Between now and next year, a host of key 3-D printing patents related to stereolithography and selective laser sintering will be expiring, inviting new competition for 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD). The fear is that 3D Systems won't be able to maintain the high prices it's been enjoying, resulting in pricing and profitability headwinds down the road.
While these are certainly valid concerns, investors should be careful not to assume that new competitors will be able to offer 3-D printing products and services at the same caliber as 3D Systems. For instance, the upcoming $3,299 Form 1 stereolithography desktop 3-D printer only offers one 3-D printing material, whereas some of 3D Systems' stereolithography machines can handle more than a dozen different materials. In addition, relatively cheap competitors such as the Form 1 likely won't have much of an impact on 3D Systems' high-end professional and industrial lines of 3-D printers.
In the following video, 3-D printing analyst Steve Heller makes the case that investors should remain watchful over new competitors entering the 3-D printing space, but worrying too much about this potential threat is currently unwarranted.