At the Inside 3-D Printing Conference in New York City, Curtis Carson, head of systems integration at Airbus Group (OTC:EADSY), addressed an audience about the role that 3-D printing will play in future aircraft manufacturing. By the end of the address, it was clear that aviation-oriented 3-D printing applications are very much in their early days, and it will realistically take many years until the trend truly takes hold. From an investor's perspective, 3-D printing companies with direct part manufacturing capabilities, particularly with metal -- like 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) through its Phenix Systems acquisition -- are in a position to benefit from the aviation industry turning more and more to 3-D printing for direct part manufacturing.
For a manufacturer like Airbus, the incentive is quite high to adopt 3-D printing in a meaningful way because it's an efficient manufacturing process that can lead to cost savings and better performing components compared to conventional manufacturing processes -- a win-win for Airbus and its customers.
Also at the Inside 3-D Printing Conference, 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental highlighted the fact that, despite having increased its manufacturing capacity for its line of metal 3-D printers often used for aviation applications, the company simply can't keep up with demand. Although metal 3-D printing won't have a huge effect on 3D Systems' business in the near term, it's certainly an encouraging sign that interest about metal 3-D printing is increasing.
In the following video, 3-D printing analyst Steve Heller and Motley Fool industrials bureau chief Blake Bos have a candid discussion about Airbus and the role 3-D printing plays in its operations. They also talk about how 3D Systems and 3-D printing investors would be well served not to get too excited about this development because it's a multi-year trend in the making.