Is the 3-D printing revolution already over?

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Is the 3-D printing revolution already over?

You can make a lot of cool things with a 3-D printer, but excited investors arent one of them.

Stratasys(SSYS), the company that owns 3-D consumer printer MakerBot, saw its stock plunge more than 30% after the company warned that fourth quarter earnings would be worse than expected late Monday. It also issued a poor forecast for the rest of 2015.

Not even an attempt to capitalize on the Super Bowl halftime show buzz was enough to help.

Stratasys put out a press release Tuesday morning to tout the fact that it was making 3-D printed mohawk headpieces to be worn by Katy Perrys backup dancers on her upcoming world tour.

The shocking results from Stratasys caused a big sell-off in the industry as well. Shares of key rival3D Systems(DDD)fell nearly 10%. The stocks of two smaller 3-D printing companies –ExOne(XONE)andvoxeljet(VJET)– were significantly lower as well.

Related: The UPS Store will 3-D print stuff for you

The 3-D printer revolution:3-D printers have gone mainstream in the past few years.Amazon(AMZN)has a 3-D printing store on its site.Staples(SPLS)sells MakerBot products as well as the Cube from 3D Systems. Heck, evenstruggling RadioShackhas 3-D printers at many of its locations.

Rendering images in 3-D and printing them out is undeniably cool. Its something that many businesses in a variety of industries are using. Clothing, engine parts, food and hearing aids are just a few examples of items that can be produced with 3-D printers.

Related: 3-D printed organs are on the way

But 3-D printing for consumers may just turn out to be a fad that is in the process of peaking. The main reason for the worse-than-expected sales for Stratasys in the fourth quarter was slowing growth at MakerBot.

Not a household item:3-D printers are still pretty expensive. The MakerBot Replicator Mini sells for $1,375.

The consumer market for 3-D printing is on the downswing said Cathie Wood, chief investment officer at Ark Investment Management. But Wood still likes Stratasys stock. In fact, she said her firm bought more Tuesday as it fell. She calls it a fall through the cracks kind of stock.

Wood concedes that earnings estimates for Stratasys will be reduced sharply as a result of its warning. And several Wall Street analysts were quick to cut their price targets and ratings on the stock Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Still, she thinks investors are overreacting to the poor performance at MakerBot and said that the manufacturing side of the 3-D printing market is still an expansive opportunity.

Her firm also owns shares of ExOne as well asMaterialise(MTLS), another 3D printer stock.

Related: Martha Stewart loves 3-D printers

Wood is probably right that 3-D printing will be a huge business on the industrial side.

But other companies recognize that already. The 3-D printing pure play companies are inevitably going to face more competition.Hewlett-Packard(HPQ)is planning to enter the business next year, for example.

And the company that winds up dominating the industry in the future may still not even exist.

But the big pullback in the stock shows how risky it is to invest in any industry thats still in its infancy. Only a few companies may wind up surviving.

Remember Think Global, Aptera, Coda Automotive and Fisker? They are electric car companies that didnt wind up becomingTesla(TSLA). They all went bankrupt.

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3D Print Bump Stocks

In light of the recent events in Las Vegas, Tom and Tracy talk about 3D print bump stocks. This is not a statement or debate about the Second Amendment or even of the legality of things, but more of a discussion about the ethical, moral and even physical risks that designers must think about when creating something.

Were going to do an episode thats maybe a little controversial but were going to do it anyway, especially with what happened in Las Vegas with the shooting and there have been a lot in the media about these bump stocks. Were going to talk about that today, especially as it relates to 3D printing and making your own products or should you make your own products.

We have an ethical and moral dilemma as designers to ask ourselves, Should we do something?

Thats the core of the problem. It weighs heavy on us that we have to have this conversation, and weve had it multiple times over the couple of years of the podcast already. The idea of freedom or not, Second Amendment rights or not. We dont really care about that debate and we dont want to be a part of that. But we have an ethical and moral dilemma as designers to ask ourselves, Should we do something? Weve raised this question again and again and for us, its very personal. Newtown is where Tracys family is from. Her aunt worked at the high school in Newtown, Connecticut. She knew the shooter there. Those children were all members of her community. Its very personal to.

Theres also the issue of what happened in Las Vegas affected Tracy personally because her sister was there. Her sister was in the front row on the left side of the stage. She was there. She escaped with a lot of bruises and a lot of post-traumatic stress. Shes emotionally injured but not so physically injured. She was able to escape because she was on the left side. Yet, its hard to look at something like those bump stocks, to see the pictures of those guns on television, and know that somebody designed them. That is really where we get to the crux of it. Were a product person first and foremost and we see somebody designed them. We, over the years, prided ourselves on our ability to design around problems and obstacles.

Turning a semi-automatic into an automatic weapon; it sounds like a problem. It sounds like, Weve got to get around this dilemma of how to fix this so that it can do what I want it to do. We do that all the time in our business. We are not making a statement or arguing pro or con the Second Amendment. That is not the issue today. The issue is we want you think about as listeners, think about whether or not this is ethically and morally okay for you to be designing things like this, as designers or printing them or creating them or in any way, shape or form, whether thats the right thing for you to do. We want to think about that from a bigger, more global perspective of product safety, ethics, morals. All of those things have to come into play when were messing with creation.

For us in this, we are designers more than we are engineers, but this part of design, this crosses over in engineering completely. When were saying design today, were talking about design, design engineering, or just straight engineering because engineers solve problems. There are regulations about certain products and whether you can import them or not from certain countries or in certain materials. As designers, and we do engineering at times, we have to problem solve. We have to get around obstacles. We have to make something, do something that it wasnt meant to do before and make it do it now. We get that.

We have a history of what we callfortress IP, building a fortress around your intellectual property, but we also often talk about how to legally get around somebody elses patent. At times, thats a defensive thing for our clients because they dont want to develop a product that is going to infringe on someone elses patent. Or were helping somebody break their own patent where theyve had a patent, they think its good, and we play the role of a competitor coming in, If this is a patent, thats an obstacle in my way, how am I going to and get around that? We engineer, design, develop around that, and build what we call a fortress around the core patent. We are surrounding it with all the possible ways that it could be broken. Were really good at it. Weve been quite successful at it. Weve not only helped clients who spent years and years negotiating with thePatent and Trademark Officetrying to get a patent. They had written a claim a certain way that wasnt working and then we come in and analyze it and said, We see that you did really invent something here but if you wrote these claims a different way, you could get your patent. Thats one aspect.

The other aspect is weve come up with three or four additional patents for our clients when working with them. They have one that they thought, This is really an important segment of our business, who represents tens of millions of dollars of business a year. I got to make sure that someone isnt going to be able to just come in, make a minor change and take away my market share. We come up with as many different ways as we could possibly think of as if were a competitor but working for them. Sometimes theyre cost-effective and sometimes theyre not. In a couple of cases weve made ones that are better than the original core patent. It just happens because as you start to do something, you learn sometimes simpler is better. It just happens that way. Thats the perspective that were coming with it.

Looking at the bump stocks on these semi-automatic weapons that circumvent it and essentially turn it into an automatic weapon, legally or not legally, we dont care about that discussion. Thats not the point here. The point is that someone designed that, someone developed that, someone engineered that. Thats where we really have to sit back. We ask ourselves a few key questions every single time we get approached by someone to do that, to break their patent or to break someone elses patent, to do it and get around it. We ask ourselves three questions. Number one, Is this for the greater good? Does this help more people have jobs? Is the original patent unfair, overly restrictive?

Tracy once interviewedWalter OBrien. If youve seen the TV show Scorpion, youll know who were talking about, absolute genius. He calls it his fairness equation. When hes making a decision about whether or not he should hack something or do something, he has a fairness equation. We think about that all the time when were making decisions about whether or not we should design something. Is this in the best fairness equation system? It may not be what most people would do but if it balances out, then to us thats fair. But its a very fine line to be saying that and justifying something thats unfair or illegal just on paper and youre getting around that, or unethical and immoral. Thats really where we have to sit back and say, Is this right? Is this the right thing to do?

The second question we ask is, is this the safe thing to do? Weve talked about 3D print product safety numerous times over the years. Early on,Gail Greatorexwhen were talking about product safety, we touched on these very issues. Is something safe? The reality is that it would break our heart. It is something that has always been a major fear of ours because we fix this problem so often for other companies. They end up with aCPSC, a Consumer Product Safety Commission violation or recall. Children have died or injured on products, especially when we design TV stands. My greatest fear was that we would design a product that hurt a child. For us looking at that, is the product capable? Are our capabilities as designers, would it stretch us too thin that we could make a mistake that could possibly injure someone? Take someones life, harm them irreparably. Those are the things. Thats the second question that we really ask ourselves. Is there a great potential for that?

The third thing is just really, is this something that I would feel proud to design? Its
the last thing we ask ourselves. This is our criteria. Were throwing that out to you. Its what we use when we evaluate a project. There are a lot of other things. Is this in the best interest of the client? Can they make money doing it? Theres a whole bunch of other issues we ask. At the end of the day whether or not were going to say no to a project or yes to a project, those are the three critical factors because we want to be able to sleep at night.

They let it expire, so then the semi-automatic rifles are allowed to be sold again.

We dont want to get into the legal aspects of this but I want to talk about a few of them because I have done my homework on this whole subject of bump stocks in preparation for recording this, and I want to give a very brief history of it. Im sure most people probably know some of these things, but some of this Im sure youll also wont. Automatic weapons were actually legal in this country in the United States until 1986, automatic, real machine guns. There later was also an assault weapons ban of semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 rifles like you hear about that are very often used in these mass shootings. They were banned until 2004. When that ban ran out and the White House decided not to pursue it, they had to vote, Congress would have had to vote and the president would have had to sign to extend it. They let it expire, so then the semi-automatic rifles are allowed to be sold again.

The ban went in during Reagans administration. Automatic weapons were legal until 1986. During Reagan administration, they banned automatic weapons and then there became an assault weapons ban. It may have been the an offshoot of the Brady Bill. The assault weapons ban was only for a period of time. It wasnt a permanent law and it expired in 2004. Then, these weapons were allowed to be sold to anybody who could pass a background check, anybody whos legally allowed to own a firearm could buy one.

The semi-automatic weapon, these assault weapons, just to make sure this is clear to everybody, youve got to pull the trigger with your finger each time to fire a single bullet. You cannot hold the trigger down and have it fire multiple bullets. A machine gun, the way that works you hold the trigger down and it just fires as many bullets as it has in it rapidly until it has no more bullets to fire. There then were a lot of people who preferred machine guns for whatever reason.There was this person in Texas, somewhere around the 2007, 2008 time frame, who just wanted to have the rush, lives in Texas on a farmland and has lots of space and likes to fire weapons. He wanted the rush of firing a weapon that was automatic, but not being able to do that legally, figured out a way to do it and he invented the bump stock. What he did was perfectly legal by the laws that we do have today and was quite ingenious engineering.

We think this guy who invented the bump stock, from a purely engineering perspective, and we know this is going to sound controversial, it is, but from an engineering perspective or design perspective, what he did was brilliant because its simple. We admire it as having solved the problem. We really do. The question still comes back to, should that problem have been solved? As far as the law was concerned, he designed this thing, engineered it, made some prototypes and brought it to theATF, the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms.

Lets just step back and say we would like to resend you to thatepisode with Gail Greatorexand to our episode on3D print bulletswe did about those Russian bullets. That in and of itself is an unsafe act. The idea of designing something of which you could get severely injured in the prototyping and development of that product, this is where we really encourage you to be very, very careful. This, especially in 3D printing, can be very unsafe. You can hurt yourself for sure, especially when youre doing it on the weapon. Think about this, you know all the time how often it is we print something on that build plate and its not strong enough. We didnt use a strong enough material, this breaks, it fractures into pieces. This is where someone could get severely injured just in the prototyping and development process. We want to remind you that were not endorsing that in any way, shape or form. We want you to be safe in the design and development process.

