3D printing is the means by which a physical object is made from a three-dimensional digital model, by successively layering thin layers of material. It is vital for allowing prototypes to reach market quicker. According to Bloomberg, 3D printers were “the anointed technology at CES 2013” and 3D Systems’ (NYSE:DDD) CubeX won Best of CES the same year, a printer designed for the home, office or school setting. Unfortunately, since then, desktop 3D printers haven’t managed much progress. 3D printers have done better in the commercial area so there are still lots of ways to invest in 3D printing.
These facts will place investors in a strong position to survey the industry and offer answers regarding how to invest in 3D printing technology. Therefore they speak to those seeking to further their knowledge, as well as potentially invest in large and small players in the space.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing, otherwise known as additive manufacturing (AM), is a process of layering materials, like concrete, metal and plastic, to create an object. Users can print models of already existing objects or make new ones with the aid of CAD (computer-aided design) files. Its flexible nature allows for applications in automobiles, drones, jewellery, medicine and metalworks. The technology was invented at MIT and is decades old.
Why is 3D printing an important and growing market?
Investing News recently wrote on why to invest in 3D printing. This exciting sector is a seedbed for disruptive, innovative ideas and this is the right time to invest, as the market is stable, with growth forecast. As an example of the maturing market, Tinkerine (TSXV:TTD) were referenced in the article as struggling at the time of writing, but have now turned their fortunes around, gaining 85.71 percent over the past year.
According to Statista, the industry is expected to grow in value to $13 billion in 2018 and $21 billion by 2020. These statistics will bolster the 3D printing industry that had struggled with bad press, hype and rumours of a downfall after the bubble burst.
The next threshold is that of 4D printing, where the fourth dimension is time. This is particularly relevant in the medical arena, especially in designing devices that are implanted in the body and need to adapt and change over time.
Who are the biggest 3D printing companies?
3D Systems makes 3D printing materials, products and services. They claim to be the inventor of the original 3D printing tech SLA (Stereolithography) system. Headquartered in the US, they have a market cap of $1.67 billion, big enough to rise above the unpredictable peaks and troughs of the market.
ExOne (NASDAQ:XONE) is more of an emerging player than the other two, with a market cap in the millions rather than the billions. They provide 3D printing machines, materials, products and services for industrial customers. Their newest material is the 300 Series stainless steel that can be used in the making of surgical instruments.
How can I invest in 3D printing?
3D Printing (The) ETF (BATS:PRNT) is up 7.46 percent year-to-date, starting 2017 off well. It was launched by ARK, a team of specialists in thematic investing, in July 2016. This is the one and only ETF dedicated to 3D printing.
This is a good way to minimize risk. The Solactive 3D Printing Index includes hardware and software companies focusing on 3D printing. Its most common currency is US dollars and it is composed of largely American companies, such as Autodesk (NASDAQ:ADSK) and Organovo Holdings (NASDAQ:ONVO). Autodesk have enjoyed an annual gain of 43.53 percent; their stock has, overall, risen steadily since the start of 2016.
Graphene 3D Lab (TSXV:GGG) are a world leader in taking graphene-based composites and utilizing them for circuitry and functional components, for example, batteries. They are the only pure play Canadian company in the graphene sphere.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Emma Harwood, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.