- 3D printing permits printing things - creating 3D physical objects from software specifications of shapes and materials
- Experts predict an explosive growth in the 3D printing sector similar to the growth of the Internet in the 1990s.
- 3D printing will disrupt entire industries and empower consumers to reproduce a growing range of goods “downloaded from the Internet”
- Large public companies are showing interest in acquiring the hottest startups with promising 3D printing technology.
3D printing permits printing things - creating 3D physical objects from software specifications of shapes and materials. According to the prestigious technology consulting firm Gartner, the 3D printing market will grow to $13.4B by 2018, Forbes reported in December 2014. A 2014 Gartner webinar titled “Why You Must Invest in 3D Printing Now” makes a strong case in for 3D printing.
The webinar, targeted at corporations, advises about deploying 3D printing technology in various industrial areas, but 3D printing, which is considered as one of the hottest areas in technology, is obviously interesting for individual investors as well. A follow-up Gartner webinar released in April 2015 notes that the 3D printer market is poised for rapid expansion, and major technology providers will enter the market this year and next.
3D printing is an “additive manufacturing” technology in which successive layers of material are added to create the desired object, which can be of almost any shape or geometry. A 3D printer is a type of industrial robot, often competitively priced and affordable to small companies and individuals.
Professional 3D printers are able to produce a very wide range of material objects and industrial parts from software specs, at comparatively low manufacturing costs – and no shipping costs - are expected to have an important industrial impact. Personal 3D printing has been compared to the beginnings of the personal computing industry in the 1980s, and 3D printing enthusiasts envision an explosive growth of the sector similar to the growth of the Internet in the 1990s.
The open source projects Fab@Home and RepRap develop entry-level 3D printers for personal use. RepRap, which also claims the ability to print its own parts (you can 3D print a RepRap with another RepRap), aims to bring 3D printing to everyone. The Thingiverse website allows users to post 3D files for anyone to print.
Experts imagine scenarios where 3D printing disrupts entire industries while, at the same time, consumers everywhere are empowered with the ability to reproduce a growing range of goods “downloaded from the Internet” with sophisticated but inexpensive 3D printers. Visionary scientists predict the possibility to print electronic components and entire devices, food, drugs, and even organic tissue and entire organs for transplants. Ultimately, the evolution of 3D printing technology might open the way to practical nanotechnology – atomically precise manufacturing, one molecule at a time.
Given that prestigious experts are confident that the 3D printing age is coming soon, investors should get ready and think of adding 3D printing stocks to their tech portfolios.
The (still small) list of public companies especially focused on 3D printing includes 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD), Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS), ExOne (NASDAQ:XONE), and Voxeljet (NYSE:VJET). These stocks haven’t done too well recently, but there are recent indications that better days lie ahead.
Note: You might also be interested in 3D Systems Stock Analysis video.
Organovo (NYSEMKT:ONVO) designs and produces multi-cellular, dynamic and functional human tissues for use in drug discovery and medical research. The company has a proprietary 3D bioprinting technology that enables the creation of tissues that mimic key aspects of native tissues. The ultimate science fiction –sounding goal of Organovo is to 3D print functioning human organs for transplantation, and the company is already 3D printing human liver tissue samples and selling them under their exVive3D brand.
It’s worth bearing in mind that large public companies are rarely those with the hottest technologies in a fast-moving tech area like 3D printing. Small research companies are at the leading edge of 3D printing, but none seems close to an IPO. However, public companies, not only those mentioned but also technology giants not especially focused on 3D printing such as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), and Autodesk (NASDAQ:ADSK), might decide to acquire the hottest 3D printing startups.
New Matter produces the low-cost 3D printer MOD-t, starting at $399. After raising almost $700,000 with a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, in February the company raised $6.5 million in Series A funding. 3D Print magazine speculates New Matter might be a promising acquisition target for Amazon or Apple.
Voxel8 launched a 3D printer for devices with embedded electronics at CES 2015. The 3D printer, which received rave reviews, permits printing functional devices with embedded electronic circuitry, such as antennas and entire drones. In July, Voxel8 raised $12 million in Series A funding with the participation of In-Q-Tel (the venture capital arm of the CIA) and Autodesk. Voxel8 has an ongoing collaboration with Autodesk, which would be in a good position to acquire Voxel8. According to 3D Print magazine, Hewlett-Packard might also be interested in Voxel8.
Smart tech investors should consider currently available 3D printing stocks, and also watch out for news (including solid rumors) of acquisitions in this space.