Why 3D Printing Stocks have tanked, and why that actually signals great news for the industry

A lot has been made in the press of 3D Printing stocks – most notably Stratasys and 3D Systems – over the last several years. First, they were darlings of Wall Street, reaching astronomical valuations buoyed by the seemingly unlimited potential of the technology, corresponding expectations for hyper growth, and their leading market positions. But something happened in the last year or so – the companies that had been grabbing headlines for their burgeoning market caps were getting those headlines for disappointing investors, missing earnings, and plummeting stock prices.

To an outsider, this might signal an ominous sign for the 3D Printing industry. Perhaps the technology has hit a wall – the hype was simply too big and the substance isn’t there to match it. Some have argued that the technology is passing through the fabled “trough of disillusionment,” when a public that had become enamored with a new technology’s potential comes to terms with the hard truth that its actual capabilities are a far cry from the headlines.

While there is cause to temper the most aggressive expectations somewhat – people will not eventually print everything at home, for instance (more on that in another post) – I would argue that these stocks tanking is a good sign, rather than a bad one, for the industry and technology as a whole. 3D Printing continues to retain the same promise it’s always had, and the advancements in the technology are rapid and encouraging. However, 3D Printing stocks have been getting hammered because those companies that are publicly traded are going through a genuine trough of disillusionment regarding their ability to corner this emerging market. They have suffered from some questionable acquisitions, pursuit of a consumer market that isn’t quite there yet, and a number of other factors that have given investors just cause to deflate valuations of those specific stocks.

But the industry marches on, and marches faster.  A few key facts to consider…

  1. Market growth was enormous last year, outpacing consensus expectations. According to Wohlers and Associates’ annual report, the global 3D Printing market revenues – defined as the combination of printers, feedstocks, and services – grew from $3.1B in to $4.2B in 2014. That’s a 35% growth rate, outpacing virtually every industry analyst’s expectation. Major printing stocks couldn’t keep pace with that industry growth – last quarter, DDD was up 8.8% over the same period last year, and SSYS was similarly up 14.4%.  Not bad, but not 35%.
  2. New innovations are introduced to the market on a seemingly weekly basis. Take the eight day span from March 17-25 for instance, when not one, but two companies – Carbon 3D and Australia’s Gizmo3D – publicized videos with prototype printers executing stereolithography-esque printing at speeds of 25x-100x what the market currently offers. Just a few months prior, HP officially announced its intention to become a major player in the market, with plans to introduce its MultiJet Fusion technology to the market before the end of 2016. And a few months later, Cosine Additive showed at RAPID with a large form FDM printer to compete with Stratasys’ Fortus 900mc.
  3. Metal printing is exploding. EOS, Arcam AB, Concept Laser, SLM Solutions – all are signaling significant growth to the market. Take Arcam AB (the only publicly traded metal printer manufacturer of the bunch), for instance, which reported healthy growth and earnings in 2015 with a 105% increase in sales and 208% increase in earnings per share.  Its stock price has also slid in the last year, but one might argue that’s a case of presumed guilt by association with other 3D Printing stocks.
  4. Businesses that have invested in industrial grade equipment are busy and investing in new equipment. Since our company, 3Diligent, is in the business of connecting supply with demand for on-demand rapidly manufactured parts, I can attest to this from firsthand meetings with 3D Printing service providers and corporations.   Quality service providers are busy and continuing to expand their industrial machine base.  Seemingly every company has “Develop a strategy for 3D Printing” in its leadership directives.  The demand is growing and the supply is growing to match it – in some cases, it’s backlogged.  Incorporating additive manufacturing into product design and inventory management activities is simply too disruptive and potentially beneficial to ignore.  And that isn’t to even consider the larger mass manufacturing implications for 3D Printing when a broader swath of designers understand how to optimize next generation designs for the technology.

So it’s important not to conflate disappointing performance by a few publicly traded companies with broader industry performance and prospects. Stratasys and 3D Systems continue to manufacture some of the industry’s most reliable and fully featured printers – particularly when it comes to plastics and resins. It’s just that Wall Street is coming to realize, among other things, that innovation with a technology this revolutionary is going to come from many places, and no two companies are going to be able to corner all of the market’s growth.

