Catching up with Konica Minolta and its 3D-Printing Initiative

3d-printing bannerLast year, Konica Minolta Business Solutions (KMBS) U.S.A. made big news with an announcement that it would be the first to sell 3D printers – sourced from 3D-printer maker 3D Systems – through the U.S. office-equipment channel.

Under the agreement, Konica Minolta began selling 3D Systems’ 3D printing product portfolio through its U.S. network of dealers and authorized resellers, as well as through its direct-sales channel, making Konica Minolta the first original equipment manufacturer to sell, support, and service 3D-printing products through the traditional printer and office equipment channel in the United States. For its part, 3D Systems, one of the early developers in the 3D-printer market, markets a full range of 3D printers, from personal, to professional, to production, and its 3D printers are used for producing everything from prototypes and models, to parts for the aerospace and military-defense industries.

Konica Minolta initially began offering two of 3D Systems’ 3D printers, the professional ProJet 3500 and ProJet 660. Since then, it’s has added six 3D Systems’ Color Jet Series 3D printers that can create color objects and which are generally targeted at design and prototyping, as well as four MultiJet 3D printers generally for design, prototyping, and higher-volume output. Also available is the Cube 3D printer, which is targeted for education and classroom-use.

Wirth Consulting recently spoke with Dino Pagliarello, director of product marketing at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., to get a look at how the company’s 3D-printer initiative is faring and were Konica Minolta might be headed in the future.

Pagliarello noted that while 3D printing is still in its infancy and a lot of change is occurring, but that in fact it’s a very viable business.

Pagliarello noted that while some dealers are waiting for the 3D-printing technology to improve – particularly with faster 3D-printing speeds – that may not be an appropriate strategy, as it may be better for vendors and dealers to establish position in the 3D-printing market now rather than later, as “Even though it’s not a mainstream business now, KM wants to be there when it is.”

On the other hand, this is a completely new venture. While 3D printing may seem an easy adjacent step to 2D-printing on paper, Pagliarello notes, “This is completely different when we went into color (printing and copying). With color, it was the same customer – the office (customer) – now we’re talking to new customers – an architect, engineer, manufacturer.”

Why Konica Minolta for Selling 3D Printers?

When Konica Minolta Business Solutions first looked at 3D printing, it concluded it was similar in many ways to its traditional printing-and-copying on paper business. “It’s definitely an annuity business,” says Pagliarello. “And it’s similar to our own business, as it involves logistics, phone support, tech support, and service. Why would a dealer want to get involved with Konica Minolta? Others aren’t as evolved as Konica Minolta is with logistics, service, support, and moving things around. Konica Minolta dealers want to work with us, they feel comfortable with us. Going into something new like 3D printing can be scary.”

A “Total Solution” for Today

While for some time in the office-imaging industry we’ve heard a lot about being able to offer the customer a “total solution” – one that encompasses everything from the desktop printer, desktop MFP, high-volume MFP, and high-volume production printer – Konica Minolta is currently the only office-imaging vendor that really today is offering it all – from 2D desktop to 2D production printing, to 3D printing. “At the end of the day, it does allow a dealer to offer a total solution,” says Pagliarello. As for the future of Konica Minolta and 3D printing, he notes, “Obviously we have many different technologies that could lead to 3D printing,” noting that while the company can’t disclose anything new now, it may be able to do so in the future, so stay tuned.

3d printed objects

At its “Print Production Technology Showcase and Our Blueprint for the Future” conference held last year in New York City for press and analysts, KMBS U.S.A. announced its new partnership with 3D-printer maker 3D Systems. This cabinet showcased objects produced by a 3D Systems’ 3D printer.

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