Although we're many years away from 3-D printing competing against large-scale traditional manufacturing, 3-D printing still has an edge over traditional manufacturing in terms of complexity and customization. Because no tooling is required, 3-D printing excels at creating highly complicated objects, which would be otherwise impossible to manufacture with traditional processes. In addition, this characteristic also allows for custom-tailored solutions to be made more affordable than traditional manufacturing.
As a result, the two companies in the best position to benefit from the rise of 3-D printing are 3D Systems (DDD -2.67%) and Stratasys (SSYS -1.60%). 3D Systems is the most diversified 3-D printing company around, offering a broad exposure to the 3-D printing market. Recently, 3D Systems helped develop the world's first hybrid robotic 3-D printed exoskeleton, which allowed a paralyzed woman to walk again after more than 20 years of being confined to a wheelchair.
With Stratasys, investors get a more conservative management company that's focused primarily on the prototyping market. Stratasys offers some of the most advanced prototyping 3-D printers on the market, which positions it well for when more businesses want to invest in 3-D printing as a way to save time and money during the design process.
In the following video, 3-D printing analyst Steve Heller goes into more detail about where 3-D printing is superior to traditional manufacturing.