We can personally admire the innovativeness and creative thought process that someone had to go through to find another way to do something that wasnt obvious. Thats something we practice all the time. We personally dont like the product and we wouldnt use it ourselves. Guns, personally we dont need that but we do admire the effort to create it. Heres the key thing that the problem that this person had to solve, is that what the law says that outlaws machine guns is that also not only youre not allowed to have one but youre not allowed to mechanically modify a semi-automatic weapon in its mechanism. The law gets very specific in there that youre not allowed to go in there and machine it and add any parts. Youre not allowed to modify the gun itself to make it automatic. Thats illegal too. Its not like, Youre not allowed to buy one on the streets or buy one in a proper gun store but you could take it home and then with a kit or even with making your own parts modify that to make it a machine a gun. Youre not allowed to do it.

The bump stock doesnt actually do that. The bump stock uses physics and the natural recoil mechanism of a gun where you have the stock of the gun, which is the part that goes against your shoulder, and when you fire a bullet, the bullets going away from you in an incredibly fast speed and the natural physics reaction is the gun has an equal but opposite reaction. It pushes back on you. What this bump stock does is uses that force and the gun moves backward. The bump stock has a bit of effectively a springing or bouncing action that then moves the gun a little bit more forward. Because of that action, it makes it so using your own finger, which is legal to fire the trigger, that because that gun moves back and forth, back and forth and back and forth, it ends up firing at very, very close to the rate of a machine gun.

Theres anarticle in the New York Timesthat goes through some of that. They actually were able to analyze the audio recordings and because there have been so many cellphone video recordings of not only this incident in Las Vegas, but also the incident in Orlando last year at the Pulse nightclub where that assailant used a semi-automatic rifle and without any modifications, no bump stock, just pulling the trigger, he was able to get off 24 shots within nine seconds. Still, a lot of bullets in nine seconds but he had to actually pull the trigger 24 times to do it. In the Las Vegas shooting with that bump stock, he was able to get off 90 shots in ten seconds. Not the exact same amount of time but clearly three and a half times the number of bullets in the same period of time.

Then a fully automatic weapon, they also have audio of that and were analyzing that, and a fully automatic weapon can get off 98 shots in seven seconds. You can see how close a bump stock actually makes a semi-automatic weapon more like an automatic weapon. Its really shocking. It was interesting to listen to that. They have the audio files in that article. You can check it out. This guy in Texas and his company he created is calledSlide Fire Solutions. After he invented this bump stock and sent it to the ATF and they said, This is not against the law. You can do this. You can make it and you can sell it. He then went and sold it. Is there a market for these things? Yes, there was a market. In their first year of sales, which was in 2010, they sold 35,000 units in one year and made $10 million as a company, the first year in business.

Just because theres a market for something, we sit back and say, Should we be making it? Should we be doing this? Should we be designing this? Should we be facilitating this? This is the ethical and moral questions we, as designers, have to ask ourselves. Just bec
ause we need the money to design because we run a business doesnt mean we have to take projects. This guy invented it himself and thats totally fine and built his company around it and believes that hes doing his greater good. Whether or not it is, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself that question as a designer.

It is our job to know how someone is going to misuse a product.

We have a lot of freedom in design. Think about the unintended consequences. This guy, his motivation was, I just want to be out in the countryside, shooting automatic weapon and getting the rush from it and other people do too and they have the right to do that. Im going to call BC because unintended consequences are our job to know. It is our job to know how someone is going to misuse a product. It is our job. We are liable as designers and engineers, unless we have signed indemnification clauses, which we sign with all of our clients in all our contracts, making us not personally liable. Mis-designing, mis-engineering and causing injury to someone is not an excuse to have not been skilled at it or had no idea someone would use your product like that. Thats what liability insurance is for.

Clearly different people have different fairness equations or different moral compasses and theyre going to do it. These people would say, Obviously, youre not supposed to use these guns to shoot other people indiscriminately like that. Thats illegal. What were saying clearly is that we dont have the luxury as designers and engineers of products to sit back and say, We didnt think that people would use it like that. It is our job to think of it. Thats why we have insurance for that, Errors and Omissions. Its because we can make a mistake. Its because we can omit something because we didnt think of it. It was outside of our realm of possibility. Were not personally gun owners. If we werent personally gun owners and we went to design something, its highly likely someone could get injured because we dont have a firsthand experience. You can make a mistake in that process. We design products that we dont have firsthand experience with all the time. Thats one of the things.

Our role is very extremely important, is to embed ourselves as much in the process, try to use the products, try to make sure that we dont omit anything. It is our job to figure out whether or not there will be unintended consequences. Bean bags, going back to one of the biggest liability projects weve ever worked on and we ever encountered. We designed office chairs and office chairs have a very, very high liability because people get injured on them all the time. They stand on their chairs. They have sex on their chairs. Believe me, weve heard it all. They do stuff on their chairs they shouldnt do, or they just lean back on their chairs and fall over and hit their head on the floor. Stuff happens on chairs. They have a very high liability. But even higher than that, bean bags. Bean bags seem like the most innocuous, safest, easiest thing to design on Earth. We had a client come to us because two children died getting zipped up and smothered by the little beads inside the bean bag, which are small Styrofoam beads. We didnt design that. Our job was to fix it and make it so safe that it couldnt happen again.

Theres a lot of reasons that they could have passed blame and said, The manufacturer didnt do a good job of putting the hog ring, which is basically a heavy piece of wire thats supposed to prevent a kid from being able to unzip the zipper after the bean bag is assembled, but they can if they work around it. Its horrible to think about that. We step back and we said, We will take this challenge because we know how much kids like this. We know that companies are going to continue to make bean bags. Is there a way for us to make them safer and make them so that they are unzippable at the end of the day and that theyre truly locked up? The only way youre going to be able to open a bean bag with this device is if you were to cut the fabric. If you cut the fabric, youre not going to be able to zip it back up. We think it makes it safer.

We still think people can misuse a product enough, no matter what you do, to cause harm or be harmed but at least this made it even safer than it was. Even still, we sat back and we said, Weve designed this new way to do it. We recommend you change the zipper shape so that you cant pull out the zipper, which is another problem that you have, is you can rip apart a zipper if you pull hard enough. There are certain structures of the teeth of the zipper that make that almost impossible without extreme brute force. You would have to use equipment to pull it apart and thats what we recommend, this industrial-style zipper. Its patent pending as of last year. The zipper closure requires a special tool to open, that you could not open it if you didnt have the special tool, which doesnt exist in anyones normal toolbox. It was a special tool. We have recommended to them that they dont even ship it with the product, that they only do it upon request from the customer service department. Lets say, you really wanted to wash yours, you would call in, request one, and you would be able to receive it and take it apart.

What we said was we dont recommend to do it. We think you should take away zippers altogether. That at this point, you should be stitching up an inner layer and doing an outer covering and yet the retailer said no. They dont want to do that anymore. There is that process of going through things where you still dont recommend, even after youve designed a solution and you still dont think its safe enough. Thats where we sat there and said, We still dont think its safe enough. Its still not comfortable for us to endorse you using this. Its not foolproof. We recommend you dont do it at all, that you take zippers out of the equation altogether and heres our solution for that. This is the one thing though that you cant get overruled in that process. Thats where you have to sit back as the designer and really say, Should I even take this project to begin with? Should I even design this to begin with? Thats where we sit with that kind of experience level, knowing that.

Returning to the bump stocks and the 3D printing tie in. We figured, were sure most of you who are listening to this episode know really much about 3D printing and the files that are available out there at all, is that there probably were some 3D print files out there for bump stocks and in fact, there are. Im not going to link to any of them in this blog post because Im not interested in making it easier for those to be distributed, but the reality is there are some out there and there are some YouTube videos of people demonstrating and using them. Heres where we think this ties in.

Weve talked at least two episodes in the past about Cody Wilson who was the guy who was creating an intentional 3D printed gun. The ATF in his case and the FBI all worked to pull his files off the internet and would not allow them to be distributed as a 3D printed gun. Now this 3D printing all comes in because Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed a bump stock ban at legislation in Congress. We dont know whether its going to pass or not but its actually getting some warm reception even from some Republicans. Well have to see what happens.

I would just like also to point out that I wrote anarticle for Inc.about when there was a 3D printed gun found by TSA in the Reno Airport. Right at that time, I had done a bunch of research and discovered also that there had been legislation passed in the State of California that modified our already existing gun laws to include essentially 3D printed. It wasnt changing anything in the gun law. It was just including finding 3D printed guns to be regulated like regular firearms. In other words, you have to mark them with the manufacturer, you have to register them. Theres a whole bunch of laws and requirements that included any use of a 3D printed gun. The reason for it, I thought was really interesting when I was researching it, was that it was at
the behest of the law enforcement in the State of California because they were afraid that they would encounter a 3D printed gun because theyd already been encountering parts of 3D printed guns. They were afraid that they would encounter a 3D printed gun used in the commission of a crime and then be unable to make a case against someone because the gun was unregulated, because many times you have gun violations as a part of why you arrest someone.

Whereas, if you had the skills and equipment in your garage to make a homemade gun and machine it out of metal, you probably wouldnt fall under some of those regulations because its a homemade gun. They probably didnt want the same thing to happen with 3D printed files. You committed crime but they couldnt charge you with the gun law violations. They couldnt charge you with the use of unregistered firearm or anything like that because it wasnt an unregistered firearm. It was unregulated. They had changed that regulation. Dianne Feinstein, theyre coming off of the fact that this has actually come from request from law enforcement here in the State of California as well. Theres a big difference here. We have already regulated 3D print here. That happened post San Bernardino as well.

Shes trying to not only ban the sale of them but possession of them, like possession of drugs is illegal.

This articlecame out in the Washington Examiner were talking about how 3D printing could make Dianne Feinsteins proposed law banning bump stocks obsolete. We want to call BS on that one. I sent an email to her office and sent a Facebook message saying, You forgot to include the word design in your legislation. You should know better because of the laws here in California. Part of what I know that that proposed law is trying to do is not just, and this is where we think part of this article is a waste of electrons on the internet, is the reality is that with her law, shes trying to not only ban the sale of them but possession of them, like possession of drugs is illegal. Possession of a bump stock would be illegal. If that happens, it really wouldnt matter how you made it. It wouldnt matter if it was 3D printed.

The other thing that most of our 3D print enthusiast and listeners would find interesting is the author of this article claimed that while 3D printing would get around this ban and make this law obsolete is the premise. You can probably imagine, this is probably written by somebody whos in favor of unregulated gun rights. Heres where theyve made an argument that undercuts what theyre trying to achieve, is they said that they estimated that one of the main 3D printable bump stock files out there on the internet, if you printed it in nylon, they claimed it would cost around $2,000 and take 52 hours to print. Were like, Weve done all kinds of analysis. We have tons of experience 3D printing things, the different parts in nylon or other materials. How the heck are they getting to $2,000? That sounds far-fetched, fuzzy math in our opinion.

Apparently, they were factoring in part of that the cost of buying a 3D printer, and the 52 hours they were amortizing cost of that printer over the 52 hours and then there were some materials to make a single one. Anybody who has any experience in desktop 3D printing would find that to be absurd. Anyone who has any experience in any kind of manufacturing would find that absurd. $2,000, you could probably go to a machine shop if they would do it and have somebody just machine it out of a solid block of aluminum for you for that cost. The idea that it would cost $2,000 to 3D print one of these we thought was ridiculous. The 52 hours building all the parts on a desktop 3D printer, we could believe that. 52 seems a little low for something thats better be printed in a 100% infill. It would be a 100% infill and of a very strong material and they certainly wouldnt make this out of PLA. If it were us, it would have to be some much stronger plastic. Even some of the nylons we tried, we wouldnt even think they were strong enough. We thought that was ridiculous.

