate its value.

With a technology like this that is relatively affordable, startups can be using it, along with individual engineers -- those enthusiasts who are professional that don't necessarily have the backing of a global 500 company and all those resources. Now they can access this technology to make their ideas real. Every time there's a technological sea change like that, whole new industries are created and ideas become not just ideas anymore.

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