The Boston Company reported that the 3-D printing technology is also referred to as additive manufacturing. Though it is a 30-year old industry, 3-D technology has recently gained commercial traction as a result of falling prices, improved software and expanded utility. Investments have grown and new units have been designed for commercial sale. However, this technology is not yet ready for mass production. It is yet another example of when technology is ahead of its time.
The 3-D printing market is estimated at $3billion in annual sales and with a compound annual growth rate of almost 26% during 2015. Three main companies exist that are spearheading growth of this segment. Currently, the greatest uses have been for research laboratories, building prototypes, vehicle parts, building consumer electronic products and orthopedic implants.
Stratasys Ltd, 3-D Systems Corporation and Autodesk have brought this technology to the media forefront.
A 3D printing company specializing in the industrial sector
3D Systems Corporation
Founded by the original inventor of the 3D printing machine
A software company investing in 3D printing technology networks
1. Stratasys LTD
“Within 10 years, every commercial airplane will have 3D printed parts on it. That’s just one example that you can apply across a multitude of industries – medical, energy, automotive, etc.” –Joe Allison, CEO
Founded in 1989, Stratasys may be considered innovative by the mere fact that they have configured an industrial-grade piece of equipment to be commercially ready. Some of their most sophisticated machines, like the J750, are able to build objects using 360K color shades and different types of plastics. They are also advancing to include other types of materials by investing in a 3-D metal printing start-up in 2015.
Using a reseller and distributor business model, Startasys partnered with MakerBot to cross sell their products. This partnership may be the strategy to bring Stratasys out of a sales slump. In the first quarter of 2016, sales were down causing the company to cut costs and slow down the pace of mergers and acquisitions. Current revenue has reached $167 million with $31.6 million in operating cash flow.
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2. 3D Systems Corporation
“While the company has a strong history in place, it is clear that we need to develop new and innovative products with unprecedented quality and service levels to drive sustainable growth and profits.” –Vyomesh Joshi, CEO
3D Systems can boast being the first manufacturer of the original 3D printing machine invented by the company’s founder, Chuck Hull. This company has the broadest range of printing options for the medical and product design sectors. Its history and market standing has translated into $152.6 million in revenue and $18.1 million of cash from operations.
New technologies released by the company included GibbsCam and the Universal Kinematic Machine. The relatively new CEO intends to develop a strategy to drive profitable growth first by listening and learning from customers, partners and employees.
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3. Autodesk Inc.
Autodesk is an innovator in many ways with its aggressive acquisition business model. It has acquired 40 companies in the past 3 years and has a market cap of $12.7billion according to TechCrunch. Through $100million fund, it invests in 3D metal printing technology as well.
When other companies are advancing 3D printing by redesigning the machines, Autodesk seeks to push the limits of conventional 3D printing by creating a network of printers using Project Escher. Project Escher combines the power of several printers to fabricate complex parts at one time. This process addresses some of the concerns inhibiting commercial adoption including production time, materials options and equipment costs. The greatest benefit is that it increases production speed by up to 90%.
Though Project Escher is still being developed in-house, this technology is the basis for future growth strategies of the company.