As we thought, there are 3D printable files out there of bump stocks on the internet, they exist. If you want to find them, Im sure you can. Thats where we think that Dianne Feinsteins office or whoever wrote the proposed language, Im sure she didnt write it all herself, and trying to ban possession of them was taking the right approach. If you really want to make it so that they are really totally illegal, just having one would be illegal. It didnt matter how you got it, made it, if it was given to you, whatever.

On the other side of that, from an IP standpoint, youre violating the intellectual property of the originator of that file. In fact,Slide Fire Solutions, they did file a patent. They have achieved patents on that and they do have them. They had a couple of competitors try to come out with their own version and they battled them in court over it and won. When in the first year, you sold $10 million worth of them, youve got enough money to go wage patent litigation on that, which is where I would say raise the red flag to anyone whos a service bureau who is considering that its okay to 3D print bump stocks. We certainly hope you dont consider doing that just from an intellectual property violation standpoint because that is a really slippery slope at a service bureau for you to start violating

3D Printing A Disruptive Innovation In Its Infancy

A Disruptive Innovation In Its Infancy

3D printing, or more broadly additive manufacturing, is a technologically enabled innovation that has the potential to disrupt the manufacturing sector. By building objects layer-by-layer instead of using a mold or removing material from a larger block, 3D printing dramatically shortens the time between design and production, shifts power to designers, and creates products with radically new architectures and less waste at a fraction of the cost of traditional manufacturing. Similar to other disruptive innovations, however, 3D printing experienced a period of hype before its time and has gone through a period of restructuring. While 2015 was a turbulent year for 3D printing companies and their stocks, the long-term prospects are intact and profound… but not well understood.

Details the disruptive impact of 3D printing;

Presents four cases studies illustrating the benefits of 3D printing; and

Explains why ARK believes 3D printing is a true investment opportunity.

Download ARKs research white paper 3D Printing: A Disruptive Innovation In Its Infancy and learn more about the opportunity ARK identifies for investors.

©2018, ARK Investment Management LLC (ARK). All content is original and has been researched and produced by ARK unless otherwise stated. No part of ARKs original content may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without the express written permission of ARK. The content is available for informational purposes only and is subject to change without notice. All statements made regarding companies or securities or other financial information on this site or any sites relating to ARK are strictly beliefs and points of view held by ARK or the third party making such statement and are not endorsements by ARK of any company or security or recommendations by ARK to buy, sell or hold any security. For a list of all purchases and sales made by ARK for client accounts during the past year that could be considered by the SEC as recommendations,click here. It should not be assumed that recommendations made in the future will be profitable or will equal the performance of the securities in this list. For full disclosures, please see the Terms of Use for this site.

3D Printing Stocks Time is on Your Side

Setting aside pride and asking for help

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3D printing stocks offer a cautionary tale for those that insist that investing based on an obvious, well publicized, easy to understand argument is the way to go. Just a couple of years ago they looked like a sure fire bet on the ultimate disruption of the norm, and that opinion was everywhere.

Since their highs in 2014, however, the three biggest players in the industry, 3D Systems (DDD), Stratasys (SSYS) and The ExOne Company (XONE) have all lost over 80% of their value. Could it be, however, that after all of the hype and the bubble and bust look to the charts (see below), these stocks now represent a decent, if still risky, investment?

I am not one to overcomplicate trading and investing decision, but when the financial media are full of stories about one industry with enormous and obvious growth potential I have learned to be wary and to look for the problems behind the obvious. Back in 2014 that description certainly fit 3D printing stocks.

The argument looked extremely appealing; the idea of printing anything you needed, from car parts to human body parts at the touch of a button, suggested a revolution in retail and manufacturing that you would be a fool to miss out on. Surely huge profits were coming.

Call me a cynic, but I believe that whenever you hear an argument as obvious as that there is a catch. There is often one last technical hurdle to clear before the technology can fulfill its potential, or there is extreme consumer resistance to the new thing, which can be the result of loyalty to the old methods or simply fear of the unknown.

A more mundane, but also more common problem: at small production levels the products associated with new, disruptive technologies are often just too expensive for consumers. There is a catch-22; price cannot go down without volume and volume cannot increase at the price. To differing extents, 3D printing fell victim to all three potential problems, but there is good news: all of these issues can be resolved by one thing…time.

Now, two years on from the top of the bubble, conditions for these companies are actually better now than they were then in many ways. The cost of the machines and materials needed is gradually coming down and new uses for the technology are constantly being found.

In many ways more importantly, though, as the reality of the market has improved so the forecasts and expectations of analysts have fallen dramatically. Most of them, working on a once bitten basis, now have very achievable projections for these companies, even out as far as five years. Times are still tough, which is keeping prices low but the chances of a series of good beats is increasing every day.

Despite this being a long-term trade, with emerging technologies such as this which can always turn out to be a complete flop, it is important that investors remain disciplined. Place and stick to stop loss orders if you are buying in, and, despite the volatility, keep them reasonably close, say 10-12% away.

I will freely admit that this is a play that I have tried before, a bit too soon, and I hit my stops. Damage was small, however, which enables me to come back, maybe several times, to a technology that has had its problems, but still has enormous potential. At some point these stocks will turn and when they do those small losses will look inconsequential. The evidence suggests that that could well be soon.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in:News HeadlinesTechnologyInvesting IdeasReferenced Symbols:DDD,SSYS,XONEdisplay>

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3D Printing of stocks

This is my first post here. I ordered my ZK-22 this March 2013 and just based on what everyone is saying, it seams that I should expect it in about a year. Has anyone considered utilizing a 3D Printer to make a stock? I know that those printers cost a lot but if your an engineering student, you may have access to them. I suppose that the hard part would be the design, but at the same time, it would surely be fun as well to custom design your own stock. Im not sure about the quality of the polymers they use. Wondering if anyone here has any info on that.

The ABS plastic used in them is not that durable, Yes you can make ar-15 lowers with one but the area around buffer tube degrades fast. plus you would need access to an industrial sized printer as they have limits in the dimensions. One I have has a max of 10 by 7 I think.

Not worth it when you factor in the design time and how fragile the end result will be. Unless your making a proto-type for future production, or are REAL bored

The ZK-22 was prototyped on RP, so its definitely been done. As mentioned, though, the plastic is typically not very durable, and Id worry about the surface finish being easily marred (note that the picture used at Sportsmans guide is the prototype, and you can see how that has fared).

The next time you think everyone should be equal in outcome, read Kurt Vonneguts Harrison Bergeron. If you dont fear that kind of world, please dont vote.

This is my first post here. I ordered my ZK-22 this March 2013 and just based on what everyone is saying, it seams that I should expect it in about a year. Has anyone considered utilizing a 3D Printer to make a stock? I know that those printers cost a lot but if your an engineering student, you may have access to them. I suppose that the hard part would be the design, but at the same time, it would surely be fun as well to custom design your own stock. Im not sure about the quality of the polymers they use. Wondering if anyone here has any info on that.

yes. im building a Mendelmax 3D printer and finishing it up in 2 months. im going to be designing/producing my own dress up kits for my 10/22 and Marlin 60/795/XT-22

August 02, 2013, 04:16:23 PM

Any updates on Anbars potential project or defcons?

The next time you think everyone should be equal in outcome, read Kurt Vonneguts Harrison Bergeron. If you dont fear that kind of world, please dont vote.

August 09, 2013, 12:24:33 PM

just bought some of the hardware for the 3D printer. still saving up to buy the rest of the electronics. also learning how to do CAD using solidworks right now so still a long way to go.

i did find some local machinist that can cut out my designs using CNC or a manual milling machine.

August 09, 2013, 12:27:21 PM

Nice, Defcon! I have aspirations of some day making the time to learn Solidworks and get into 3D printing as well. Too many other irons in the fire, right now (young family being the biggest iron!).

Bang on! I look forward to seeing the fruits of your labors!

The next time you think everyone should be equal in outcome, read Kurt Vonneguts Harrison Bergeron. If you dont fear that kind of world, please dont vote.

August 09, 2013, 12:35:08 PM

Quote from: Plinker on August 09, 2013, 12:27:21 PM

Nice, Defcon! I have aspirations of some day making the time to learn Solidworks and get into 3D printing as well. Too many other irons in the fire, right now (young family being the biggest iron!).

also having a 2nd baby on the way so i know i wont have much time to tinker in the garage with my airsoft conversions.

working on the 3D printer and Solidworks would be more efficient because i can do it in the house while taking care of the kids.

i think a full stock chassis is totally doable with a 3D printer even though the allowable printing size in length or width is limited. id just have to modularize it by making it into 4 different sections and then just bolt it on.

once when the prototype is done with the 3D printer, id just have to find a machinist that can cut out the chassis with my CAD file for a fair price out of aluminum or nylon carbon fiber (same materials used with Archangel kits).

ill make another thread just on my experience with learning solidworks and 3d printing. ill post some screenshots of my sketches

August 15, 2013, 02:37:10 PM

Ive been using Autodesk Inventor 2013 for my models. I like it pretty well except for the fact so many others use Solidworks and the files arent interchangeable.

I also will have a 3D printer by winter.

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3D printing could make Sen Dianne Feinsteins proposed bump stock ban obsolete

3D printing could make Sen. Dianne Feinsteins proposed bump stock ban obsolete

Bump fire stocks are made from relatively cheap polymers that can be 3D printed. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

On Wednesday morning, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced legislation banning bump fire stocks accessories that transform semi-automatic rifles into machine guns.

Already 20 Senate Democrats have co-sponsored the bill and even some wayward Republicans have promised to consider it. If successful, the bill could land on President Trumps desk, and it could become the first new gun control law in decades.

And, more than likely, it could be obsolete.

Bump fire stocks are made from relatively cheap polymers that can be 3-D printed. Hobbyists have posted videos of their homemade stocks in action, at least one manufacturer has actually built 3-D-printed prototypes, and the digital blueprints are already floating around online.

While its illegal to manufacture new machine guns and especially difficult to purchase a fully automatic rifle under federal law, bump stocks provide an easy hack. Like the one found in the possession of the Las Vegas shooter, the accessoryis relatively cheap, pretty easy to install, and completely legal for now. But even if made illegal, they wont be difficult to jury-rig.

To make a semi-automatic rifle fire full-auto requires significant skill. A gunsmith must open up the guts of the gun to lathe, mill, and fabricate for the desired effect. A bump fire stock provides a natural workaround, using the blowback from each shot to bump against the shooters shoulder and rock against their finger to achieve a high rate of fire.

Built commercially, the stocks can theoretically be homemade. Its certainly possible and it may already be happening.

While we were in the design phase of the SSAR-15 MOD AR-15 Rifle stock and the SSAK-47 HYB AK Platform chassis, we built prototypes from 3-D printers in-house,announcedSlide Fire company in 2015, one of the biggest manufactures the device.

That company doesnt 3-D print its final products, but hobbyists claim the method works. In an April 2017 video, YouTube builder SilkyDionysus burns through ammo with a homemade bump fire stock.

Blueprints are currently hosted on popular open source sites such as FOSSCAD Exchange and GitHub, and a Reddit forum of basement tinkerers and amateur gunsmiths is standing by to advise.

But that doesnt mean fabricating the parts would be easy. It would require a 3-D printer and significant technical skill.

While commercially manufactured stocks cost as little as $99, Andrew Baker, founder of the 3-D-printing firm Veloforge, estimates making the GitHub design out of nylon would cost around $2,000 and take 52 hours to print. Materials for the parts would be very cheap, Baker says, but the cost is in the time spent using the printer and the printers themselves.

Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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The Best 3D Printing Stock of 2017 — and How It Gained 101%

With the 2017 trading year now in the record books, we can officially give out the crown for the best-performing 3D printing stock of the year. And the winner is … drumroll, please …

While not a pure play like industry bigwigsStratasys(NASDAQ: SSYS)and3D Systems(NYSE: DDD), the digitally enabled, quick-turn contract manufacturer of plastic and metal prototypes and low-volume production parts has a 3D printing business that has been growing nicely. In the most recent quarter, it accounted for nearly 13% of its total revenue, and over time has the potential to comprise a larger chunk of the overall business.

Heres what you should know about Proto Labs winning 2017.

The following chart shows how the 3D printing stocks listed on a major U.S. stock exchange performed in 2017.HP Inc.isnt included because its 3D printing business — it entered the space in May 2016 when itlaunched two speedy polymer 3D printersfor the enterprise market — probably accounts for just a tiny portion of its overall business.

Earlier this year, I called Proto Labsthe best 3D printing stock to buy in 2017– and it really came through. Its year-to-date performance at that time was second to last of the six 3D printing stocks, and well behind the three leaders, Stratasys, Materialise, and 3D Systems.

The lesson here is to keep in mind that a companys business performance and future potential can be quite out of sync with its stock performance over the short term. While I couldnt be sure when the market would recognize that it was underestimating Proto Labs and getting ahead of itself (again) with respect to 3D Systems, in particular, I was confident it would eventually happen. As it turns out, it did happen in 2017, with Proto Labs surging from fifth place to the top of the heap in eight months, while 3D Systems sunk to last place after it posted a subpar second-quarter earnings report followed by a poor third-quarter report.

Luck was on my side that Proto Labs beat out Materialise, which had a huge lead when I made my call. Belgium-based Materialise — which makes 3D printing software and provides 3D printing services — is worth watching.

While were focusing on 2017, its helpful to know the bigger picture. The following chart shows how the 3D printing stocks have performed over the three-year period: Proto Labs is the only one that has beaten the broader market. (Only Proto Labs, Stratasys, and 3D Systems stocks have been publicly traded for at least five years, which is why a longer-term chart isnt shown.) The 3D printing stocks soared in 2012 and 2013, and then got hammered in 2014 and 2015 when the heady growth many investors expected didnt materialize. Since 2016, the performances of the groups stocks have diverged quite a lot.

Proto Labs business performance improved considerably from 2016 to 2017, which has driven the stocks rise. The primary reason the companys business struggled in 2016 appears to have more to do with the overall economic climate than the companys execution.

In Q1, Proto Labs revenue increased 10.5%, and adjusted earnings per share (EPS) jumped 16% from the year-ago period. The metal CNC (computer numerical control) machining business 16% revenue growth led segment results, while plastic injection molding and 3D printing both grew about 11%. Second-quarter revenue and adjusted EPS grew 9.4% and 8.9%, respectively. CNC machinings revenue soared 22%, 3D printings revenue climbed 20%, and injection moldings revenue rose 5%. In Q3, revenue and adjusted EPS rose 12.7% and 9.8%, respectively. CNC machining once again led results, with revenue surging 25%, while the 3D printing and injection molding businesses grew 13% and 7%, respectively.

Revenue growth throughout the year was stronger than the numbers suggest, as the company discontinued some services and its results were negatively affected by foreign exchange. Profitability is being held back by the companys European 3D-printing acquisition made two years ago. Operating margin in this business lags that of the 3D printing business in the U.S., which management is taking steps to address.

Proto Labs has an attractive business model: It provides high-quality, fast-turnaround contract manufacturing through a user-friendly digital interface. Moreover, the company generates considerable free cash flow and has no debt. Youll have to pay up for these qualities, however, as the stock is trading at 58.9 times trailing-12-month earnings and 41 times projected forward earnings. Its getting a bit richly valued even for a high-quality company. So some investors might want to wait a quarter or two to see if its growth continues to improve before making an investment decision.

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Beth McKennahas no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Proto Labs. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems and Stratasys. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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Publicly Traded Printing Companies

List of Publicly Traded Printing Companies Listed on Major U.S. Exchanges

Printing is actually a pretty broad category that encompasses a number of different activities. There are companies that print a number of items including books, catalogs, direct mail, publications, retail inserts and newspapers. You also have companies that specialize in offering products for businesses including business forms, checks, commercial printing, envelopes, labels and promotional products. In addition, there are companies that specialize in a specific type of printing. For example, Multi-Color Corporation (LABL) prints the labels that you see on many food, beverage and consumer goods products. Most of these companies have a number of other related services they offer in conjunction with their primary printing business.

A comparison widget that shows trend, earnings per share (EPS), P/E ratio and beta for each of the companies on this list can be accessed through the link below.

Select the companys link to access charts, news links and company website and social media information.

Cimpress N.V. (CMPR)(Mass customization and web-to-print systems)

Ennis, Inc. (EBF)(Printing services and apparel)

LSC Communications, Inc. (LKSD)(Traditional and digital print products and services; office products)

Multi-Color Corporation (LABL)(Labels)

Quad Graphics, Inc. (QUAD)(Printing services)

R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company (RRD)(Printing services)

Cenveo Inc. (CVO)(Printing services include business documents, commercial print, custom labels, envelopes and specialty packaging)

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New 3D printing fund may not print money

A new mutual fund is investing in stocks tied to the 3D printing industry.

The first mutual fund devoted entirely to investing in 3D printing opened for business this week. But it may be way too risky for most investors.

The 3D Printing and Technology Fund owns roughly 40 companies, according to Alan Meckler, the funds portfolio manager.

Among them are the pure play 3D printer companies such asStratasys(SSYS),3D Systems(DDD), andvoxeljet(VJET). But the fund also ownsGeneral Electric(GE), which uses 3D printing technology for its jet engines, Meckler said.

Still, Meckler has never run a mutual fund before, so theres no track record to study.

He does have significant experience running technology companies and taking them public — but thats not the same thing as being able to pick stocks.

Meckler is currently the CEO ofMediabistro(MBIS), a company well-known among journalists for its job listings sites. But the company has increasingly moved into other businesses, including putting on tech industry trade shows. And Mediabistro does have a unit that hosts conferences catering to the 3D printing sector.

While running trade shows for companies that Meckler may also own in his mutual fund may smell like a conflict of interest, Meckler says the fund and Mediabistro trade show business will be run separately.

And although he admits its a unique situation, Meckler thinks the trade shows give him an added advantage of being able to study the business closely so that he can make wise investments.

Im immersed in the 3D printer industry, he said.

So why create a mutual fund? Meckler claims investors want exposure to the industry, but they dont know which stocks to pick.

Still, there are only a handful of publicly traded 3D printer companies in the U.S right now. Its not as if there are that many choices.

And while 3D printing has been around since the late 1980s, the stocks in the sector have soared recently as investors hope to see the technology go mainstream. Thats raised concerns about the high valuations for many of the companies. As a result, several of last years hot 3D stocks have fallen so far this year.

Shares of Stratasys are down 9% after surging 65% in 2013. The company bought MakerBot, one of the first firms to sell desktop 3D printers, in August.

Related: Hersheys to make 3D chocolate printer

And 3D Systems is down 15% in 2014 after a huge run last year. 3D Systems already has a presence in the consumer 3D printer market. Its Cube printers are available at Staples and other retailers.

But some think 3D printers will never be an everyday household appliance. Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in 3D printing, says that smaller 3D printers for consumers are getting a lot of media attention. But they are just a small fraction of the overall market.

Rather, Wohlers believes the real money is in industrial manufacturing, which will allow companies to design and produce products more efficiently and at a lower cost.

We strongly disagree with the notion of everyone having a general purpose printer at home printing out products for themselves and their friends, Wohlers said. But for companies, its flattening the playing field where almost anyone located anywhere can become a product developer and manufacturer.

Its almost certain that more big tech companies will embrace 3D printing.Hewlett-Packard(HPQ)CEO Meg Whitman, for example, announced in October that the company will enter the 3-D printing market sometime in 2014.

Related: Invest in innovation: 3D Systems and 4 other hot stocks

Still, the speculative nature of 3D printing stocks might scare off some investors. It is probably not the best idea for any investor to have such a big concentration in one subsector. Remember what happened to many of the Internet mutual funds of the 1990s that loaded up on high-flying web stocks and crashed and burned after the tech bubble popped?

Meckler knows this firsthand. He took a company called public in 1999. After several asset sales, the company now known as Mediabistro is trading more than 95% below its peak price from December 1999.

But Meckler rejects the comparison to dot-com euphoria in the 1990s and claims the 3D printer naysayers simply dont understand the business.

He said actual 3D printers are just the tip of the iceberg and that the industry has the potential to lead to big advancements in manufacturing as well as medicine.

Meckler concedes that there will be ups and downs for the 3D printer companies, but that this kind of technological shift only comes around once every 20 or 30 years. So hes in it for the long haul.

And he thinks investors in his fund should also be true believers.

This is for someone who thinks its an earth shattering concept, he said. You might call it the third industrial revolution.

Even if hes right, there are arguably safer ways to invest in the trend.

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Right about now, the phrase 3-D printing is the source of much eye-rolling. There was so much hype built around companies like 3-D Systems Corp. (NYSE:DDD) and Stratasys Ltd. (Nasdaq:SSYS), but impossibly high hopes for such firms were bound to be dashed. Each stock now sells for a fraction of their all-time high, and they have a long road ahead as they try to rebuild investor confidence.

Still, its important to keep your eyes on the prize in this industry: 3-D printing remains as one of the most exciting new developments in the global industrial landscape. For investors, its a matter of finding the right horse to ride.

Despite all the current gloom, 3-D printing industry revenues are slated to rise more than 50% this year, to more than $5 billion.Research firm Canalys predictsthat the market will grow in excess of 40% annually through 2019 as well. Surging demand for 3-D hardware and software is coming from best-of-breed industrial firms such as The Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA), BMW and General Electric Co. (NYSE:GE).

The industrys two biggest players made a classic mistake. They tried to develop a soup-to-nuts set of product and service offerings to target the mass market, which was bound to have pricing pressures. (I highlighted3-D Systems perilous growth-at-any-cost strategy back in 2013.)

Netherlands-basedMaterialise NV (Nasdaq:MTLS)was wise enough to eschew such a swing-for-the-fences strategy and instead has remained tightly focused on the high end of the market. The company is making a big push into software, which now accounts for nearly 40% of sales, up from 30% a year ago. (As Ill explain in a moment, the transition should have a big impact on profit margins.) The company is seeing strong demand from product development engineers in a range of industries, and management sees especially robust growth opportunities in the medical device space.

As is the case with 3D Systems and Stratasys, Materialise fell sharply out of favor in late 2014 and early 2015. Unlike those firms, it is now starting to get a more positive look from investors these days, and a rebound is now underway.

Why are shares rebounding while 3-D printing peers are hitting fresh lows? Materialise posted very good Q1 results and maintained its 2015 outlook, a significant positive given weak demand noted by printer OEMs. MTLS is still the best way to play 3D printing, in our view, write analysts at Pacific Crest Securities.

To be sure, Materialise isnt promising investors that it will deliver scorching growth, as its larger rivals did. Those larger firms made a series of acquisitions to pump up sales, but often paid too much in terms of cash and shares. Materialize, instead, is pursuing steady 15%-to-25% organic growth. The company had around $66 million in revenue in 2012, which is expected to exceed $120 million by next year.

Yet its the quality of that growth that is crucial to understand. A focus on software invariably leads to rising profit margins as revenues expand. The companys gross margins have risen from around 40% in 2012 to a recent 58%, and earnings before income, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) margins should approach 20% in a few years, according to management.

For now, investors may remain concerned that Materialise has not generated much by way of profits. Thats due in large part to the fact that the company has been sharply boosting spending on R&D and expanding its sales force at a rapid pace. Much of the R&D efforts are focused on metal printing and further development of the companys software platform.

