In the latest sign of 3D printing's growing maturity, HP has announced its tech bods are looking at the technology with a view to entering the market in 2014.
Traditional 2D printer vendors have been slow to make moves in a market analysts have tipped for explosive growth over the coming years.
HP itself briefly had a presence in 3D printing via a partnership with one of the segment's leaders – Stratasys – but the duo opted to go their separate ways at the end of 2012.
It is not clear if HP was using the Stratasys tie-up as a test bed for full entry or if it was just that sales didn't meet expectations, but the 2D printer market silverback has confirmed its team is now working on its own products.
"We are excited about 3D printing," HP chief executive Meg Whitman said at the Canalys Channels Forum in Bangkok.
"We want to lead this business. HP labs is looking into it."
The cost of 3D printing technology has plummeted in recent years, with growth in sales of machines costing under $5,000 (£3,000) averaging 346 per cent between 2008 and 2011, according to research house Wohler Associates.
Whitman indicated HP's mission is to reduce the cost of the once prohibitively expensive technology still further.
"To print a bottle can take eight to 10 hours. That's all very interesting, but it is like watching ice melt," she said, adding that HP is asking "how do we commercialise to print faster, at lower price points?"
The 3D printing market is currently led by niche outfits such as 3D Systems and Stratasys – which acquired desktop 3D printer outfit MakerBot over the summer.
Whitman's announcement will certainly make other traditional printer vendors such as Epson, Brother and Xerox sit up and take note, if they are not already beavering away on their own 3D printing strategies.
The UK government recently called for 3D printing to be taught to older schoolchildren, prompting mainstream UK channel players such as Midwich to enter the market for the first time.
According to Wohler, the market will grow from $2.2bn last year to $6bn in 2017 and $10.8bn by 2021.
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