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3D printing is here to stay

By Dian Vujovich

It’s hard for me to phantom how a printer can actually make a gun that criminals can actually use, ears for humans to wear and toys for kids to play with. But they can and everyone from manufacturers to individuals is clamoring for them.


Wohlers Associates, a 3-D printing research company, reported that in 2008  the number of small 3D printers being shipped totaled 355.This year they are expecting that number to swell to 70,000.  The size of this printer and its related services businesses in 2012 was about $2 billion but by 2021, Wohlers estimates it to be five times larger reeling in $10.8 billion.


Clearly there is no shortage of things to print, people who want to print them or places to buy them from online to retail stores.  Staples, for instance, sells the desktop sized Cube for about $1300. That’s about as much as you’d pay for an Apple laptop.


Just as the industry has grown, so has the vision of those within it.


For example, MakerBot, from Stratasys Ltd, (SSYS) is on a mission to have a MakerBot Desktop 3D Printer placed in every school in America. Gotta love the enthusiasm of this Minneapolis-based company.


Then there’s the latest 3D craze: 3Doodlers has made a 3D printing pen you can use to draw upwards. It’s priced at $99. According to one source, the company says when using the pen you can “”lift your imagination off the page.” Now ain’t that something.


For investors, the two biggest names in this arena are Stratasys, Ltd. (SSYS) and 3D Systems (DDD).


Over the past 52 weeks, SSYS has traded between $60.20 a share to $134. It closed on December 2 at $118.84, according to Yahoo Finance.


The trading range for DDD over that same time period was  $28.88 to $84.85 per share. Yesterday it closed at  $76.89.


I received a pitch for 3D company that’s priced around a buck a share. Problem is, it’s not trading and has little research available except what the company’s public relations team puts out. Never a good sign.


So while the world of 3D printing could be coming right into to your home, finding the right company to invest in might take longer than it does to print yourself a new guitar.

To read more articles, please visit the column archive.

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