This is part of a strategy that we laid out as part of the IPO process and that is a strategy of investing heavily in the near-term in both sales and marketing as well as in product development, with a view to accelerating our growth in the mid- to long-term, noted Chairman Peter Leys on the companys Q4 conference call.

In discussing the June 2014 initial public offering (IPO), CEO Wilfried Vancraen noted that our objective in raising capital was to get resources to aggressively invest in 2014 and 2015.

Its hard to overstate the impact of that statement. So many companies decide to aggressively spend their IPO money to cement their industry positioning. The companys sales force, for example, is now 40% larger than it was a year ago. (Most of those new hires joined the company near the end of 2014 and are only now likely gaining traction with new clients).

But many investors soon grow frustrated with such an approach, questioning why profits arent growing faster than sales. Frankly, thats the perfect set-up I look for — especially if a company faces a still-robust long-term growth opportunity. And 3-D printing, despite the recent boom-and-bust of some high-profile stocks, is one of the most appealing growth niches in the industrial landscape.

Management has identified a payoff for the current heavy slate of spending on the sales force and R&D. The spending will help us to shift the total company revenue mix in favor of software sales. As a result, in the next two years gross margins will go up and operating expenses as a percentage of sales will start to come down, added CEO Vancraen.

Risks To Consider:The 3-D industry is becoming highly competitive, and as more companies develop a software focus, Materialise may see longer sales cycles.

Action To Take –The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding. Materialise is promising steady sales growth, coupled with an expansion in gross margins and a moderation in expense growth. If the company can deliver that formula over the next few quarters, look for this stock to move into the low teens. Over the next year, when investors no longer dismiss 3-D stocks in general, this stock has a clear shot of re-visiting its 52-week high in the mid-teens, which represents roughly 60% upside. Shares have begun to show newfound momentum, but considerable upside remains.

Oftentimes the little ideas are the big game changers — something like printing metal objects.My colleague Andy Obermueller devotes his time to identifying game-changing trends and the companies that should benefit from this. This has led readers to investments that went on to gain triple-digits.

More recently, Andy has been talking about the profit potential for Apples newest technology Apple Pay — and more importantlythe companys key suppliers. If you havent heard about this opportunity yet, then I urge you to check out his comprehensive report on how to profit from this technology, byclicking here.

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3D Printing Still Worth It?

While 3D printing was once hailed as being part of a new industrial revolution,investing in the 3D printing industryhas been a lot like riding a nauseating roller coaster for investors. Over the past five years, stocks for Stratasys and 3D Systems the two biggest names in the 3D printing sector have skyrocketed then fell. 3D Systems shot up more than 600 percent in three years, then fell to a four-year low last year, but is back up again now.

3D printing, otherwise known as additive manufacturing, is the technology that allows a machine to produce a three-dimensional object by layering successive layers of material. A variety of raw materials can be used in the process including plastic, ceramic, glass and precious metals. The technology is now making inroads in a number of industries including confectionery, automotive, aerospace, and defense, education and healthcare.

And there is no doubt that the technology will continue to thrive. The worldwide 3D printing industry is projected to grow to from $7.3 billion in 2016 to $12.7 billion in 2018, and $21.2 billion in 2020, according toWohlers Associates, who are considered experts in the 3D-printing market research.

While Stratasys and 3D Systems were the hottest stocks in the 3D printing industry at one point, HP might have been partially responsible for the sudden valuation decrease of these companys stocks. When the 2D printing giant introduced its Fusion Jet industrial 3D printer in 2015 and formed partnerships with many top-tier partners, including Nike and BMW, HP was seen as a substantial threat to 3D printing marketing share. HP claims its 3D printers, which print in polymers, are 10 times as fast and twice as cost efficient as other 3D printers.

Some analysts believe HPs inroads into the 3D printing space made buyers more hesitant to purchase 3D printers in order to see how the technology evolves. While HP will get far more revenue from sales of its traditional 2D printers and PCs, it could become a major player in the 3D printing world in the near future.

If you dont have the stomach for investing in companies focused on 3D printers, here are some other investment areas in the 3D printing space worth looking at.

Service-based 3D printing is doing well

3D printing services is another aspect of the 3D printing market that is seen as having substantial growth. While some in the 3D printing market have struggled, ProtoLabs has done quite well and is profitable. ProtoLabs is a quick-turn manufacturer and 3D printing service provider, who doesnt rely on customers buying equipment and then refilling material continuously, like other 3D printing companies. By operating a full service-based 3D printing company, Proto Labs has a notable competitive edge over 3D printing hardware manufacturers.

3D Designers seek 3D printing software

Another aspect of 3D printing that is expected to do quite well is 3D printing software. As more companies begin to use 3D printing technology, designers will use 3D design-oriented software. Autodesk, which creates premier software for engineers and architects, has also made headways with 3D printing software. It helps also that Autodesk created its own open-sourceEmber printer, which not only benefits the industry but the companys market share. Since Autodesk is widely diversified, it hasnt suffered the volatility of other 3D printing companies. Another 3D software company to watch is Dassault Systemes, which have been adding new functions to their CAD software packages that make 3D printing easier.

Automotive and Aerospace look for metal 3D printing

If investing directly into 3D printer manufacturers feels unsafe at the moment, investors can also look to metal 3D printing. The process has been used in high-profile projects like theSpaceX Falcon 9rocket engine. Major companies including Airbus, GE, and Boeing have made significant investments in metal 3D printing. When this process becomes more integrated into automotive and aerospace projects, it will only see more demand in the coming years.

There may be a few hundred materials for 3D printing materials, but traditional manufacturing has tens of thousands. Which means materials in 3D printing industry will continue to expand and may explode in the near future. EOS E-Manufacturing Solutions is a company to watch in this space.

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3D Printing – The Next Big Thing Coming to the ASX

Getting in on the ground floor with a next big thing stock is an investors dream. However, dreams of outsized returns in next big thing companies can at best turn into dreams deferred and at worst into nightmares. Aussie investors who bet on the Golden Age of Gas in Australia are still patiently waiting. While the potential remains, the negative perception of the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) boom and the Shale Gas Revolution may have made investors a bit sceptical about a new next big thing to come along.

What constitutes a next big thing varies, but in general it is safe to say anything that has the potential to change the way humans do things qualifies. Steam engines begat the Industrial Revolution and personal computers, modems, the Internet, and smartphones have ushered in the Information Revolution.

Investors who frequent the financial websites and other market news outlets around the world have probably been exposed to the hype and promise of a technology labelled 3D Printing as the latest next big thing. Those who prefer to keep their investment dollars at home may have not felt the need to research 3D Printing, since there is as yet no 3D Printing stock on the ASX.

That is about to change as Melbourne based 3D Group is reportedly eyeing a spot on the ASX through a reverse takeover. Traditional Initial Public Offerings (IPO) are costly. Taking over the CODE symbol of an existing ASX company with minimal assets and future prospects is a cost effective alternative. The plan is for tinyOz Brewing (OZB)(market cap of $2.4 million) to takeover privately held 3D Group for shares and options. There are some regulatory hoops, shareholder approvals, and a capital raise to jump through, but should the deal go through Oz Brewing would then stop brewing beer and get into the 3D printing business!

So what can Aussie investors expect from 3D Group? To address that question let us first briefly review 3D Printing technology and its upside and downside; and then look at the performance track record of four existing publicly traded 3D Printing stocks.

Additive Manufacturing is another term for 3D Printing but for whatever reason; the latter is now the descriptive phrase for the industry. Perhaps the explanation lies in the ease of visualizing the process in comparison to standard printers with which everyone is familiar. With the 2 dimensional printers, ink is deposited on a flat surface in shapes dictated by printer software. The simplest explanation for this new technology is it adds multiple layers of differing materials to build 3 dimensional shapes dictated by the software.

Additive Manufacturing for commercial and industrial use has been around since the 1980s, creating both product design prototypes and more recently replacement parts. If you take the time to read between the lines of what the skeptics say about the over-hyping of 3D printing technology, most of it is confined to consumer applications.

The futurists rave about the ability of this technology to allow consumers to create objects for their own use by themselves. The falling price of consumer 3D Printers over the last two years has put the hype in overdrive. Skeptics justifiably point out that as of right now, the consumer is limited to printing plastic objects no larger than a loaf of bread in a single color. In addition, the software needed to design your own custom household items is complicated and the printing process itself can take hours.

Futurists remind skeptics of the early days of single font, single color dot-matrix printers operating at a snails pace; not to mention the joys of staring at a blinking cursor trying to remember the MS DOS command needed to get the computer to do what you wanted it to do. Technologies like ink-jet infusion and laser printing changed all that and Windows revolutionized the PC world. Before the advent of browsers, navigating the Internet was more complicated than navigating MS DOS.

While the dream of a 3D printer in every home remains challenging, industrial and commercial uses of 3D Printing technology are expected to pick up speed as the costs of the large scale industrial printers drop and the technology continues to evolve.

Right now you have General Electric, Boeing, and Ford using 3D Printing technology to make parts. Nike printed cleats for its shoes used in the 2014 Super Bowl in the US and Hershey is designing and printing chocolates. In what would have seemed science fiction a few decades ago, 3D Printing is already used to create human body parts replacements, such as custom-fitted jawbones and orthopedic implants.

Large scale 3D printers are not limited to plastic; suitable materials include titanium, ceramics, wood, aluminum, powdered stainless steel, and gold and silver. From an investing point of view, the business model of 3D Printing companies is ideal, as revenue does not stop with the sale of the printer. Both privately held and publicly traded 3D Printing companies offer a range of supplies and services needed to keep the printers up and running, which means recurring revenue streams.

Independent research firm Canalys is one of several with robust growth estimates for this potentially disruptive technology. Canalys forecasts the sector revenues rising from $2.5 billion in 2013 to $3.8 billion in 2014. Over five years, the firm estimates a year-over-year growth rate of 45.7%. To put that in perspective, that is a 500% increase in five years. An analyst at the firm stated the sectorhas now moved from a new and much-hyped, but largely unproven, manufacturing process to a technology with the ability to produce real, innovative, complex and robust products.

Finally, although consumer adoption of 3d Printing faces more hurdles, investors should take note of the recent launch of the 3D Printing Store on . The store currently offers around 200 products that allow consumers to customize the product before it is produced via 3D printers. In addition, Hewlett Packard, the worlds largest printer manufacturer, is planning to introduce a consumer 3D Printer sometime in 2015.

With that brief overview of the technology, its applications, and its potential, let us now look at some publicly traded 3D Printing companies from US stock exchanges. The first two are industry leaders with decades of experience while the final two have been publicly traded for less than two years. Here is the table.

Additive Manufacturing was born at3D Systems Inc. (DDD)back in 1984 while rivalStratasys (SSYS)created the plastic infusion technology that led to the term 3D Printing. 3D Systems captured the imagination of investors with its relatively low cost consumer focused 3D Cube Printers. Not to be outdone, Stratasys bought the privately held company that produces a competitive consumer 3D printing line, MakerBot.

Both companies also operate in the industrial/commercial space and both have suffered year-to-date from waning investor enthusiasm as some analysts began using the dreaded bubble word to describe the dramatic rise in share prices. From Yahoo Finance US here is a one year price chart for the two companies.

The two newcomers to the sector have no consumer exposure and both have seen dwindling share prices. Back on 15 August of 2013 XONE closed at $63.49 while German-based Voxejet AG (VJX) that trades in the US under theAmerican Depository Reserve system (ADR)fell from its first day close of $28.80 to the current $15.81.

In addition to diminishing appetite for 3D Printing stocks, both these companies reported disappointing results on 14 August, further disappointing investors. Here is a one year chart for XONE and VJET.

With both 3D Systems and Stratasys already operating in Australia, why should Australian investors take any notice of a fledgling local start-up?

