In April, 2012, The Economist likened 3-D printing to being a third industrial revolution, offering the potential to revolutionize how the world makes just about everything. The article did a great job of captivating the imaginations of Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) and other 3-D printing investors about what's possible with a disruptive technology like 3-D printing, but it failed to set expectations properly in terms of timing. Realistically, 3-D printing technology and expertise still need to advance considerably -- and even then, it's not guaranteed to disrupt manufacturing on a grand scale.

Rich Stump of FATHOM, a highly experienced Stratasys reseller and 3-D printing service center, believes that 3-D printing may not necessarily disrupt the status quo of manufacturing in the way that many investors believe is possible, but instead will act as a complementary technology to more traditional manufacturing methods. Together, 3-D printing and traditional subtractive manufacturing methods, such as CNC machining, offer a powerful combination that will likely drive innovation in the future. For Stratasys investors, it's important to recognize that the 3-D printing revolution isn't going to happen overnight and to set your expectations accordingly.

In the following video, 3-D printing analyst Steve Heller sits down with Stump to discuss 3-D printing as a disruptive technology, how it relates to the big picture of manufacturing, and whether Stratasys and others will get involved in the traditional manufacturing space. Going forward, Stratasys investors should watch how its technology portfolio advances to see how it could complement other manufacturing processes.

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Steve Heller has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Stratasys. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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