First, let us not confuse 3D printing with what we are all familiar with, which is 2D printing, the transfer of text or images onto a piece of paper. 3D printing, also known as Rapid Prototyping or Additive Layer Manufacturing, is the process of using a computer aided design (CAD) program to create a physical object from different materials, such as paper, plastic, ceramics, metals, food, and even exotic materials. 3D printing: the next industrial revolution that will transform the world indeed.
Just imagine this simple scenario: McDonald’s currently has to physically store all those little toys that are given away with Kids’ Meals. What if the company decides to install 3D printing equipment in their outlets and “print” these toys on demand before you drive off. An 83 year old woman even underwent a jaw transplant with 3D printing, as her advanced age made reconstructive surgery risky. The immense implications of this brand new technology are hard to fathom at this point and only imagination can constrict all the applications that can be achieved.
Some observers have gone so far as to brand 3D printing as spelling the end of the ubiquitous Made in China brand. Well, perhaps not in the near future yet; however, it is a distinct possibility can no longer be ignored.
Major companies have already adopted this new technology that emerged in 1987 into their design and manufacturing processes. The medical community has also been rocked by 3D printing, as human organs are being fashioned and lives being saved by this still emerging technology.
Presently the number of companies involved with 3D printing is still minuscule, but more entrants will undoubtedly crowd in as more companies start implementing the technology as savings measures.
Some of the more sophisticated 3D printing equipment can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the technology has already developed to the point that desktop models are now being offered for little more than $1,000.
How to take advantage of this emerging technology?
There are three ways to profit from 3D printing:
- 3D Equipment Manufacturers: This is self explanatory. Just invest in the companies that manufacture the equipment.
- Razor and Blade: This analogy follows the same principle that razor companies have used for years, which is to sell the product cheap and make the profits from replacement cartridges. The same applies to smartphones that are practically given away in the hope of reaping profits through air time. As 3D printing starts reaching the mass consumer, one way to play this industry is to concentrate on companies that supply the replacement components of 3D printing equipment.
- CAD: Companies that can supply the CAD software needed to run the equipment will reap the benefit of the proliferation of the equipment itself. CAD applications are currently still expensive due to the sophistication level, but as more mundane applications become more popular, the price will drop just like the 3D equipment itself did.
Some 3D Popular Companies
- 3D Systems
- SolidWorks 3D CAD
- Dassault Systemes SA (French company)
- Proto Labs
Imagine what would have happened if you had invested in AOL or Microsoft when they first started operations. You probably would be reading this on your yacht sipping expensive champagne. 3D printing: the next industrial revolution that will transform the world and the next Trillion dollar industry?