At the Inside 3-D Printing Conference in New York City, Curtis Carson, head of systems integration at Airbus Group (NASDAQOTH:EADSY), addressed an audience about the role that 3-D printing will play in future aircraft manufacturing. By the end of the address, it was clear that aviation-oriented 3-D printing applications are very much in their early days, and it will realistically take many years until the trend truly takes hold. From an investor's perspective, 3-D printing companies with direct part manufacturing capabilities, particularly with metal -- like 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) through its Phenix Systems acquisition -- are in a position to benefit from the aviation industry turning more and more to 3-D printing for direct part manufacturing.

For a manufacturer like Airbus, the incentive is quite high to adopt 3-D printing in a meaningful way because it's an efficient manufacturing process that can lead to cost savings and better performing components compared to conventional manufacturing processes -- a win-win for Airbus and its customers.

Also at the Inside 3-D Printing Conference, 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental highlighted the fact that, despite having increased its manufacturing capacity for its line of metal 3-D printers often used for aviation applications, the company simply can't keep up with demand. Although metal 3-D printing won't have a huge effect on 3D Systems' business in the near term, it's certainly an encouraging sign that interest about metal 3-D printing is increasing.

In the following video, 3-D printing analyst Steve Heller and Motley Fool industrials bureau chief Blake Bos have a candid discussion about Airbus and the role 3-D printing plays in its operations. They also talk about how 3D Systems and 3-D printing investors would be well served not to get too excited about this development because it's a multi-year trend in the making.

Blake Bos has no position in any stocks mentioned. Steve Heller owns shares of 3D Systems. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems. The Motley Fool owns shares of 3D Systems. 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.