If you're following the 3-D printing space, you likely know that EuroMold, the sector's premier annual trade show, wrapped up on Dec. 6 in Frankfurt, Germany. At this World's Fair for 3-D printing companies, 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD), Stratasys Ltd.(NASDAQ:SSYS), Arcam AB(NASDAQOTH:AMAVF), voxeljet AG (NYSE:VJET), and ExOne were on hand to tout their wares to customers and journalists, with the first four companies unveiling new printers/or materials. If you're investing in the sector or contemplating doing so, you should know about the following four new product roll-outs.
3D Systems launched six printers, including its first metal printers
First-mover 3D Systems surely isn't resting on its biggest-company-in-the-sector laurels. The company launched six new printers: the Projet 1200, ProX 950, ProX 500, ProX 100, ProX 200, and ProX 300.
The first three printers are valuable additions to 3D Systems' already wide array of offerings, featuring bigger capacities, faster speeds, and/or better price points.
The last three models listed are rebranded Phenix Systems printers. Phenix is the company 3D Systems acquired in June for its selective laser melting, or SLM, technology. (This technology is also sometimes called "selective laser sintering," though the term "sintering" is a misnomer, as the metal is fully melted.) So while they're not new, these printers are hugely important, since they're 3D Systems' first-ever systems with the ability to print metal.
The company is already competing for key new business with its new metal printer line-up. Industrial behemoth General Electric is testing SLM printers from both 3D Systems and privately held Concept Laser to see whether these companies will be part of the capacity ramp-up necessary to produce thousands of fuel nozzles for its new Leap jet-engine.
GE's 3-D printing facility, which it acquired when it bought Morris Technologies last year, is comprised primarily of privately held EOS's direct metal laser sintering printers. (DMLS is EOS's trademark name for its printers that use SLM technology.)
You can learn more about 3D Systems' new printers and the impact they could have on the company's business from Fool analyst Blake Bos.
Stratasys rolled out the "toughest material ever offered"
Sector co-first-mover and second-biggest company Stratasys's debut of a new material – Nylon 12 – might be low on flash, but investors shouldn't overlook this development.
Stratasys' introduction of nylons – other varieties are slated to follow Nylon 12 -- for use in its Fortus line of printers, which use fused deposition modeling, or FDM, technology, opens up a $200 million market. The nylon 3-D printing market is currently owned by 3D Systems, EOS, Concept Laser, and other manufacturers of printers that use selective laser sintering, or SLS, technology.
There's a lot of opportunity not only in advanced prototyping with this ultra-tough material, but also on the production end, since nylon is the third most-common engineering thermoplastic used in traditional manufacturing. Nylon 12 has uses in the aerospace, automotive, home appliance, and consumer electronics industries.
Find out more about the potential end uses of Nylon 12 in my recent article.
Arcam introduced one new printer – and a sale already
Sweden-based Arcam, which makes printers that use electron beam melting technology, unveiled a new system, the Q20, which is targeted at the $630 billion aerospace market.
Arcam did competitors that rolled out new printers one better – it also announced the first sale of its new machine. The first Q20 will make its way from Sweden to France, where Poly Shape will use it to produce aerospace components.
You can watch Blake further discuss this model, as well as the differences between Arcam's proprietary beam-based EBM technology and competitors' laser-based tech as they compete head-to-head (or nozzle-to-nozzle) for technology of choice in the lucrative aerospace market.
Voxeljet launched one new printer to fill a gap in its offerings
Germany-based voxeljet, which flew at Mach 1 speed onto the public markets in a hot October IPO, launched the VX2000 3-D printer.
This new model fills a specification gap in voxeljet's printer line-up -- now comprised of six printers -- between its two higher-end models, the VX1000 and the humongous VX4000. The latter has brought the company much publicity for printing the stunt-double Aston Martin cars used in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.
|Build Box (meters)||4 x 2 x 1||2 x 1 x 1||1.06 x 0.6 x 0.5|
|Output Rate (liters/hr)||123||45||23|
|List Price (Euros)||1,600,000||995,000-1,100,000||740,000-785,000|
|Date Introduced||2011||Q4 2013 (EuroMold)||2011|
While voxeljet has some potential competitive advances -- such as large build boxes and fast speeds -- the company's stock valuation remains sky-high, even for this richly valued sector. So potential investors might want to wait a quarter or two to see whether voxeljet looks like it's on track to actually realize its potential.
Production, rather than prototyping, was the emphasis at this year's EuroMold, with many of the new 3-D printer models and materials that were introduced targeted to manufacturing applications. Keep your eyes on what new models are generating sales, since the companies that make systems which are embraced for manufacturing end uses should be the long-term winners.
BA McKenna has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems and Stratasys. The Motley Fool owns shares of 3D Systems and Stratasys and has the following options: short January 2014 $20 puts on 3D Systems. 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.