The full promise of 3D printers didn’t really hit me until recently. These are printers that build 3D objects from resin like materials. The specifications for the objects come from digital representations.
The technology is in its infancy and there are still advancements to make. The printers need to get cheaper and faster. The strength of the objects produced need to get stronger. These are significant challenges, but I think the solutions are within reach.
Once they’re common place, these printers can have a profound impact. Will it make sense to ship goods assembled with low cost labor from China all over the world, or will it be cheaper to print whatever you need just in time?
Will we see every home with small 3D printers to print household items? For large items, will we see some Walmart’s close in favor of industrial 3D printer stations for large items? It could be that chassis for all sorts of goods like autos and refrigerators that are hard to ship will be printed in regional printer stations, while the electronics and motors that are smaller and easier to ship will be manufactured in a central location.
3D Systems (www.3dsystems.com) is a leader in this space and is profitable. The company has a market capitalizaiton over $900 million with a Price Earnings ration of over 35. That implies investors are expect a growth in earnings of 15-20% per year, or a doubling in earnings every 4 to 5 years. If the company reaches its potential, we should hear a lot more about them!
Bre Pettis’ Maker Bot is also making waves. Bre is fresh off an appearance on the Colbert Nation show as detailed by the Faballoo blog http://fabbaloo.com/blog/2011/6/10/bre-pettis-on-colbert.html .