Interesting to see some of the discussion on here. A number of people have mentioned the potential of the 3-D printer to revolutionize the way things are made today. My question to all of you out there is, how many of you own a 3-D printer?
I myself own a MakerBot Replicator 2. While I enjoy the ability to be able to create and print my own products, there are a few things you might want to consider as an investor in a product that the 3-D companies are trying to sell as something everyone should have in their household.
For one, the design of 3-D products can be rather technical. It is not just like drawing a picture on a 2-D screen, and projecting into 3 space. There are really some deep mathematical and programming concepts that you must understand in order to build efficiently. Second, the software needed to make GOOD 3-D models is not free! In fact, you could spend $1000 or more to get a good drafting program. I use Rhino 3D which I got for $250 as a University employee, otherwise this program would have cost more than I was willing to spend. Thirdly, print times are still long and need assembly. It is not just like popping a frozen burrito into the microwave and 2 min. later, yum!
I'd be interested to know if investors actually own the product or if they simply think it is a cool idea. While I do not refute the utility for people who work professionally in the proto department, to think that everyone will own a 3-D printer in the not so distant future is to have never have used one.
P.S. I do not hold, have never held, nor do I plan to hold a position in this company.
I worked with Stratasys 3D printers years ago as an engineer for Control Data--this technology is not new. I did buy stock then and made money. But now days there is so much confusion and hype in this technology by people who have jumped on the bandwagon, decades after its invention, seduced by the cool sounding name 3D. And many think this is the future of manufacturing. Its not. Takes way too long to produce anything because of the inherent way it works, layer by layer, a mechanical process. I always get criticized by zealots here who will make absurd non-sequitur comparisons of my thoughts to those who felt computers had no future at one time. But not everything is a revolutionary technology with broad applications (like computers)--3D printing was revolutionary back in the 70s, but only in the niche market of prototyping. Will it grow--sure--but only other than nerds (like me), or maybe some artists--a small market, would buy for home use-- the public is not going to be enamored and purchase a machine that takes a half hour to print out a cheap looking plastic spoon.
I think the current price will be cheap once they speed up the printing process, probably by optimizing the selective laser sintering. The FDM process is, imo, only suitable for consumer 3D printing and will take flight once it's possible to print different materials and not only plastics.
I don't own one, but my friends own probably a total of 6 Makerbots combined, for personal use/projects. One friend is designing parts for a hydroelectric project, and owns two. One is making 3D art. Another just rents out its use. Only one of them that I know of is gathering dust.
I own both SSYS and DDD, and do not currently own a 3D printer for exactly the reasons you stated above. The technology is a bit too slow and limited for the consumer at this point.
However, what you fail to point out is that the vast, vast majority of money is currently being made not on the consumer end, with Makerbot or the DDD Cube, but on the industrial end, where the printers use one hundred different materials, any color you can imagine,
I believe that the current Makerbot is pretty much an introduction to 3D printing (and yes, I have seen one in action). Essentially, Bre Pettis- founder of Makerbot- is acting as a public relations director for the 3D printing industry. The Makerbot stores, for example, don't move the needle much for Stratasys overall revenue, let alone net profit. However, they give people a sense of where this industry is going, and provide a crude model of what Makerbot stores will look like by 2020.
The issue isn't really what a Makerbot, or a Cube, or a Phenix, or an Objet can do right now, but what these printers will be able to do 2,3,5, or 10 years from now.
Sentiment: Strong Buy
Thanks for all of the great comments! I realize that most of these 3-D printing companies make their money on the industrial end of things. The question I am wondering is how priced in do you think the idea that every household will own a 3-D printer in the future is? At 120 or 130 P/E (or more) are you buying industrial earnings, or the idea that little Betty and Johnny put a Cube on their Christmas list? I suppose that is a hard question to answer though...