Hewlett-Packard chief executive Meg Whitman gave the fledgling market of 3D printing a big endorsement today on the company’s quarterly financial analyst conference call.

meg whitman, the new ceo of HP“We intend to play in the 3D printing market because it is [adjacent]” to HP’s own multibillion-dollar printing business, Whitman said in response to a question from an analyst.

“What we are focusing on is what is value proposition by market segment,” Whitman said. “We have some very interesting things coming. Stay tuned” for something in 2014.

But she characterized the effort as an “acorn.” She said that HP plants acorns, and some of them grow into giant oak trees. She said a lot of technology work still has to be done.

“It’s obviously different from paper printing but some of the technology is the same,” she said.

Rival startups such as Shapeways and MakerBot are already in the market. It’s time for them to look out, since an elephant is about to get into the bathtub.