Leslie Langnau – Managing Editor
On Twitter @DW_3Dprinting
3D printing stocks have been tanking for several months. 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental stepped down. Everyone is waiting for HP to introduce its super-fast new 3D printer next year—and blow established 3D printing vendors out of the water. According to stock analysts, this is practically a fait accompli because HP has more money than the other players, and obviously money trumps all other capabilities. If HP doesn’t introduce a new 3D printer, it can just buy Stratasys or 3D Systems, say the stock analysts, and achieve market dominance that way.
Then we have the news that traditional printer companies Canon and Ricoh have decided to enter the 3D printing market.
Investors are showing a disappointing lack of knowledge about 3D printing/additive manufacturing (3DP/AM). And this ignorance is harming those involved in this industry.
Investors should have done due diligence; their actions (selling off stocks, short selling the market, filing lawsuits) indicate they did not.
A 3D printer in every home? Eventually. Just not this year. Probably not next year either.
Will 3DP/AM revolutionize manufacturing? Not likely. Ever. 3DP/AM is not a replacement for traditional manufacturing. It’s simply another tool for traditional manufacturing to use—when it makes sense. When you can stamp out thousands of parts for fractions of a penny, why would you install a slower, more expensive process to accomplish that?
Could 3DP/AM get as fast or faster than traditional manufacturing? Maybe. But it will take years. Meanwhile, traditional manufacturing technology is not standing still.
3DP/AM is a long-term buy—probably 10 years. Why? Education. What’s needed now is the ability to design to 3DP’s advantages. Just wait until today’s students, who are exploring 3DP now, graduate. Stock investors will see a different market then. And they may wish they had stayed in this market early. Several companies in this industry have the potential to be the next Apple.
This industry is just beginning to find its legs. Developers have known what problems it solves for some time. But the message is still getting out. As of today, and tomorrow, the best problems that 3DP solves are those that involve creating custom, one-off products and developing parts impossible to make other ways. Just consider the weight reduced Airbus brackets—there is no way to machine these parts.
The industries that can best take advantage of these capabilities are where 3DP is working best today, like medical, including dental and prosthetics, and aerospace.
Rather than short sell companies in this market, smart investors will see that they can get in on the ground floor of this industry now.
Filed Under: 3D printing • additive manufacturing • stereolithography, Flanges • supports • mounts • brackets