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HP's profitable printers to buy Whitman time
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3D OPPORTUNITY

Now, the Silicon Valley giant needs to make a big move into the fast-growing sector of industrial printing or three-dimensional printing, analysts said.

Three-dimensional printing - a process by which an object or prototype is built from a digital model - is commonly used in the automotive, aerospace and dental industries.

"Companies like HP have to look at where the next big opportunity is," said Terry Wohlers, president of research firm Wohlers Associates Inc. "3D printing is a good fit."

The market for 3D printing was at $1.7 billion last year and is expected to reach $2.1 billion this year and grow three-fold to $6.5 billion by 2019, according Wohlers Associates.

"With their strong marketing and distribution muscle, HP is in a very good position to dominate the market, and they could buy up most of the companies in this business if they wanted to because it's a relatively small but fast-growing and vibrant area," Wohlers said.

HP's thinking on this point is unclear. In August, the company ended its relationship with 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys, which has been making HP's exclusive line of 3D printers since 2010. HP mostly marketed the 3D printers in Europe.

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