Despite the massive sell-offs that 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) and Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) have experienced in 2014, the biggest names in 3-D printing are still very expensive on paper. For investors with a small appetite for buying expensive stocks, buying 3D Systems or Stratasys and participating in the long-term growth potential that 3-D printing offers may not be an option. Investors finding themselves in this predicament should look behind 3D Systems and Stratasys and focus on companies that stand to benefit from implementing 3-D printing technology into their operations.

Companies like General Electric (NYSE:GE) or Boeing (NYSE:BA) have massive manufacturing presences, and over the long term, could benefit greatly from adopting 3-D printing more into their operations. Both General Electric and Boeing already use 3-D printing because it allows for products to be developed faster and more efficiently. General Electric currently has plans to 3-D print 45,000 jet engine fuel nozzles a year for its upcoming leap engine, and the nozzles are expected to take to the skies in the coming years. Boeing already uses 3-D printing for non critical airplane components such as heating vents in commercial planes flying today.

As 3-D printing technology continues to advance, Boeing and General Electric will be able to make better use of it in its operations. Interestingly, General Electric already has a plan for 50% of the products its manufactures to "touch" 3-D printing in the next 20 years. Clearly, there are attractive efficiencies built into how 3-D printed objects are made.

In the following video, 3-D printing specialist Steve Heller and industrials bureau chief Blake Bos look beyond 3D Systems and Stratasys to find alternative ways for investors to get some exposure to 3-D printing. Of course, investors thinking about investing in General Electric or Boeing for the potential that 3-D printing may improve long-term profitability should understand that buying such large companies is likely going to result in more subdued returns than buying 3-D printing stocks outright.

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Blake Bos has no position in any stocks mentioned. Steve Heller owns shares of 3D Systems. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems and Stratasys. The Motley Fool owns shares of 3D Systems, General Electric Company, Smith & Nephew, and 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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