3D Systems Will Live Long, and Prosper

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Star Trek tech is here.

It was probably only a matter of time before someone took the parallels between three-dimensional object "printing" by companies such as Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS  ) and 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD  ) , and the "food synthesizer" technology of sci-fi icon Star Trek -- and made the connection overt.

As it happens, 3D was first out of the gate, with today's announcement that it will begin customized 3-D printing of Star Trek products and collectibles via its Projet(R) 660Pro 3-D printers.

In this week's news, 3D announced that it has signed a licensing agreement with CBS's (NYSE: CBS  ) consumer-products division, which owns the rights to Star Trek. With this agreement in place, 3D can now to allow Cube owners to use an app on the company's Cubify website to design and build a "full-color, personalized 3-D printed figurine of themselves in a Star Trek uniform from the original series by simply uploading two photographs of their face."

Like other products advertised on the company's website, 3D says it can print the figures for customers itself, as "unique 5.5" figurines ... printed in full-color on 3D Systems' Projet(R) 660Pro, with a ceramic-like feel." In this scenario, the company says it will sell customers the figurines for $69.99 each.

Other products shown on Cubify can actually be printed directly by owners of 3D Cube printers. It's not 100% clear whether 3D is making this an option for the Trek figurines ... but it does appear that the company intends to keep this licensed product on a shorter leash -- to print the things itself only, and then mail them out to buyers. Since it's logical to assume that CBS is taking a cut of the proceeds from these figurine sales, it makes sense that the licensor would want to keep a close eye on how many of them sell.

What it means to you
So those are the details, but what's the big picture here? If you ask me, I think the real import of 3D's announcement isn't just the $69.99 figurines, or the size of CBS's cut of that price. I think the real import for investors is that 3D is highlighting a third revenue stream that its business possesses.

Historically, we've thought of 3-D printing companies has having two main revenue drivers: They sell the machines that "print" stuff, and they sell the composite material used to print the stuff. Fin.

The problem with that, of course, is that competition is beginning to emerge in machine selling, as small companies with names such as ExOne (NASDAQ: XONE  ) and Massive Dynamics (NASDAQOTH: MSSD  ) begin to horn in on the printer biz. Competition will probably arise even faster in the selling of printing composites, as Hewlett-Packard discovered to its detriment, when printer ink cartridge "refillers" began stealing away its lucrative ink business.

To help offset these inevitable losses, 3D is showing us that it now has a third revenue stream to draw upon. It can use its expertise in 3-D printing. (After all, who better knows how to do this stuff, professionally and cost-effectively, than the folks who build the machines?) to make stuff, on demand, for people who want to buy 3-D objects, but maybe don't know all that well how to make it themselves.

More poetically, 3D is showing us that it now has a third way to live long, and prosper.

3D Systems is at the leading edge of a disruptive technological revolution, with the broadest portfolio of 3-D printers in the industry. However, despite years of earnings growth, 3D Systems' share price has risen even faster, and today the company sports a dizzying valuation. To help investors decide whether the future of additive manufacturing is bright enough to justify the lofty price tag on the company's shares, The Motley Fool has compiled a premium research report on whether 3D Systems is a buy right now. In our report, we take a close look at 3D Systems' opportunities, risks, and critical factors for growth. You'll also find reasons to buy or sell the stock today. To start reading, simply click here now for instant access.

Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 1:41 PM, macjon55 wrote:

    Massive Dynamics? Is William Bell the CEO?

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 1:49 PM, TMFDitty wrote:

    Yeah, I seriously doubt that choosing that corporate moniker was accidental.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 7:37 PM, cl0udn1n3 wrote:

    Massive Dynamics a marketing concoction that has been on a quest to take investors money through unwarranted claims. It is your classic pump and dump. Please think long and hard before anyone get caught is its claws. Here is a quick article I just found:

    Every legitimate source of information about this company does not portray it in a good light. Be extremely skeptical of their press releases, it's all "pumping". YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!!

    Rich Smith, you would establish better repoire with your readers if you removed MSSD from your article.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 10:33 PM, Hsalzarulo wrote:

    A sloppy piece of reporting to include MSSD with real companies with real products. I expect to see a brief "pop" before gamblers realize what they are buying, which is apparently nothing more than scented air

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2013, at 8:35 AM, Hsalzarulo wrote:

    Thought I would add this for further documentation/clarification.

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