Expert: This Opportunity Makes Me Most Excited About 3-D Printing

According to industry watchdog Wohlers Associates, the 3-D printing industry brought in about $2.2 billion in revenues in 2012 -- peanuts compared to the trillions in GDP the global manufacturing industry produces each year. Clearly, 3-D printing has a long way to grow before it'll even make up 1% of the worldwide manufacturing base. Applications involving 3-D printing will have to expand greatly in the future for 3-D printing to truly become a disruptive force in manufacturing.

In order to get some perspective on what some of the biggest opportunities are today for 3-D printing companies, I turned to Rich Stump, principal of FATHOM, a highly experienced Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS  ) reseller and 3-D printing service center. The way Stump sees it, a major driver of future 3-D printing growth will be downstream and one-off applications. In other words, finished products and customized solutions will likely fuel 3-D printing growth in the years ahead. This line of thinking aligns with Wohlers Associates, which believes the 3-D printing industry will grow by 19.3% a year through 2021 to become a $10.8 billion industry.

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