Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
What: Shares of leading 3D printing company Stratasys (SSYS 0.18%) plummeted nearly 7% on heavy trading volume in early trading today, though they recouped much of their losses to close down less than 1%.
So what: The drop in Stratasys, along with most of its fellow 3D printing company peers, was due to Hewlett-Packard (HPQ -1.36%) unveiling its new "Multi Jet Fusion" 3D printing technology and the printer based upon this tech that it plans to bring to market in 2016. This morning's announcement was much anticipated, as HP CEO Meg Whitman confirmed earlier this year that the king of 2D printing would announce its 3D printing offering in "late 2014." Additionally, there has been much recent chatter that the "big unveil" would occur at an event today that HP marketed with the tag line "Reimagine the Possibilities."
We knew from Whitman's previous comments that HP planned to target its 3D printer to the manufacturing space and was exploring increasing the speed of the process. We learned today that HP's Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer, which builds on the company's expertise in the jet printing technology it uses in its 2D printers, should be 10 times faster than comparable 3D printers on the market. At this point, it looks as if the printer will solely print in plastics. HP didn't release a price for the product.
Now what: Stratasys investors should sit tight, in my opinion. The market behaved today just as it often does: It overreacts because short-term traders and some skittish "investors" trade on a dime, and then the stock price climbs back to some degree after market players have time to digest the news.
Granted, HP should not be underestimated: The company has very deep pockets, and its 3D printing technology and forthcoming product look quite impressive. That said, it's premature to assume that HP is going to rule the 3D printing space. For one thing, announcing a new offering and actually executing on plans are two different matters. Second, HP won't launch its 3D printer until at least 2016, and that's if all goes according to plan; in the tech space, delays are quite common.
Stratasys has a long head start in 3D printing technology and several different core 3D printing technologies (fused deposition modeling, wax deposition modeling, and PolyJet), not to mention its revolutionary multimaterial Connex tech, which is being used by researchers exploring 4D printing. Investors can be certain that Stratasys' offerings won't remain stagnant until HP enters the market in 2016 (or beyond). The company has maintained a steady research and development budget of 10%-11% of revenue for quite a while, and it continues to improve its 3D printing technology and roll out new products. Stratasys' largely R&D-driven organic growth is one reason that it should prove effective at fending off competition from HP and other new entrants into the industry.
Stay tuned! We'll be bringing you more details about HP's 3D printing plans and how they could affect the fortunes of the existing 3D printing companies.