Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

3D Systems Corporation Reinvents the 3-D Printer

By Steve Heller - Jun 20, 2014 at 6:45PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

It offers the potential to revolutionize manufacturing as we know it.

In order to make Google's highly customizable and modular smartphone concept Project Ara a reality, 3D Systems (DDD 2.31%) was tasked with creating a "factory from the future." This entailed inventing a continuous high-speed 3-D printing assembly line to accommodate creating customized modular smartphone components on a larger scale. Although the manufacturing platform didn't exist at the time, 3D Systems delivered a working prototype in less than a year of its official partnership with Google.

Source: 3D Systems.

No small feat
Last November, when 3D Systems' partnership with Google was announced, "high-speed" and "3-D printer" weren't often found in the same sentence. By nature, 3-D printing is a layer-by-layer additive manufacturing process, which inherently makes speed a major shortcoming of the technology. In order to boost production output to where thousands of customized parts can be efficiently produced each day for Project Ara, 3D Systems had to completely reimagine how it approached 3-D printing. Ultimately, 3D Systems opted for a high-speed track system where print beds move from print head to print head, enabling modular components to be made out of a variety of materials, including ones with conductive properties, in a matter of minutes. 3D Systems touts that its "racetrack" approach supports 3-D printing speeds 50 times faster than existing jetting technology.

Big implications
Because 3D Systems can take what it learns from Project Ara and apply it to a host of other manufacturing applications, it opens up the potential for 3D Systems to claim additional market share on the manufacturing floor. Industry watchers like Wohlers Associates believe that 3-D printing continues to offer "tremendous untapped potential, especially in custom and short-run part production," because a company may spend 5%-10% on design and prototyping, but the remaining 90%-95% is spent on production.

Undoubtedly, a manufacturing platform that offers continuous, high-speed fab-grade printing capabilities would position 3D Systems for tremendous growth potential in the much larger and less saturated manufacturing segment of the 3-D printing industry. Because it's almost certain that 3D Systems will patent this 3-D printing manufacturing platform, the company will also likely enjoy a first-mover advantage over the competition for years to come.

With the promise of 50 times faster print speeds, 3D Systems may have created a massive opportunity for itself in the coming years to grow its manufacturing market share. Going forward, 3D Systems investors should look forward to EuroMold 2014 this November, when 3D Systems officially debuts this manufacturing platform to the public. Until then, sit tight and look forward to additional teasers about the platform.

Steve Heller owns shares of 3D Systems and Google (A & C shares). The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of 3D Systems, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). 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.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

3D Systems Corporation Stock Quote
3D Systems Corporation
DDD
$12.40 (2.31%) $0.28

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
400%
 
S&P 500 Returns
128%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/13/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.