SAN DIEGO — New products, new industries, new leadership and, of course, new companies. Yeah, these last two years have been unlike any in the nearly-eight-decade history of the tech leader formerly known as Hewlett-Packard.

Tim Weber was one of the hundreds of thousands of employees affected when the old company split back in November 2015 into Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which focuses more on services, software and financial, and HP Inc., which develops computers, printers and other related supplies. For years, Weber was responsible for a lot of that 2-D printer technology, especially from the ink jet standpoint, that so many of us use at home and at the office. “We built the print heads,” he said, “from $100 printers to $10 million printers.” Since late 2015, though, he has been the global head of HP’s 3-D materials and advanced applications.

“It was a bit of a new area,” Weber said, “but the way HP often works is we sort of sponsor new things in the core business. That’s what we were doing. A lot of things that go into 3-D are leveraged from 2-D. It was a very logical transformation. The difference is the business aspect of it. In 2-D land, the businesses have been set for HP for years. In 3-D land, we have the opportunity to kind of create some new business models in an open materials platform.

“That was a journey of discovery for me, and probably for others.”

HP has been on some kind of journey of discovery ever since, investing more and more resources into its burgeoning 3-D printing business. Its first announcements about the tech came just three years ago. It introduced the hardware last year, partnered with some big-name manufacturers (BMW, Johnson & Johnson, Nike and, as outlined in an IndustryWeek feature last year, Jabil Circuits were all foundational partners) and went about disrupting a disruptive industry. Earlier this month, company officials announced a move into Asia, and just last week, Investor’s Business Daily reported that HP’s scaling of its 3-D printing business could threaten market leaders 3D Systems and Stratasys. Heady times.

“We’ve reached the point where we are starting to scale the business,” Weber said. “We expect to sell a lot more units and we expect to start to see them going more from people just testing them out and prototyping to short-run manufacturing. Maybe customers who have one are looking to buy more and scale up. From a materials standpoint, we expect to start to introduce more and more materials on a regular basis. We’re letting the materials companies run with that.

“I think we’re most interested in working with folks who are thinking about 3-D from a transformational manufacturing standpoint. We chose all of (our foundational partners) because they’re not thinking about prototyping. They’re trying to figure out how to move into it from a manufacturing standpoint, and materials companies are the same.”

During a recent trip out west, I spent an afternoon talking with Weber and touring HP’s San Diego offices, where engineers are running countless tests on the still-new Jet Fusion printers and other 3-D materials. What follows is a portion of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Tim Weber, global head of HP’s 3-D materials and advanced applications. / Sarah Goehrke,

IndustryWeek: HP has generated so much buzz with its 3-D printing unit and with its return to industry and manufacturing, but it seems like the big challenge is just continuing to get the word out about all that. There are still misconceptions about what HP is.

Tim Weber: We started selling our first printers in the fall, … so we’ve now had two full quarters. Things are going fairly well and we’re sort of off to the races. I’ve had folks come up to me and ask, ‘When are you going to ship?’ We’ve been shipping for six months. Not betas, actually selling units to real customers.

The fundamental message at this (RAPID + TCT additive manufacturing event in May) was that we’ve now been in the market for six months, we purposely kept the ramp shallow, and we sort of learned the hard way in our graphics business that it’s better to learn on a smaller number of customers and units, and kind of get debugged before you scale. We’re now ready to scale. We have six months under our belts, we’ve made a lot of second-order improvements.

IW: What has the difference been over these last six or so months?

TW: We produce all our print heads, and do the development to produce them here and in Corvallis (Oregon). We have all the manpower and the brains, we’re able to quickly bring polymer chemists and folks that have been working in there to the 3-D land. We have all this materials expertise. We know how to jet fluids, and we can jet a shocking array of things. The new thing for us is the fusing system. Turns out, to create a part in the middle of your powder bed and have that part be the same as every other part and control that, that’s been a real challenge for us. At the same time, we believe it’s becoming a control point, and we’ve generated hundreds of patent disclosures — they’re not patents yet, but they’re basically in the system.

IW: The company has launched that focused effort to return to manufacturing, too.

TW: We see the opportunity to get into manufacturing as the real breakthrough. We think it can accelerate even beyond what current forecasts show, as companies start to jump across that chasm.