3D Group has designed and built one of the worlds largest industrial use 3D Printers, right here in Australia. This is a company with grand plans with a stated goal of becoming Australias leading integrated multi-platform 3D printing company. The companys strategy calls for the manufacture of custom-made 3D printers, and expansion of 3D Printing and related services for product development, healthcare, architecture, and even education. In order to better prepare young Australians for the jobs of the future, 3D Group intends to get 3D Printers in classrooms around the country. Finally, the company has an ambitious plan for Retail Kiosks, where consumers could have an item or even themselves scanned and transformed into a 3D image.

Grand plans require capital and the ASX listing is for the express purpose of raising funds for expansion. While the proposed reverse takeover calls for a capital raise in September, the shares are not expected to list on the ASX until mid-December. However, the reaction the announcement of the takeover made on 31 July may provide a clue. Here is a one month price chart for Oz Brewing (OZB).

The stock price has fallen back to earth a bit, perhaps as investors realized owning shares of OZB is no guarantee as the reverse takeover is still in the proposal stage. However, there is one more compelling reason to watch what happens with 3D Group, and it may prove to be the best reason of all.

The limitations of existing materials suitable for 3D Printing applications are well known, but advancements are bringing new materials into play. One of those materials is something called Graphene.

Even the most ardent skeptic would have to admire the properties of this graphite/carbon based material. A sheet of graphene is as thin as a sheet of cling film, yet it is 200 times stronger than steel and tougher than diamonds. It can be stretched and best of all, it conducts electricity.

The race is on to enable a Graphene enhanced material suitable for use with 3D Printing. On 10 July of 2014 3D Group entered into a joint partnership with ASX listed graphite mining companyKibaran (KNL)to form a research and development company called 3D Graphtec Industries for the express purpose of pursuing patents and collaborative partnerships to further the application of graphite and graphene in 3D printing.

Investors liked what they heard and the KNL stock price came close to tripling before falling off. Here is a three month chart.

Australian investors are not alone in their blood-pumping response to the potential of Graphene. On 11 August a Canadian company called Graphene 3D Lab also used the reverse takeover to go public on the TSX V (Toronto Stock Venture Exchange). The company focuses on the development of high-performance graphene-enhanced materials for 3D Printing. It began trading under the symbol GGG.V and shot up from $0.40 to $1.20 in three days. Here is the chart, from Yahoo Finance Canada.

There are other ways to play the 3D Printing potential, including software manufacturers; but based on market reaction to these Graphene related stocks, miners of the graphite needed for Graphene would seem to be another place to start looking.

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Hawkish observers of the 3D printing markets have long been hesitant about opportunities to invest in 3D printing stock. There are multiple reasons for said hesitance. 3D printing has remained, since its inception, a very niche market full of more impassioned prosumers than consumers, lending it to the constant rumours of bursting bubbles and waning interest. Another reason is thatthe modern wave of the industry gained prominence during a recession, i.e. the worst time to be investing (low disposable income, low market confidence, businesses crashing left right and centre etc.). But it begs the question: is the industry ready for an investment boom in 2017?

Originally Retrieved from Motley Fool

Looking at the recent numbers being reported,one can see that 3D Systems stock value has risen about 24% in January. This would lead one to assume its a good time to invest? Well, not exactly. Thestock value has risen due to rumours of a buyout from General Electric, not due to some new landmark technological research or advancement in the field. This sort of hearsay-based investment is ill-advised. It can have a definite backlash if the rumours do not pan out.Not to say its a badstockby any means.As far as we know the buy-out could happen (after all,GE have previously shown increased investment in 3D Printing on their own part). Even if it doesnt acquire the company, that wont detract from the fact that 3D Systems stock value has doubled since last year.

So thats just one stock. Are there any other signs giving us valid reason to expect the market to turn north? 3D printing companies are certainly not backing away.

Renishaw is pushing forward with new facilities and B2B programs to give hands-on support to fellow companies. Companies are in an arms race to find thebest and fastest method for metallic additive manufacturing. Additionally, desktop 3D printing surprised everyone last year. Many considered it a goner. The industry remained stable, much to the surprise of the skeptics.

Also helping the case,2016 was one of the best years for the robotics industry. Its a good indicator when industries that are adjacent to 3D printing are doing well in the markets. The rising tide lifts all ships, as they say. This is leading many keen observers to speculate that it might trickle into 3D printing as well.

Public sector funding is also on the rise.

The Israeli defence ministry is teaming up with Nano Dimension to produce new materials.This is in an effort to boost aeronautics and space travel. Thats a big win for R and D and manufacturing. Government funding (particularly military) often means theres serious potential in an industry.

The UK has also dabbled in pushing money around for the 3D printing industry. Personally, Id expect other governments to follow suit soon. There are multiple avenues for funding. The usual suspects are medical equipment and aeronautics. Those seem to benefit governments the most and thus pique their interests.

Thats all the good news. No harbingers of doom. Relative smooth sailing from the looks of it. Does it sound too good to be true? Thats because theres a catch:

You have to be well-informed about 3D printing and the market in general to make the right choices. 3D printing is a very wide blanket term for a vast number of very different technologies. Only a few companies have the potential to research and develop multiple forms of additive manufacturing. So by choosing between companies, you will also be choosing between types of 3D Printing.

Some are working with plastics only, some with plastics and metals and others with biomaterials. These are all different fields under a large umbrella dubbed 3D printing for convenience sake. Then there are the methods themselves.SLS, SLM,CLIP, 3D Inkjet and so on. They all use vastly different technologies. Saying youre investing in 3D printing is like saying youre investing in the automobile industry. Its too vague a statement and there are tons of competing companies involved.

At this point, all the companies have drawn lines in the sand and hedged their bets on one type of printing or another. Seeing as how the industry has not found a one size fits all solution to additive manufacturing, you will have to do your research into which companies you want to fund. Technologies will go in and out of fashion during this period. New ones will constantly emerge. New methods and new materials may also pop up till a dominant form takes over the market.

The best advice right now: invest in a company that works with multiple types of AM. Thats the safest move on the board. Even that doesnt guarantee that some fledgling producer might invent a landmark printing method in their garage. Itshappened before.

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Wealth Daily

Last week, I got an email from one of the readers of my investing service,. Id just written about one of our positions that hasnt been living up to expectations. And my reader, Gloria H., wanted to know what about this company made me so sure that it was a good long-term investment.

First, let me start by telling you that this was a poorly timed investment. I had been watching the stock for several months and it had gone on an incredible run up nearly 82% on the year.

That was a pretty big run compared to its industry peers, so I was holding off until I saw the stock track back down to a more reasonable level. After a 15% correction, I made the call and we entered our position.

I thought I had timed it pretty well. The stock started to move up almost as soon as we bought. But the market always likes to remind us when weve gotten overconfident in our ability to time it. And thats exactly what happened here.

The correction continued after that bounce we got. And our investment ended the year down over 20%.

But there are still both short-term and long-term catalysts that make this a desirable investment, and Im still very bullish on the company in question. And thats exactly what I told my readers in an update last week.

Thats what led to the following request. Gloria H. wrote:

I purchased SSYS and watched it go to $130. I sold as soon as it dropped below $100. The products take too long to make, and the strength needed to keep them from collapsing from outside pressure is questionable. Explain what is being done about these problems that would make SSYS a reliable investment. Thanks.

Well, first off, thank you, Gloria, for asking. I relish every opportunity to help my readers as much as possible. And having active members like you makes that possible.

So, to answer Glorias question, I want to talk about the company and its industry in my article today.

In the early part of this decade, analysts and newsletter writers across the globe were pumping the 3D printing industry. It was going to change the world overnight. It was going to revolutionize everything from manufacturing to health care. And every little company in it was going to give investors a quadruple-digit profit.

For a while, those claims were true at least the ones about the massive stock gains. With thousands of analysts so bullish on the industry, investments flooded in. And every company with a hand in the game saw its stock price balloon.

Between January 2010 and January 2014, industry behemoth 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) saw its stock go from around $7 to nearly $100, a 1,167% gain. The other big name in the game the biggest at the time and the company currently in question Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) saw even more profit come rolling in. Its stock went up nearly 1,700% in the same period.

But when those earth-shattering changes didnt occur, and when the interest in this new technology started to wane, stocks came crashing down to earth.

DDD lost 94% of its all-time-high value. Stratasys dropped from over $130 a share all the way down to less than $15. And they fell even faster than theyd risen to those meteoric heights.

But the changes those writers and analysts were predicting kept on coming. They just came much slower than the writers predicted and investors had hoped.

The thing was that3D printingwas an extremely new technology. And it was also extremely expensive. It needed time to advance if it was really going to be as widely used as those writers had claimed.

Over the past four years, its done exactly that. Back in 2014, when stock prices started their rapid decline, there were tons of companies in the industry. And each of them had a specialty. Some were working on metal printing tech. Others were focused on big projects like those in the automotive and aerospace industry. Some were even focused on 3D printing of organs and medical devices.

But with revenues falling and stock prices crashing, many of those companies were nearing deaths door. They needed massive inflows of capital to keep their businesses running.

And thats when DDD and SSYS stepped in to go on a shopping spree. By May 2015, DDD had spent around $200 million scooping up over 50 smaller competitors. Stratasys didnt buy as many companies, but instead went after bigger targets. It shelled out well over $2 billion for nine companies. But those nine companies gave Stratasys a leg up on DDD in the printer manufacturing market. 82% of its targets were making 3D printers. Only about 18% of 3D Systems purchases fit into that category.

While all this buying was going on, however, Stratasys was also growing organically. It stepped up research and development spending by 135% to $122 million in 2015. And much of that spending went into creating software that makes the user experience much more enjoyable and that makes the process of creating a template and printing a finished product much easier.

Now, Stratasys is the industry leader in an industry thats projected to grow by 25%26% a year for the next five years.

You see, even during the down years for 3D printing stocks, demand was still growing for the services and products the companies provided.

And its projected to grow much more in the near- and long-term future. More and more engineers, designers, architects, and entrepreneurs are using 3D solutions for primary designing and product modeling. And many companies are using 3D-printed parts to reduce weight, cost, and production time. Biotech companies are even using it to print medical devices and organs.

In fact, a recent report fromMarketsAndMarketssuggests the industry could grow to $32.78 billion by 2023. Thats a compound average growth rate of nearly 26% a year.

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And, as the biggest player in the field, Stratasys stands to see massive revenue growth as the industry more than quadruples in size from just two years ago.

In 2015, 3D printing was a$5.165 billion industry.And Stratasys controlled 13.5% of the market. That means, without even growing its market share, SSYS stands to see revenues over $4.4 billion in 2023. Thats 557% growth from current levels.

And as all the cost synergies from its acquisitions fall in line, thats going to mean massive earnings growth to drive stock prices much higher.

But Im convinced that Stratasys will have an even bigger market share by that time. And its because of the massive partnerships its been inking over the past years. Those are helping the company capture even more of the market with every big-name company that comes on board.

Stratasys already has partnerships with Ford, Boeing, Siemens, Schneider Electric, Boom Supersonic, and United Launch Alliance (ULA). And it recently inked new ones with Airbus and Phillips.

Look at those names. Automotive industry? Check. Energy? Check, check. Health care? Check, check, check. Aerospace industry? Quadruple check.

Some of the biggest names in the biggest industries are already using Stratasys technology to streamline production, reduce weight, increase strength, and grow market share.

Just the fact that Boeing, Airbus, Boom, and ULA are using 3D-printed parts should show you that a lot has changed since 2014. The parts are stronger than metal. Theyre strong enough for Boeing and Airbus to be comfortable putting them on jet airliners. Strong enough for Boom to use them on its supersonic transport. Strong enough to be launched into space.

