The revolutionary technology that’s been turning heads is here to stay…and these are the best stocks to play the rising tide…
The concept of it has triggered a media storm the past couple of years.
Magazines and newspapers eat it up, and you can find an endless supply of YouTube clips that proudly show the technology in action.
From sci-fi geeks to large-scale manufacturers, there’s no shortage of “oohs” and “aahs” when it comes to imagining the potential for this technical marvel.
And even though there are still many skeptics out there who believe that it’s nothing more than “a gimmick” (here’s looking at you, Foxconn CEO Terry Gou), 3D printing is proving to be every bit the game-changer that its early adopters are hoping it would be.
Since its earliest implementation back in 1986 by Chuck Hill of 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD), the goal was to fuse computers with science to efficiently create three-dimensional objects.
Prototyping was one of the earliest (and still one of the primary) needs fulfilled by 3D printing, as it saved companies significant time and money by not having to physically build a working model by hand.
Though depending on the industry that made use of this groundbreaking invention, machines at the time cost anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million.
Needless to say, the technology never appealed to the masses…until now.
3D printers for industrial use can now be purchased for well under $15,000, while at-home kits can be had for less than $500.
Over the past 2 decades, we’ve seen a variety of approaches to the 3D printing process. But the general gist is that specific software is used to digitally slice up a computer/virtual rendering of the intended object that’s going to be built.
These slices are then translated one at a time by a 3D printer, which recreates them by depositing layers of liquid materials that harden into shape. The process is repeated until the object is created.
Now everything from prosthetics to fully operable rocketships are being built with 3D printers – making it a serious technology with huge economic implications.
Imagine peeping through the window of a manufacturing warehouse…but no longer seeing the conventional assembly lines of 1,000 human workers hunched over conveyor belts full of gadgets and gizmos.
Instead, less than 100 3D printers would replace those 1,000 pairs of hands – quietly and accurately producing products at a fraction of the time.
Well, that’s the goal anyway and some companies like RedEye Prototyping in Minnesota are doing just that.
Whether this could have a major impact on people’s jobs or not remains to be seen. But as the technology continues to improve and lower in price, businesses of all kinds will eventually acquire these machines like they would any inkjet printer.
According to consultancy Wohlers Associates, the 3D printing industry was worth $1.7 billion in 2011 and jumped 29% to $2.2 billion in 2012.
By 2020, Credit Suisse believes it could be worth $12 billion.
However, where the sector could suddenly soar exponentially is if manufacturers adopt the technology for their needs.
If the technology were capable of capturing just 10% of global manufacturing market, it would easily make it a trillion dollar industry.
So who are the players that are looking to make all this possible?
Top 3D Printing Stocks to Buy Today:
3D Systems continues to be a leader in this field. Although rumors of a potential buyout from IBM is helping to push the stock to record highs, the Company has grown its revenues by 76% year-over-year by offering an array of 3D printing solutions to attract customers at multiple price points.
Not to be outdone, DDD has made a number of acquisitions of its own – four in the last quarter alone, albeit much smaller firms.
And earlier this month, they unveiled the $399 Sense 3D portable scanner that’s able to capture physical objects and digitally prepare them for printing.
For those interested in making miniature versions of themselves and the world around them, this could be the big Tickle-Me-Elmo of Christmas gifts for techies.
DDD expects to see further growth in 3D printer sales, and have thus revised its revenue guidance for the year from $485 million – $510 million to $500 million – $530 million.
The big news out of Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS) this year of course, was its merger with Objet during the summer followed by the acquisition of MakerBot.
These transactions transformed Stratasys into the second largest 3D printing company behind 3D Systems and gave them significant reach across various segments and markets.
Whereas DDD is increasingly focused on the consumer end of products, SSYS is now diversified into consumer as well as industrial and medical devices.
Should there be a demand drop in any one segment, SSYS can offset losses with its exposure to the others.
As demand for 3D printing technology continues to grow in leaps and bounds, costs are falling just as rapidly.
DDD and SSYS are well positioned to ride the swelling wave of interest from both the consumer and enterprise level.
Maybe by the end of the next decade, after 3D printing evolves and becomes even more advanced and affordable than it is today, we can look back at all the naysayers who turned their nose up on this “gimmick”, and laugh all the way to the bank.
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