While the options for immediate investment in 3D printing may seem limited, there are some 3D printing stocks available as well as a number of existing companies who are set to reap the benefits of early adoption of this exciting and world changing technology.
During the personal computer boom of the late '80's and early '90's, many different companies grew to be very successful, based not just on selling personal computers, but on what they could offer consumers to use with home computers. From the PC came software companies, printer manufacturers, ink and paper suppliers, video game designers, technicians, image scanners, specialty joy sticks, keyboards and a little thing called the internet.
Recognizing who will partner with 3D printer manufacturers will greatly broaden your investing options as well as reduce the risk involved by allowing you to spread your investments over a number of different 3D printing related stocks.
3D printer manufacturers.
These are the guys designing, developing and manufacturing the actual printers themselves. 3D printer manufacturers are the oldest and most established companies working exclusively within 3D printing. They are the ones largely responsible for bringing 3D printers to the general public. For anyone who is starting to look at investing in 3D printing, these companies are a good place to start your research and have the most direct influence on this emerging technology.
3D Systems (DDD)
One of (if not ‘the') pioneers of additive manufacturing, 3D Systems are credited with creating the world's first 3D printer. They are big players in the industrial markets of 3D printing, producing large-scale, high-quality, professional printing solutions.
Through their sub-brand Cubify, 3D Systems are making moves into the home consumer market, most notably with their user-friendly Cube range of printers.
Another founding company of 3D printing, Stratasys, has in the past concentrated on the industrial 3D printing markets, creating large machines similar to those made by 3D Systems. More recently, the acquisition of Brooklyn-based 3D printing company MakerBot has shown how keen Stratasys is to make their own mark in the home consumer market.
ExOne Company (XONE)
Probably the least known company on our list is ExOne Company. They are makers of 3D printers, working exclusively in the industrial or professional markets. Along with hardware, they also offer contracted 3D printing services to their customers.
Software and supplies.
Despite almost every 3D printer company shipping their own free 3D printing software, there is a great opportunity for software companies to get involved with the advancement and financial rewards of 3D printing. When inkjet home printers first arrived, they also shipped printers with their own word processing and photo editing software, but the market leaders are still by far Microsoft Word for word processing and Adobe Photoshop for image editing. The standard for 3D printing is yet to be set, but one company is staking an early claim.
For a long time Autodesk has been the professional standard for 3D software in a number of different fields. From product design and architecture software to the 3D visual effects work of Hollywood's biggest movies, they have consistently delivered cutting edge software to high demanding industries.
It's no surprise that they have been early adopters of 3D printing and have developed a collection a free software and mobile apps to bring 3D printing to a wider audience. They have recently agreed to a deal to develop and supply software for printer manufacturers MakerBot. When the dust settles and only the software market leaders remain, we expect Autodesk to be one of the last ones standing.
3D printing services.
Not all benefactors of 3D printing will be directly related to the field, just as not all company websites are for technology companies. 3D printing offers businesses a new way to buy, sell and distribute products enabling a whole range of new services as well as providing new outlets and opportunities for existing companies.
As you may expect from the world's biggest online retailer, Amazon has seen the potential of (and increased demand for) 3D printers, and has launched its own dedicated 3D printing store on its site. Already one of the most popular and trusted websites in the world, and backed by highly influential customer product reviews, Amazon is sure to be the choice of many consumers when buying a 3D printer.
Another web favorite to see the potential of 3D printing is Ebay. They are making it easier than ever for companies with 3D printers to deliver products to consumers. Their new app “Exact” aims to help deliver 3D printable products to mainstream consumers.
3D Bioprinting is the construction of living tissue for testing or transplant. While this is still a very new development, there are still opportunities to invest in this cutting edge technology.
Organovo, design and create functional human tissues using our proprietary three-dimensional bioprinting technology. “Our goal is to build living human tissues that are proven to function like native tissues.”\
Ones to watch.
Although not currently trading publicly, Shapeways promises to be a highly popular stock if it does decide to go public. The web-based company provides short run or even one off professional grade 3D printing services. Users can upload or choose from a gallery of 3D mesh files and Shapeways prints and ships the final product to the consumer. They are currently able to print a number of different materials including plastics and metals.
In a market dominated by the big three of Stratasys, 3D Systems and MakerBot, Afinia has managed to not only be in the competition, but to genuinely compete. Their H-series printer has been very successful, but the company's continued success will rely on their ability to continue to develop their product range in a rapidly evolving industry.