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Why 3D Systems Corporation Should Be Worried About Stratasys, Ltd.'s Amazing New 3-D Printer

Undoubtedly, the Holy Grail of 3-D printing will be achieved when it fundamentally changes how the world manufactures just about everything. Before this far-off day can become a reality, 3-D printing technology needs to advance to the point where it rivals traditional manufacturing in terms of speed, scale, cost, and ability to print in a range of materials and colors.

Until now, it wasn't possible for a 3-D printer to handle both multi-material and full-color print jobs at the same time. Luckily, Stratasys'  (NASDAQ: SSYS  ) recently announced Objet500 Connex3 printer has officially changed that, being the world's first 3-D printer capable of handling multi-material, full-color prints at the same time. Naturally, this development isn't welcome news for self-asserted 3-D printing leader, 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD  ) .

Stratasys Objet500 Connex3. Source: Stratasys

A cut above
Thanks to its triple-jetting 3-D printing technology, the Connex3 can manufacture over 500 "digital" plastic material combinations on the fly, and objects can be printed in as many as 46 colors during a print job. Materials range from rubber-like, to rigid engineering plastics, to transparent plastics, to high-temperature plastics, to everything in between. To give you an idea of the Connex3's capabilities, a pair of glasses with transparent or tinted lenses can be printed as one finished object.

These glasses were 3-D printed during a single job on the Objet500 Connex3. Source: Stratasys

Because virtually zero post-processing is required for 3-D printed objects on the Connex3, it sets an entirely new precedent for the speed and quality of rapid product iterations. As a result, designers can spend significantly more time and less money improving their designs.

Why 3D Systems should be worried
Back in December, 3D Systems introduced its upcoming line of industrial 3-D printers, including the ProJet 4500 and ProJet 5500X. The ProJet 4500 can print in nearly 1 million colors, pixel by pixel, using its proprietary ColorJet technology, and requires zero post processing. The ProJet 5500X uses a proprietary multijet-printing technology, allowing it to print in different materials pixel by pixel in varying shades of monochrome and translucent plastics, in varying strengths.

At the time, I argued that 3D Systems' new industrial printers were such a compelling line-up that it could potentially take market share away from competitors. While that may be the case in certain 3-D printing verticals, the Objet500 Connex3 will likely prevent 3D Systems from establishing itself as the leader on the multi-material and full-color front.

The best of both worlds
Unless the end user requires more than 46 colors to be printed in a single job, it's extremely likely Stratasys' Objet500 Connex3 becomes the poster child for full-color multi-material 3-D printing. The Connex3 offers nearly the same build volume as 3D Systems' ProJet 5500x, almost double the build volume of the ProJet 4500, but combines the best of both worlds in one package. For these reasons, Stratasys has a tremendous competitive advantage over 3D Systems because its product eliminates the need to own separate, costly, and completely incompatible 3-D printers.

At the end of the day, 3-D printing's biggest strength is its ability to rapidly iterate much faster than traditional prototyping methods. This allows designers and engineers to spend more time improving upon their designs, and less time waiting for prototypes. Customers that integrate the Object500 Connex3 into their design process stand to save significant time and money compared to other 3-D printing solutions. For a mere $330,000, consider Stratasys' latest and greatest 3-D printer a steal, and also an investment in productivity gains.

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Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (8)

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 January 31, 2014, at 9:51 AM, TheStockDoctor wrote:

    For a mere $330,000? There are few applications of that technology yet that will provide a sufficient ROI to make this a compelling buy. 3-D printing will only take off when they are able to reduce the total production cost (TPC) to be competitive with current manufacturing methods.

  • Report this Comment On January 31, 2014, at 9:52 AM, cbcooler1 wrote:

    3D should not be worried about Stratasys and their printers that print toys. yes, I said toys. Once they can print better real-world applications I will be "worried"

  • Report this Comment On January 31, 2014, at 10:16 AM, veryst wrote:

    Both companies are good and will be good in the future.

  • Report this Comment On July 02, 2014, at 10:00 AM, Machservtech wrote:

    I disagree with the thrust of the article. I don't think that this is a competitive coup.

    Here's why:

    1. The price. At over $300,000 the Connex3 is in the heavy RP category where few dare to tread. The Projet 4500 by comparison is in the $50k range.

    Big difference here. Enough to overcome print quality qualms.

    2. The Connex3 does NOT print in full color. It prints in 46 separate solid colors.

    3. The Projet 4500 prints in full color (albeit at reduced surface quality) with a far greater ROI based on cost per cu in.

    4. The Projet 4500 is significantly faster than the Connex3

    I think that each technology has its position, but we are not comparing apples to apples here. A good industrial design team will have one of these tools. A great design team would have them both.

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Steve Heller

Covering 3-D printing at the intersection of business, investing, and what it means for the future of manufacturing. Follow me on Twitter to keep up with the ever-changing 3-D printing landscape by clicking the button below.

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