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Who Are the Winners in 3D Printer Products and Technologies?

on Sep 4 2014 , 10:43:45

3D printing is a fast moving market with several new printers and start ups emerging every week. So any answer will be extremely time sensitive. 

For the moment there are a number of winners: 

Stratasys & 3D Systems are winners because they are a beacon for investor cash excited about 3D printing. Their market caps and sheer size let them buy up much smaller companies easily. Especially 3D Systems has used this to buy themselves momentum. Buy company, make news, stock goes up, acquisition is essentially near free, rinse, repeat.

The companies are both poised to make real impact in the manufacturing sector with Stratasys  and 3D Systems working on high throughput 3D printing technologies for consumer electronics, aerospace, automotive & medical applications. Both companies, and especially 3D Systems, have an integration challenge ahead by uniting different units inside their companies. 

SLM Solutions, EOS, Concept Laser, Realizer, Pom Group, Trumpf, Sciaky & Arcam are winners. Rolls Royce, Airbus, EADS, Lockheed, Honeywell, Boeing, GE & many Tier 1 aerospace manufacturers are all getting parts and materials flight certified.

They are all working on collective & individual research projects to turn 3D printing in metal from lab to fab. It won’t be long before large industrial groups start to figure out that there are precious few relatively small companies that are the only ones able to make 3D printed metal parts and they have really interesting patent portfolios to boot.

Then someone will pose a question in a boardroom: What if GE took $1b and bought the entire 3D printing metals industry effectively taking it offline for other aerospace companies?

If this happens many of the large industrial groups in the world will be scrambling to acquire one or all of these companies to secure their supply chain and future innovation. Given the size of the aero engines and aircraft market alone being the sole owner of a path to weight savings would give a company a clear advantage over others in the space. 
Netfabb & Materialise are winners as well (Disclosure: I’ve worked with Netfabb and for Materialise). There will be challenges from Autodesk and other software companies moving at pace into the space. 3D Systems will bring out a competing product.

But, at the moment there are only two software packages that repair files and do workflow for 3D printing. Almost the entire industry uses Materialise. Many desktop 3D printing people use Netfabb. These companies would both be a tidy morsel for a software company (Autodesk, Adobe, Microsoft) wanting to in one fell swoop own the 3D printing software space.

Joris Peels is a heavyweight 3D printing industry commentator who doesn’t shy away from discussions and is never short on educated, animated opinions. Joris blogs about 3D printing at VoxelFab and works as a consultant in the 3D printing industry. He previously worked for Shapeways and i.materialise and as a developer of Origo, a 3D printer for kids.

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