3D printing made some headlines this year, both positive and controversial. The duality of the technology doesn’t detract from the fact that it will provide exciting new possibilities to businesses and consumer builders-inventors. But what does the immediate future hold?
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The future is growth, says Stratysas co-founder Scott Crump, and for his company’s sake, it better be. Stratysas – the world’s second largest 3d printing company and builder of MakerBot – netted $8.5 million on revenue of $215 million last year and is trading up over 60% on the year, hitting a $6 billion market cap. No matter what happens in the 3D printing tech game in the coming years, Stratasys is all in.
One area of the space valuable to businesses and entrepreneurs is the prototyping application, allowing products to come together faster and cheaper, and production to begin in a smaller timeframe. That space continues to grow, says Crump. “The fastest growing part of the company is in the fabrication areas, where the actual parts are being used in the end product,” he added. Building the cogs for production is also part of that application. That kind of production capability has been a boon to the automotive, orthodontics and aerospace industries.
“I think we’re the very beginning of an expansion into a huge manufacturing application where, in my view, there’s a quiet revolution going on where the traditional way of starting with a block of material and then machining it away (will be) expanded by offering an additive manufacturing tool that starts with nothing really efficiently – with typically high yield – builds up the part,” says Crump.
Investors seem to be buying into the developing technology: both Stratasys and its larger competitor, 3D Systems Corp. have seen giant jumps in trader interest. 3D Systems, in particular, has seen a 142% leap in value. Stratasys has almost doubled revenue over the past three years.
The new printing system of adding to – not taking away – material adds height to a market with an already high ceiling. “Just in the jigs and fixtures alone we feel in the US it’s about an existing $40 billion industry that we’re going after,” Crump says.
On the more distant horizon, when will we see a 3D printer in every home? Crump can’t say for sure but predicts it will catch on with education and niche consumers first. “Schools will us the 3D printer as a teaching tool, so they learn CAD (computer-aided design) and they output those designs on the 3D printers,” he said. Crump likens the question to a similar one posed to Steve Jobs 30 years ago: why would you use it in a home? The applications have to be realized through the technology. “When this is starting to be used more and more by the adult artist at home or the kids using it as a toy output – or it being a toy – I think we’re probably four or five years (away).”
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