Say Goodbye to "Made in China"

This transformative technology holds the potential to completely revolutionize manufacturing -- and perhaps even take China down in the process.

Jun 18, 2014 at 8:01PM

Like clockwork, it seems that a disruptive technology comes along every decade and offers the potential to fundamentally change the world. The personal computer began to make its way into households in the 1980s, the 1990s brought the Internet to the forefront, and the 2000s spawned the early days of the smartphone revolution. The next technology poised to revolutionize the world is "additive manufacturing," more commonly referred to as "3-D printing." For investors in the know, there's still a tremendous opportunity for growth, because the 3-D printing industry only generated about $3 billion in revenue last year. Many believe that number will grow by orders of magnitude in the future and potentially threaten China's manufacturing stronghold in the process.  

3-D printing 101
On a high level, 3-D printing is a layer-by-layer additive manufacturing process, meaning it can build objects out of a variety of materials "slice by slice" until an object is fully "grown." This differs from traditionally manufactured objects, which often start out as a solid block of material that is then shaved down into its final shape. Between faster lead times, no tooling, and nearly unlimited complexity, the advantages of 3-D printing over traditional manufacturing methods can be profound for manufacturers. Taking everything into account, 3-D printing has the potential to make fundamentally better products than conventional methods, more efficiently.

It's not surprising that a host of companies have begun taking notice of the built-in advantages and efficiencies of 3-D printing. For example, General Electric (NYSE:GE) is working to 3-D print upward of 40,000 fuel nozzles a year for its next-generation Leap jet engine from its U.S. advanced manufacturing facilities. According to General Electric, a conventionally manufactured fuel nozzle would have to be made in 20 parts, but a 3-D printed fuel nozzle can be produced as one part. Clearly, the amounts of labor and resources that GE saves from using 3-D printing to consolidate mission-critical components are quite meaningful.

Consequently, General Electric plans to have 50% of its manufactured products "touched" by 3-D printing over the next 20 years, meaning that either the products themselves are 3-D printed, the products were created using 3-D printed tools, or early iterations of the product were 3-D-printed in the development phase to aid product design. It will likely take billions of dollars in new investment for General Electric to grow its 3-D printing and advanced manufacturing capacity to accommodate these ambitious plans. And that's just one manufacturing company! The continuing worldwide adoption of 3-D printing may ultimately promote a resurgence in localized manufacturing that could cut China's manufacturing base out of the equation.  

Tremendous untapped potential
According to Wohlers Associates, a 3-D printing insights firm that has been tracking this sector since the beginning, the 3-D printing industry has an impressive 27% compound annual growth rate over the past 25 years. In the last three years, industry growth has accelerated to 32.3% a year, compounded, suggesting that the technology could be reaching a tipping point as uses for 3-D printing are still being discovered. Going forward, Wohlers believes that "[3-D printing] continues to offer tremendous untapped potential, especially in custom and short-run part production."

Despite this tremendous growth potential, the industry only generated about $3 billion in worldwide revenue last year -- that's peanuts compared to the $10.5 trillion worldwide manufacturing base. By 2021, Wohlers estimates that the 3-D printing industry should be worth $10.8 billion -- still significantly less than 1% of worldwide manufacturing. Ultimately, if 3-D printing can grow to represent just 1% of worldwide manufacturing, we're talking about a $105 billion a year industry. Talk about the early innings for 3-D printing investors!  

Buy these 3-D printing stocks
Believe it or not, 3-D printing is already being employed by the U.S. Air Force, BMW and even Nike. Respected publications like The Economist have compared this disruptive technology to the steam engine and the printing press; Business Insider calls it "the next trillion dollar industry." Watch The Motley Fool's shocking video presentation to learn about 3-D printing being the next great technological innovation, one that will bring an end to "Made In China" for good. Click here!

Steve Heller has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric Company. 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.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't 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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