French company Sculpteo offers 3-D printing services for businesses and consumers, but the way it approaches the consumer market is quite unique. Aside from offering a consumer marketplace where people can buy and sell 3-D printed designs that Sculpteo professionally prints, it also offers API integration for businesses to directly tap into Sculpteo's 3-D printing platform. 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) and Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) investors can think of Sculpteo as being a behind-the-scenes third party 3-D printing service provider for other companies' 3-D printing products or services. Although leading consumer 3-D printing service provider Shapeways offers a similar API service for businesses to create apps, Sculpteo tends to have faster turnaround times, which it believes can help differentiate it from the competition.

As far as 3-D printing technology, Sculpteo's most popular technology with businesses is selective laser sintering, or SLS, but the company has also been known to use stereolithography and PolyJet technologies. SLS uses a laser to heat and melt a fine powder material like nylon in a layer by layer process. The melted layer is fused to a previously melted layer, then the process is repeated with fresh powder several thousand times until the object is formed. SLS excels with complexity and durability, making it an ideal choice for functional prototypes and finished products. 3D Systems offers an entire line of SLS machines that may suit Sculpteo's needs as it continues building out capacity.

In fact, behind the scenes 3D Systems has more potential to benefit from Sculpteo's growth than Stratasys, because it offers 3-D printers based on SLS and stereolithography. Of course, both 3D Systems and Stratasys would love to sell Sculpteo its 3-D printers because this would likely lead to future materials sales, which can be highly profitable and generate streams of recurring revenue for years to come.

In the following video, 3-D printing specialist Steve Heller talks with Kirsten Turner, Sculpteo's director of U.S. marketing, about what technology it favors and the company's stance on the consumer-oriented market. Going forward, 3D Systems and Stratasys investors should continue to watch Sculpteo and other 3-D printing service providers' expansion plans to get a better sense of future demand for industrial and professional 3-D printers.