This Disruptive 3-D Printer's Opportunity Is Deceivingly Large

Although Mcor Technologies, the disruptive Ireland-based 3-D printing company, only uses regular copy paper as its main 3-D printing material to keep operating costs low, its market opportunity is surprisingly large. Conceptual models and early stage prototypes are Mcor's bread and butter, making its products great fits for product developers that produce a high volume of models and prototypes and are looking to lower their operating costs compared to 3D Systems' (NYSE: DDD  ) and Stratasys' (NASDAQ: SSYS  ) offerings. In terms of market opportunity, virtually every marketed product or industrial component starts off as an early prototype or model. While it's difficult to put a dollar figure on Mcor's opportunity, early prototypes and models certainly contribute to what 3D Systems believes is a $35 billion design-to-manufacturing value chain worldwide.

This full-color model was 3-D printed from paper. Souce: Mcor Technologies.

Mcor boasts that its 3-D printers cost anywhere between 5%-20% less to operate than what competitors like 3D Systems and Stratasys offer. For less than $50,000, small businesses and product designers can own Mcor's flagship full-color 3-D printer -- a fraction of the cost that 3D Systems and Stratasys charge for their color 3-D printers.

Investors shouldn't necessarily take this to mean that 3D Systems and Stratasys do not stand a chance against Mcor's cost advantage. Perhaps 3D Systems' and Stratasys' higher cost and more capable 3-D printers become used later on during a product's design cycle, while Mcor's machines remain well suited for the earliest stages of prototyping and modeling applications as a way to reduce product development costs. In other words, it's entirely possible that Mcor's paper-based 3-D printers become more complimentary than disruptive to other 3-D printing technologies. Still, 3D Systems and Stratasys investors would be wise to monitor how Mcor's products are received in the marketplace, and whether the company's products are likely to have a negative impact on these 3-D printing giants.

In the following video, 3-D printing specialist Steve Heller asks Mcor CEO Conor MacCormack about what he sees as the biggest opportunity for the company.

A transcript follows the video.

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Steve Heller: It sounds to me like your product is more geared toward the prototyping market. What kind of applications is your product best suited for in that market? What are you most excited about as an opportunity?

Conor MacCormack: For us, when we had this idea, obviously it was running costs. We felt that was the problem. But when we started to build the machine, and people got a chance to actually hold the parts, people said, "There's a fantastic feel of these objects. They're very, very smooth."

People have built up kind of a database over the years of handling paper. There's a very nice tactile nature to the parts.

Our biggest use cases are really, as you mentioned, the early stages of the designer view. Prototyping -- a lot of people on Wall Street talk about, "Well, if it's not part of a jet engine or something that goes into a spacecraft, how would you use it?"

But the reality is, on the street, maybe 75%-80% of what people use 3-D printing for is non-functional. They want something that's a nice, low price point, high quality, and if you can get color in there, all the better.

Heller: You have a great proof of concept then.

MacCormack: We're going after the same markets as everybody else. You have product designers, you have architects, you have MCAD industrial design, you have GIS -- Geographical Information Systems -- all the usual suspects in the commercial side, we'll be going after.

But also, with our technology, we have access to the consumer. The consumer might not be buying our machine right now because of the price point, but the content out of the machine is very much a consumer-oriented product. It's high color, high quality, and that's going to happen, we feel, via retail.

Just like you would see in 2-D printing, where people would get their 2-D photographs printed in a local store, in high-quality printer in the back room, we believe that that's how consumers are going to get access to high-quality 3-D printing, via the retail. We are very well geared for setting that up, this year or next year.

Heller: Right.


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