While naysayers often dismiss 3-D printing as a fad with no real value, they often overlook one key factor about the rise of 3-D printing: For the first time in history, 3-D printing technology is spreading into the hands of users out the typical industrial setting. As a result, the technological possibilities are advancing at a much faster rate, which could ultimately end up benefiting 3-D printing players 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD), Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS), voxeljet (NYSE:VJET), and ExOne (NASDAQ:XONE).
General Electric recently held a public contest to redesign a jet engine bracket for 3-D printing manufacturing with the objective of creating an equally strong bracket but significantly reduce its weight. With nearly 700 design submissions, an engineer with zero aviation experience from Indonesia ended up taking home first place by reducing the bracket's weight by 84%. The power of open collaboration is unparalleled today.
In addition, Victoria's Secret pushed the boundaries of 3-D printing during its annual fashion show by combining 3-D printing and 3-D scanning to make a custom-tailored outfit for supermodel Lindsay Ellingson. This demonstrates the potential of 3-D printing, which, when combined with 3-D scanning, opens the door for custom tailored orthotics, prosthetics, clothing, and other applications that could benefit from a custom fit.
At the end of the day, the naysayers are probably wrong about 3-D printing's future possibilities, 3-D printing analyst Steve Heller argues. Check out the video below to get his full thoughts on the issue and why investing in the space with a long-term time horizon is likely a wise decision.
Fool contributor Steve Heller owns shares of 3D Systems and ExOne. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of 3D Systems, ExOne, 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.