3D printing stocks have come roaring back to life after several years of free-falling down to Earth following their huge price run-ups in 2012 and 2013. The stocks of the two leading diversified 3D printing companies, Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) and 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD), are up 58.8% and 50%, respectively, this year through June 12.
There certainly could be more major price swings in the group as the longtime players and new entrants -- such as HP Inc. and venture capital-backed Carbon -- jockey for position in the market. However, there are bound to be some winners, given that 3D printing is widely predicted to be one of the fastest-growing and most disruptive technologies for many years to come.
Here are four facts about the industry's largest pure play by revenue, Stratasys, that some of you probably don't know.
1. It has dual Israel-United States headquarters and is incorporated in Israel.
Stratasys maintains dual headquarters in Minnesota and Israel. This setup is a result of the 2012 merger between Minnesota-based Stratasys and Israel-based Objet, which formed the current company. Israel largely runs the show, though, as that's where the C-suite execs are domiciled and where the company is incorporated.
After the merger, Scott Crump, who co-founded Stratasys in 1989 and was the company's first CEO, became chairman of the combined company's board. Crump invented fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology, which is a plastics extrusion-based technology. David Reis, who was then Objet's CEO, became CEO of the combined entity. (Reis retired as CEO last July; the current CEO is longtime board member Ilan Levin.)
2. Its stock has outperformed the market by more than 2 times since its IPO.
Despite Stratasys' stock getting clobbered from 2014 through 2016, after soaring in 2012 and 2013, it's still beaten the broader market by a factor of more than two since its October 1994 initial public offering (IPO). Since then, it's gained 1,480%, while the S&P 500 has returned 709%.
What about main rival 3D Systems? Its stock has gained just 441% over this same period.
3. Early on, it bought IBM's 3D-printing technology.
In January 1995 -- just three months after its IPO -- Stratasys purchased IBM's 3D printing intellectual property and related assets. IBM had been developing a 3D printer that reportedly used an extrusion-based tech similar to Stratasys' FDM. The deal involved IBM becoming a "significant shareholder in Stratasys," per the press release. Big Blue -- which has had its tentacles in an endless number of innovative new technologies -- long ago sold its stake.
4. It invented the world's first multi-color and multi-material 3D printer.
Longtime 3D printing followers will know this one, but I have to include it for those newer to the space. In 2014, Stratasys launched the Objet500 Connex3, which was the first 3D printer that could simultaneously print multi-colors and multi-materials. The company's Connex line is powered by its proprietary PolyJet tech, which jets and cures thin layers of liquid polymers (a group that includes plastics) using ultraviolet light.
In early 2016, Stratasys went a big step further and launched the J750, the world's first full-color, multi-material 3D printer. The J750 can automatically map more than 360,000 colors from design software or models and load six materials at once without changing canisters.
Inventing the first multi-color, multi-material 3D printer demonstrated that Stratasys still had some great innovative chops. While Stratasys was innovating away prior to the 2014 launch, 3D Systems was on a turbocharged acquisition spree, which surely hurt its internal research and development efforts. However, 3D Systems' new top management team is now emphasizing internal innovation over acquisitions. Since CEO Vyomesh Joshi came on board in April 2016, the company has made just one acquisition, Vertex Global, which produces dental materials.
A solid legacy of innovation
Stratasys has a solid legacy of innovation. Given the deep-pocketed and compelling new entrants in the market, it's going to need to play at the top of its innovation game going forward and not make any major strategic hiccups if it wants to remain a top player over the long term.