What happened

Last week, shares of 3D printer maker 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) enjoyed a big 11% pop on some pretty small-beans news -- the announcement that a little "edible culinary figures" company would be using its printers to print cake decorations and similar stuff. I have to admit that I was pretty underwhelmed with the announcement, and surprised at investors' reaction to it -- but today's news may be more worthy of attention.

On Monday, 3D announced that it is teaming up with yet another company -- Israel's CollPlant Biotechnologies -- to use the former's 3D printers and the latter's "proprietary recombinant human collagen (rhCollagen) BioInk technology" to "jointly develop tissue and scaffold bioprinting processes for third party collaborators."  

3-D printer

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Yes, you read that right. 3D is getting into the business of printing replacement people parts -- and this has the potential to turn 3D Systems into a biotech stock, with a biotech stock-like valuation. That's plenty of reason to justify, perhaps, the stock's 9.6% surge in share price through 11:15 a.m. this morning.

Now what

After all, while financial details of the transaction are scarce, and it's unclear how big this market might be, I'd bet good money it's bigger than the market for edible tchotchkes. It's certainly true that what the companies call "an unmet market need for a comprehensive solution to produce tissues and scaffolds for regenerative medicine applications" (emphasis added) would seem to offer more monetary potential than an unmet want for more cake decorations.

And given that this is a case where a successful product could literally save lives, I think it's safe to assume there will be customers willing to spend money on that.

After all, you can't take it with you...

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.