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Under the terms of the deal, Stratasys will manufacture an HP branded 3D printer. Initially, HP will sell the product in five European countries including the UK, before rolling out the products worldwide.

The HP-branded machines are expected to be similar to Stratasys' Dimension uPrint 'personal' 3D printers.

The 3D machines, which will go on sale in the middle of this year, will be handled by HP's Graphic Services business unit, the division that includes its Scitex and Designjet wide-format
printers and Indigo digital presses.

"This is a defining moment for Stratasys and the 3D printing industry," said Stratasys chief executive Scott Crump. "HP believes 3D printing is an attractive market to bring 2D graphics to life."

"There are millions of 3D designers using 2D printers who are ready to bring their designs to life in 3D," added HP large format printing business general manager Santiago Morera. "Stratasys FDM technology is the ideal platform for HP to enter the 3D mechanical CAD printing market and capitalise on this untapped opportunity."

Stratasys estimates that the worldwide market for 3D printers is 500,000 units, and that with the HP deal it could sell 50,000 units per year.

HP approached Stratasys, which is the market leader in
additive fabrication systems with a 43% market share recorded in 2008, last year as part of its exploration of the 3D print market.

Stratasys uses a technology called fused deposition modelling (FDM), which builds the 3D model out of thermoplastic ABS. In addition to the Dimension range of 3D printers, the firm also offers the Red-Eye service for on-demand production.