3D printing companies have dominated the news headlines in 2013. As the technology continues to improve, investors can expect the relatively new technology to dominate the headlines even more in 2014 and beyond.
Peter Misek, analyst at Jefferies, attended a recent 3D Printshow in New York and published a report to clients.
Consumer market: Little differentiation
Misek visited over 15 3D printer exhibitors and noted that many of the exhibitors had a difficult time describing why their product is different or superior to their competitors. As a result, the 3D printer market, according to Misek, has become a “word-of-mouth/branding game.” Chinese brands, despite a lower price tag, were poorly received by the 3D hobbyist community.
Metals opportunity: Companies taking notice
Misek wrote that at least six and as many as a dozen major industrial groups are in discussions with metal 3D printing companies. Several of the names mentioned by Misek include Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) and Stryker (NYSE: SYK)
Misek said: “We expect 3D printers based on technologies that can process metal-like powder bed binding and powder bed fusion (SLS, EBM) to grow faster than the broader 3D printing over the next few years.
Aerospace: Technology already exists
According to Misek, aerospace parts already include at least one 3D printed part, which could lead to further regulatory approval.
The largest potential purchaser in the aerospace field is General Electric (NYSE: GE), who plans to invest in 3D printing capabilities for its new LEAP engines. The company could chose a 3D printing supplier sometime in 2014 with initial production to begin in 2015 and a ramp in late 2015 or early 2016.
General Electric is currently testing printers from 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) and other private companies such as Concept Laser. The company has orders for $68 billion worth of LEAP engines and the company is expected to spend $3.5 billion on carbon fiber and 3D printing equipment over the next five years.
Medical applications: More education needed
Misek wrote that based on his conversations with medical panelists, “the field needs advances in education, training, and standardization of file types but feel that all the tools are there in the market to do everything.”
3D printing could save 60 percent of time for facial plastic surgery and 3D printing orthopedic sockets are stronger than traditional parts.
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