And as far as speed is concerned, there are two other partners that really drive home the point of how fast Stratasys printers have gotten. Both Team Penske in NASCAR and McLaren Racing collaborated with Stratasys to print parts for their racecars.

McLaren even has a Stratasys printer in its pit at Formula 1 races. And how fast does Stratasys have to be to turn heads at these two racing companies? Well, just consider that the average pit stop in NASCAR takes about 13 seconds. The average time to pit in Formula 1 races? Around three to four seconds. Thats really fast. Really, really fast. Some teams even have it down to under two seconds:

And both Penske and McLaren trust Stratasys printers to be able to keep up. If a part breaks on the track, they print a new one, pit the car, replace the part, and send the driver screaming back onto the track.

Moves into metal and composite plastics have led to much greater strength from 3D-printed products. And a half a decade of R&D has made the printers easier to use and much faster at completing a project.

I see some very big things in the future for Stratasys. I liked the stock at $27. I like it even more at $23.

This is the top company in an industry that seems to have been forgotten about by many investors. And its an industry thats poised to grow by tens of billions of dollars in the next five years.

Stratasys is presenting Q4 earnings and revenue early in March. Management has beat expectations in three out of the past four quarters by an average of 134%. Im sure were going to see that continue in March.

For the most recent quarter (4Q17), I see revenues up about 12% over last quarter. I see earnings up around 85% over last quarter thanks to cost-cutting strategies and synergies. For the full year (2017), I see 60% earnings growth over 2016.

Going forward, I see even more growth. Im looking for 140% year-over-year earnings growth next quarter. This year (2018), Im looking for 40% earnings growth over 2017. And over the next five years, I expect Stratasys to outpace the industry and hit an average growth rate of 35% per year.

Were finally going to see the earth-shattering changes we were promised back in 2010. And theyre going to be even bigger than the most bullish analysts were predicting.

Last, but not least, if youre interested in more research like this and more long-term investments promising big returns, I recommend youtakeThe Wealth Advisoryfor a test drive.Not only do we keep our investors up to date and informed about market conditions and all our recommendations, but weve been beating Wall Street by leaps and bounds since the service was created. Were currently up 700% over the S&P 500s returns. And were continuing to grow those winnings every day.

After graduating Cum Laude in finance and economics, Jason analyzed complex projects and budgets for the U.S. Army. Then, at Morgan Stanley, he led the assistants team for the North American repo sales desk, responsible for hundreds of multibillion-dollar trades every day. Jason is the assistant editor forThe Wealth Advisoryincome stock newsletter. He also contributes regularly toWealth Daily. To learn more about Jason,click here.

A small biotech company is about todisrupt a multibillion-dollar industry.

Its going to lead tothe downfall of one of the most powerful companies in history.

And its going to provide early investors withunheard-of profits.

You can learn more about it byclicking hereand watching the presentation my colleague, Jason Stutman editor ofTechnology and OpportunityandThe Cutting Edge released yesterday.

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3 Questions to Ask Before Investing in Tech

Tech investing is like building a puzzle drunk in a windstorm. It is easy to mistake a doomed company for a winner… but dont give up on the industry.

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Apple is quietly working on a secret new device, code-named Project Iris. Its positioned to completely disrupt the consumer electronics market and spark an incredible investment opportunity in the process.

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CES is the perfect opportunity to learn more about emerging technologies and the investment opportunities that come with them. Heres why.

Buffetts Envy: 50% Annual Returns, Guaranteed

Warren Buffett once told investors at an annual shareholder meeting, …its a huge structural advantage not to have a lot of money. I think I could make you 50% a year on $1 million. No, I know I could. I guarantee that.

Buffett later went on to talk about one incredible advantage that average, smaller investors have over Berkshire. Point blank, The Oracle of Omaha envies people like you because you can invest in small cap stocks and he cant.

Join our community of over 400,000 readers at Wealth Daily today for FREE, and get started with three of our top small-cap tech stock picks the kinds of high-return investments Warren Buffet now can only dream of making.SubscribeSign up to receive your free report. After signing up, youll begin receiving the Wealth Daily e-letter daily.Learn aboutWealth Dailyand ourPrivacy PolicyTop RatedTrending Articles

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5 Private 3D Printing Companies for Investors to Watch

While the 3D Printing Industry seems to have fallen out of favor with investors, the investment thesis hasnt changed. This is a high growth disruptive technology that is expected to have tremendous growth in the coming years. While 3D printing investors can purchase theNanalyze 3D Printing Stocks motiffor a diversified portfolio of pure-play stocks, they should also pay close attention to startups that may look to challenge the dominant publicly traded 3DP companies. TakeCarbon3Dfor example, a company that expects to print at speeds up to1000X fasterthan what is possible today. Heres a look at 5 more 3D printing startups that investors should keep an eye on.

Founded in2013, Amsterdam based startup 3D Hubs has taken in$4.5 millionin funding so far to create a network that allows everyone to access a 3D printer without having to own one. With +25,000 locations worldwide, the Company claims to be providing over one billion people with access to 3D printing within 10 miles of their home. To use the service, simply upload your 3D printing file and select a 3D printer (referred to as a hub) based on price and available materials. These hubs are everywhere:

The hub you select will then respond in 24 hours with a confirmation. You can choose to pick up the item or have it shipped. 3D Hubs takes a 15% commission on each transaction.

Founded in2011out of MIT, Formlabs has taken in around$21 millionso far to develop an affordable line of 3D printers with Draper Fisher Jurvetson as their lead investor. Formlabs launched their first printer,the Form 1, on Kickstarter and successfully raised nearly $3 million in what was one of the most successfulcrowdfundingcampaigns ever. Their latest printer, the Form 2, is touted as the most advanced desktop 3D printer every created and comes with a price tag of $3,499. This stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer uses its own proprietary resin cartridges to produce objects of exceptional detail according to the reviews weve read. At that price point youd certainly hope so.

Founded in2010from technology developed at Oxford University, this British company has taken in just under$13 millionin funding so far to develop theirportable 3D scanner called Scanify. At a price point of $1,400, were not sure wed call that affordable but Fuel3D thinks it is relative to what you get; the worlds first handheld point-and-shoot, full color 3D scanner. The Company claims that this price is just one tenth the price of the nearest competing product. Scanify was first introduced through a successfulKickstarter campaignin 2013 which let you pre-order Scanify for just $1,000 and ultimately raised $325,343. Just last week, the Company introduced head and hand scanners at CES 2016 along with acloud-basedprocessing of 3D images that you scan.

Founded in2005, this Irish company has taken in around$31 millionin funding so far to develop their line of full-color 3D printers that are unlike anything youve seen before. This printer uses paper like any other color printer but also hallows you to print in 3D using paper! These printers use sheets of standard business A4 and letter paper, an adhesive dispensing system and atungsten-tip blade to cut the shape resulting in incredible outputs as seen below:

Mcor now sells 3 different printers at price points of $30,000 and up, with their most recent printer being theworlds first full-colour desktop 3D printer. While you wont necessarily be buying one to tool around with in your garage, these printers are a viable option to purchasing an equivalent industrial 3D printer which could cost up to $1 million. Wouldnt this company make a great acquisition candidate for HP (NYSE:HPQ)?

Founded in2007as a spinoff of Philips electronics,Dutch company Shapeways has taken in$75 millionin funding so far to develop their 3D printing marketplace and community which allows users to upload their designs and have them printed. Users can also create their own stores on the Shapeways platform to sell their designs which are printed using over 20 types of plastics and metals and then shipped by Shapeways to the customer. According toa Techcrunch article published in July 2015, Shapeways has printed over 2.5 million products with 150,000+ designs uploaded monthly to their site. The Company counts HP (NYSE:HPQ) as one of their investors leading us to wonder if this might be another attractive acquisition candidate for HP.

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The Profit Potential from 3D Printing is Massive

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When I first started writing about3D printing, most investors viewed it as a futuristic gee-whiz concept and had no idea it was actually a here-and-now technology they could make money on.

And the mainstream news media didnt seem to know that this 3D technology even existed.

Today, as you know, many of the 3D stocks (including some that Ive identified) have soared and then fallen back to earth. Some pundits claim this was nothing but hype or another tech bubble that now has burst.

Still others are writing this off as little more than a novelty niche.

With 3D printing, were in the earliest stages of whats destined to become an entire new industry.

And, as Im going to show youtoday, the profit potential ismassive.

So massive, in fact, that even toy companies are making a play for market share.

Wobble Works LLC, a toy and robotics maker, has unveiled a pen called the 3Doodler that allows you to draw three-dimensional forms (in a demo video, the user draws a tiny desktop model of the Eiffel Tower its awesome!).

Even though 3Doodler was created by a toymaker, the fast-developing 3D printing world opens the door to some serious business potential, as well.

3Doodler makes it possible for all kinds of creative types to draw such 3D designs as bridges, towers and cars making it a great potential tool for engineers, architects and designers who want to quickly transform an idea into a basic prototype. All you have to do is draw out your idea on a piece of paper.

Or even in the air for that matter

What 3Doodler has done is to lay a foundation for a new 3D printing segment low-cost, portable machines that will unshackle these creative users. Laptops had the same effect when they were introduced in the 1980s: Office-workers were no longer shackled to their desks or their desktop PCs. They were able to work wherever they wanted.

Tablets and smartphones have furthered that trend.

The same will happen with low-cost 3D printer/prototyping devices. They will allow creative work to be done anywhere at any time.

3Doodlers debut is important to investors for three main reasons.

First, as a proof of business concept, Wobble Works has raised nearly $2 million on crowdsourcing site , where you can view a video of the pen in actionhere.

Second, it will help open the lower-end of the market to a whole new group of buyers who might be put off by the price of todays $1,300 entry-level printers.

And finally, 3Doodler shows how quickly this market is moving in a trend that is destined to bring us lots more profit plays.

Last week,I told you howa new alliance between software leaderAutodesk Inc.(Nasdaq:ADSK)and tiny bioprinting firmOrganovo Holdings Inc. (OTC:ONVO)will transform drug discovery and organ transplants.

In the past, Ive also have told you about the huge success and massive stock gains for industry leader3D Systems Corp. (NYSE: DDD)as well its arch rivalStratasys Ltd.(NasdaqGS: SSYS).

Today, I want to tell you about three more ways you can play the 3D printing market.

Right now,The ExOne Co.(NasdaqGM: XONE)is probably best known for its recent successful IPO. Priced at $18, shares rose 25% on the first day of trading Feb. 7.

Since then, the companys top brass has gotten more serious about proving its not just a me-too company.

Indeed, CEOKent Rockwellrecently toldInvestors Business Dailyhe see sharp differences between ExOne and the two biggest firms in the market, 3D Systems and Stratasys. (Until a recent correction, both had been among the markets top-performing stocks.)

Unlike those bigger firms, ExOne focuses exclusively on large industrial firms such as aerospace, automotive and heavy-equipment makers. More importantly, Rockwell says, ExOnes printers can handle a wider range of materials.

These tougher materials allow ExOne printers to make production-grade objects and castings from stainless steel, bronze, glass, and ceramics.

ExOne is also working on ways to use titanium, tungsten carbide, aluminum and magnesium stock-in-trade materials for heavy industry.

For its part,Proto Labs Inc.(NYSE: PRLB)doesnt flash its 3D printing credentials. Instead, the firm bills itself as a high-speed provider of prototypes and small batch runs of the injection-molded plastic parts that are integral to a wide range of modern products and components.

Its a unique view. Where 3D Systems and Stratasys see themselves as printer companies, Proto Labs believes its selling solutions to customer problems. Its selling fast-delivery times a service that designers and engineers can use to quickly transform their three-dimensional designs into actual parts.

Proto Labsturns out those parts using a process known as computer numerical code. It uses engineering-grade resins as well as metals. The firms Protomold plastic injection service offers designers hundreds of materials to choose from.

