Many analysts have criticized Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) for not offering a 3-D metal printing solution. After all, 3-D metal printing is poised to become a huge industry in the years ahead, with the aviation industry starting to make use of it for mission-critical components. While it may seem as though Stratasys is missing out on a potentially massive opportunity, it's likely for a good reason.

Currently, 3-D metal printing is very capital intensive and its applications are more limited in scope than 3-D printed plastic. As a result, the barrier to entry in the 3-D metal printing space is much higher than the 3-D printed plastics segment. From Stratasys' perspective, these constraints limit the total business opportunity for the company, which likely explains why it hasn't entered the metal 3-D printing market with its own product offering yet. It's important for investors to remember that Stratasys has a long history of being laser-focused when it comes to making new acquisitions and entering new markets. Until the economics and opportunities around 3-D metal printing improve, the heavy capital and resource outlay required today may divert Stratasys' focus from its core operations.

In the following video, 3-D printing analyst Steve Heller sits down with Rich Stump of FATHOM, a highly experienced Stratasys reseller and service center, to discuss why he believes it's still too early to bet on 3-D metal printing from a service center standpoint. Stump is ultimately optimistic that the economics behind 3-D metal printing will improve in the years ahead.

Steve Heller has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Stratasys. It also owns shares of General Electric Company. 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.