3D Printing Firms Will See Robust Growth, Once Engineers Think Outside the Box (DDD) (SSYS)

March 7, 2013 10:40 AM EST
3D printing has become a solid, $1.7 billion per year industry. Growth may also just be starting with some industry experts see the segment moving to revs of $3.7 billion by FY15.

According to Reuters, the real benefit from the practice will be when engineers think about the shapes of objects, rather than the product itself. 3D printing allows for much more geometric complexity than the traditional manufacturing process.

For example, Reuters cits the Belgium-based firm Materialise, which recently printed an entire folding chair via one continuous piece of plastic, hinges included. Other companies might used te technology to build aircraft parts or dental crowns, doing so more quickly and cheaply.

Though some skeptics think the process is too slow and expensive to replace production of, say, an iPad. However, other applications might include a computer program which would calculate the most optimal way to design a structure for better integrity, with the 3D printer allowing for designs engineers might not have though of before.

Reuters noted that about 90 percent of hearing aids are now being produced via 3D printer, using computer programs that help optimize acoustics of the device.

Materialise CEO Wilfried Vancraen agreed that growth in the industry with be "phenomenal," potentially making up anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent of the entire manufacturing industry at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Aiming to benefit include names like 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD), Stratasys (Nasdaq: SSYS), and ExOne (Nasdaq: XONE).

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