HP Makes More Inroads into 3D Printing with HP Sprout

When HP split itself into two companies, one of the focuses of the consumer-facing arm was going to be 3D printing technology.

The firm was tight-lipped about what it had in mind, and there was some doubt as to whether anything would come of it. After all, HP has been experimenting with 3D printing technology and materials for a long time, and very little of that experimentation has trickled down for use in the real world.

That’s changing, though. HP’s new Sprout offers an interesting all-in-one solution for collaboration and 3D scanning. While it’s not a printer, it’s an essential component of any 3D printing setup.

HP Sprout

At first glance, the Sprout looks a lot like an all-in-one computer. It’s got the same large monitor set on a base. However, appearances are deceptive.

Sprout is no mere all-in-one. It’s actually a powerful combination of four different devices. Sprout manages to incorporate 3D scanning, a depth sensor, a high-resolution camera and a projector.

With Sprout, users are able to take an existing physical item and scan it into a digital workspace. Once within the workspace, users can transform and modify the model using their hands.

The projector/scanner is mounted at the top of the screen, and projects an image of the scanned item onto a special pad on the work surface. Users can manipulate the image with their hands, just as they would a physical object. It’s not quite a hologram, and it’s still a few miles away from Tony Stark’s Jarvis in Iron Man, but it’s a definite step toward that future.

Another advantage here is the focus on collaboration and communication. Sprout supports multiple users working on the same project at the same time, from different geographic location.

Teachers can work with one another across the country, or even around the world to design and create. Students in different countries can collaborate and innovate. It’s a truly impressive solution with immense possibilities.

System Components

Sprout manages to combine a very wide range of components into a single package. These include a dual-screen workspace (called the dual-screen experience by HP).

Essentially, this is the all-in-one vertical HD touchscreen and the 20-point capacitive touch mat on which users manipulate objects (or type, thanks to the projector). The Illuminator is HP’s projection system that also doubles as a 3D scanner.

Workspace is the software package that ships with Sprout and offers a ton of different built-in capabilities to enable 3D scanning, model manipulation and collaboration. Speaking of collaboration, Workspace features a unique interface just for that purpose.

Under the hood, you’ll find that the Sprout offers some pretty decent hardware. It runs Windows 8.1 (love it or hate it), and there’s a 1TB hard drive for storing those 3D files. You’ll also find an Intel i7 processor powering things.

You can expect to shell out about $1900 for the Sprout when it debuts in late October/early November 2014.

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