The firm went public in February 2012. It says its strategy or philosophy works particularly well for such markets as medical devices, electronics, appliances, automotive and consumer products.

Even though its a household name,iRobot Corp.(NasdaqGS: IRBT),remains the most speculative 3D printing play.

Thats because its still in the early stages of making its move into the sector. The firm is best known for its range of military and home-cleaning robots.

But it does have a unique idea that could have a huge impact on how a wide range of products are made not to mention a new source of sales for this small-cap leader.

Simply stated, it wants to automate the entire 3D printing process. iRobot says thats the idea behind a newRobotic Fabricatorfor which the firm recently filed for patent protection.

As iRobot sees it, 3D printing still involves too much human input which is inefficient.

iRobot still hasnt said if it will sell the fabricators to other firms or simply use them to boost profits.

As I said at the outset, 3D printing stocks have come under pressure after enjoying quite a run.

Here in theEra of Radical Change, were watching the birth of a crucial new industry.

That doesnt happen often. But when it does, the profit opportunities are massive.

Well continue to steer you toward the most-bullish opportunities, and will help you avoid the bearish traps.

And well provide the detailed progress reports that youve come to expect from us all along the way.

3D Printing: How Desktop Factories Will Create the Next $1 Trillion Industry

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Michael A. Robinsonis one of the top financial analysts working today. His book Overdrawn: The Bailout of American Savings was a prescient look at the anatomy of the nations S&L crisis, long before the word bailout became part of our daily lexicon. Hes a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and reporter, lauded by the Columbia Journalism Review for his aggressive style. His 30-year track record as a leading tech analyst has garnered him rave reviews, too. Today he is the editor of the monthly tech investing newsletterNova-X Reportas well asRadical Technology Profits, where he covers truly radical technologies ones that have the power to sweep across the globe and change the very fabric of our lives and profit opportunities they give rise to. He also explores whats next in the tech investing world atStrategic Tech Investor.

Tags:3d printer companies3d printers3D printing3d printing business3D printing companies3d printing companies stock3d printing companies to invest in3d printing service3D printing technologypublicly traded 3d printing companiesrapid prototyping companies

Dont feel bad for making this mistake, a lot of companies have been, but protolabs is not a 3D printing company. The use subtractive manufacturing methods, not additive. CNC instead of 3D printing. I finally got Investors Business Daily to stop calling it a 3D printing company just a couple weeks ago.

I do own the company though, as they have a lot going for them 3D printing cant do everything yet.

I just purchased a portabee 3d printer. its awesome and portable too, love your take on the printing pen, exciting times in 3d printing 🙂

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3D Printing Equities And Industry Overview

Although this technology has existed for decades, a large price drop from the expiration of Stratasys patent has spurred new manufacturing affordability.

Broadly speaking, 3D printing is the process of fused deposition modeling, which is the construction of objects that utilize technologies to build objects under computer control.

3D printing covers a broad range of industries, which means developing an investment strategy around 3D printing presents various challenges.

Firms focused on manufacturing investments, along with the manufacturing entities themselves, are likely assessing the feasibility of integrating 3D printing into their business models to increase efficiency and long-term returns. Similarly, investors with a long-term strategy are curious about this technology, which has emerged quickly. To inspire confidence in long-term positions, the industry evolved from a niche interest of a few small startups to a maturing industry with major players such as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and General Electric (GE) participating. However, investors should pursue investment in equities associated with 3D printing with caution.

With the recent maturity of the technology, many profitable stocks have seen dramatic drops in stock prices as losses mounted, and questions about their long-term viability arose. While many have referred to 3D printing as a third industrial revolution due to its applications across many industries and diverse product lines, market forces pushing some 3D printing companies to commoditization and others to specialization have altered the investment landscape in this industry. This analysis proposes investors should avoid long-term positions, but understanding the key players and technology is critical for understanding why.

Broadly defined, 3D printing is the processoffused deposition modeling(FDM), which is the construction of objects that utilize technologies to build objects under computer control. Like printers that print to paper, the technology uses a digital file to instruct the printer to create the shape. The printers build three-dimensional parts layer-by-layer by heating and extruding material.Materials can vary widely, which may include plastics, composites, metals, even organic substances, and food.

Although this technology has existed for a few decades, a large price drop following the expiration of thepatentowned by Stratasys (SSYS) on the FDM process allowed the technology to be applied at a more affordable cost. Today, 3D printing encompasses multiple applications spread over a wide variety of industries. The concept began originally as an outgrowth of inkjet printing in the 1970s, and in 1984Charles Hull, the founder of 3D Systems (DDD), applied the technology to create a three-dimensional object.

3D printing covers a broad range of industries, which means developing an investment strategy around 3D printing presents various challenges. Many of the more prominent companies approach 3D printing in a general sense. HP Inc. (NYSE:HPQ), long an industry leader in inkjet printing, has introduced itsHP Jet Fusion 3D 4200/3200 Printing Solution. This includes a printer, a build unit, and a processing station that allows for quality monitoring. The system also allows for additions during the printing process. It uses a low-cost thermoplastic that optimizes cost and part quality.

Also, 3D Systems, the company which largely started the industry, remains important today. The company is involved in awide variety of 3D printing applications, including automotive, aerospace, healthcare, dental, durable goods, entertainment, training, and of course, the 3D printers and raw materials themselves. Whilerevenue grew by more than fivefoldbetween 2009 and 2014, growth eventually leveled off, and the losses mounted in 2015. The stock reacheda high of over $96/share in 2013, but when losses increased, the stock price fell to just under $7 by 2016. Though losses were reduced and the stock has approximately doubled in value from the 2016 low, 3D Systems has yet to return to profitability.

Stratasys is another manufacturer of 3D printers.Stratasys grew its revenueby over sevenfold between 2009 and 2014. However, like 3D Systems, that growth has since leveled off with modest levels of net income becoming large losses.The stock saw a dropfrom over $134/share in 2013 to around $17/share by 2016. With modest profits suddenly becoming substantial losses, the risk profile of both Stratasys and 3D Systems dramatically increased. Moreover, technological advances by other firms have further dampened recovery prospects for both Stratasys and 3D Systems. A Silicon Valley-based company called Carbon has developed a Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) technology that incorporates a wide variety of materials. Due to the companys private listing, the financial information is not currently available to the public.

Other companies have capitalized on the trend for products made of multiple materials by taking a manufacturing-based approach.) produces products based on 3D printing and other manufacturing methods. Additionally, as products and technologies evolve, Proto Labs can adjust manufacturing techniques to the needs of the customer. From an investment perspective, this approach has worked well. Although thestock price peaked at over $86/share in 2013,Proto Labsstock did not see the dramatic share price decline that befell many of its competitors. The stock trades at around $72/share at the time of this publication, and it hasmaintained profitabilitythroughout this decade.

What appears to be happening is a bifurcation of 3D printing. On one side are companies such as 3D Systems or Stratasys sell single-material printers, and on the other side, entities like Proto Labs produce 3D printed products using multiple materials. Both 3D Systems and Stratasys have seen their printers become commoditized and face increasing competition from GE (NYSE:GE),HPInc., and other large players. Conversely,Proto Labs -with a product offering more difficult to replicate than selling printers – has been less affected by its competitors.

Another factor less often discussed is their involvement in diverse and otherwise unrelated industries. A 3D print of a human liver has little relation to the creation of a cam shaft by a printer, outside of both falling under the umbrella of 3D printing. As the 3D printing process becomes more commoditized, that umbrella is likely to become less relevant. Companies that utilize multiple materials for more specialized 3D printing applications are likely to hold on to their identity as 3D printers for a longer time. Conversely, single material, 3D printing generalists could see industry specific divisions spin off. GE, which also acquired Arcam AB and SLM Solutions Group, is rumored to be interested in buying 3D Systems. If that merger were to occur, GE could simply classify its 3D printing under its aviation, power, water or other divisions that correspond to a respective industry.

This industry evolution also calls into question the direction of the only exchange traded fund (ETF) in this industry, which is appropriately named). Its holdings include MGI Digital Graphic Technology SA, 3D Systems, The ExOne Company, and K2M Group Holdings. The fund has a yield of 0.01% and an expense ratio of 0.66%. Since its inception date on July 18, 2016, the ETF has risen over 20% from itsissue price of $20. However, that continued direction could be in doubt if the definition of the industry itself experiences a dramatic shift. As other industries absorb parts of 3D printing into other industries, the fund will have to decide whether it wants to become a more generalized industrial ETF or remake itself on what remains of the 3D printing industry.

Although 3D printing remains a space with potential for large investor growth, the stock performance of some major industry players, as well as evolving 3D printing technologies, are changing the investment landscape. Due to 3D printings expansive industry reach, as well as both startup companies and established industrial conglomerates contributing to the industrys growth, manufacturing companies at all levels are affected.

While the diversity of the 3D printing industry can be confusing to investors, understanding this industry could become more straightforward if 3D printing is defined by the types of products produced. Since the materials and 3D printers involved in building human organs versus automotive parts are different, these segments of 3D printing could be classified as separate industries in the future. No matter how this industry is ultimately defined, manufacturers and consumers can expect both change and innovation. For these reasons, investors can expect opportunity, but it is likely better observed than vested.

Disclosure:I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure:The information offered herein is a result of secondary data analysis aimed to support investment portfolio strategy among the readership of Seeking Alpha and associated readers. Dr. Chicotsky is not employed or contracted to represent the interests of any companies included in the article.

Seeking Alpha pays for exclusive articles. Payment calculations are based on a combination of coverage area, popularity and quality.

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Its Time To Buy 3D Printing Stocks

After a tough 12 months its time to buy 3D printing stocks again.

Youre likely familiar with theconcept of 3D printingby now. Technically known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is the process of laying down successive layers of material tobuild objects of almost any shape.

Industrial printers use a variety of materials to print objects. Plastics are the most common material used, although metals and even wood are being increasingly used as printer jets and software become more sophisticated.

3D printing stocks soared in popularity over the last few years as the technology became more affordable and the companies enjoyed rapid growth.

For instance, from 2010 to the end of 20133D Systems (NYSE:DDD)rallied more than 2,000%. The hot market led to several public offerings for companies that had been in the game for years, though performance was mixed.

TheExOne Company (Nasdaq:XONE)rallied more than 300% after going public in late 2013, whileMaterialize (Nasdaq:MTLS)has fallen steadily from a high of $14 to under $10 since going public in June 2014.

While the timing of these IPOs led to significantly different returns in the months after going public, and the broad group fell on tough times in late 2014, one thing remains clear: 3D printing is not a fad, and there remains room in the industry for many companies to thrive.

The technology is reshaping manufacturing processes around the world. Use of printers is moving beyond prototyping, hobbyist use and small-scale manufacturing, and becoming a reality in full-scale production lines.

The benefit of greater speed, tighter tolerances and lower cost means that 3D printers will be fully integrated into manufacturing lines around the world within a few years.

Today, the global market for additive manufacturing is around $4 billion. Consulting firm Wohlers Associates states that in just five years, that market size is expected to swell by more than four times, to $21 billion.

Over the next few years expect to see printer prices come down, capabilities go up and material use diversify. Despite the potential, excitement over the revolutionary process has died down a bit. And so have lofty valuations for publicly traded 3D printing stocks.

Its also safe to say that the 3D printer industry is ripe for consolidation. Over the last couple of years weve seen many small deals done, and I fully expect that the next two years will bring larger and larger deals.

While the 3D printing industry has come a long way from its beginning in the 1980s, it is still a very fragmented market. Traditional printer behemoths such asHewlett-Packard(NYSE:HPQ)are just now getting into a game that is currently dominated by several smaller players.

As we move into 2015 look for 3D printing stocks to find a bottom and start rising again. Add exposure gradually by averaging in, and I expect that youll be well rewarded in future years.

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