All things considered, this is great news for anyone hoping 3D Printing will guide us through another Industrial Revolution. Competition breeds faster innovation, better products, and more competitive pricing.  So don’t lose heart that a few stocks have taken it on the chin the last few quarters – the future of 3D printing is very bright indeed…


Cullen Hilkene is CEO of 3Diligent, the Sourcing Solution for Industrial Grade Rapid Manufacturing. He is an alumnus of Princeton University, the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and Deloitte Strategy and Operations Consulting. For more information about 3D Printing and to access 3Diligent’s marketplace of 3D Printing vendors, visit www.3Diligent.com.


Hello New York!

Pretty awesome to see news of 3Diligent’s launch popping up in Times Square!

One month after launch, news of 3Diligent appeared on the PR Newswire feed in Times Square.  Needless to say, buzz about our offering is growing!

We are excited to help our customers and vendors on their 3D printing and rapid manufacturing needs.  Through our platform we connect customers with top quality vendors and facilitate the communication, bidding, and transaction processes creating a win-win situation for both parties.

So if you are a business looking for suppliers in the 3D printing space, we are your sourcing solution.  On our platform, access the capabilities of many vendors in real time, saving yourself loads of time and money.

If you are a service provider who has invested in next generation technologies and looking to maximize your machines’ utilization, we are your solution as well.  Via our algorithmic matching of customer RFQ to vendor capabilities, you’re hand delivered RFQs that you’re well positioned to support.

Customers, sign up today from the 3Diligent.com home page and gain access to the most powerful sourcing tool in the 3D Printing industry for free.  Getting competitive bids from qualified vendors has never been easier.  Vendors, contact us to start the qualification process to become a vendor today.  It’s also free to join.

Let us help your business Source Smarter. Visit www.3Diligent.com to learn more about us and sign up for free.  Any questions? Drop us a note in the comment section. 

Possibilities of 3D Printing

There is no shortage of buzz these days about 3D Printing. A Netflix documentary about 3D Printing was a much-hyped fall release, home 3D printers were promoted as one of the big gifts of the holiday season, and rarely a day goes by without someone in the business community talking about the myth or reality of 3D printing’s future. Amidst all the chatter, and despite an increasingly high degree of awareness across the country and world, a true understanding of the 3D printing market – where it is, where it’s going, and what’s going to get it there – remains an elusive bird. This document sets out to provide a baseline understanding of 3D Printing: its history, the different 3D Printing technologies and how they work, practical applications of the technology, and the current state of the 3D printing market.

History of 3D Printing


3D Printing is, surprisingly to some, a fairly old and established technology. The first 3D Printer, a Stereo Lithography Apparatus (SLA), was invented by Charles Hull in 1984. He went on to found 3D Systems, the first 3D Printer manufacturer. Fast forward 30 years, and the industry is just now reaching an inflection point for explosive growth. In the last decade, various industrial grade printer manufacturers have emerged with new technologies, creating competition in the printing of high grade plastics and metals. Further, with the expiration of original Stratasys and 3D Systems patents, hundreds of new consumer printers have now entered the market, capturing the imagination of the masses.

In conjunction with this increase in competition has been an increase in quality. While 3D Printing designs were previously the stuff of artistic models or non-functional prototypes, the arrival of new materials – particularly heavy duty polymers and metals – as well as enhanced printer accuracy and speed have allowed for functioning prototypes and end-use parts to be created in a 3D printer. The ability to produce functional parts is huge for 3D Printing as it opens market opportunities with much heavier industry. To be clear, 3D Printing still has limitations to address (e.g., limited availability of materials, as-printed finish quality), and while those are being worked out CNC machining[1] will sometimes be the more effective rapid manufacturing solution. We suspect that traditional subtractive manufacturing will remain the better choice for most mass produced jobs – particularly simple parts – because it is faster and cheaper with large quantities. Nevertheless, the potential is enormous and there are many companies who have realized where the technology is going and have embraced it whole heartedly.

Looking Forward

The combination of these factors – combined with a sense the cost of printing must come down – has led to the prevailing sentiment that 3D Printing is at an inflection point for rapid to explosive growth. Wohler’s and Associates, the pre-eminent consulting firm for the 3D Printing Industry, projects market growth from $3B in 2013 to $21B by 2020 – a CAGR of 31%. Investment banks like Morgan Stanley[2] and Credit Suisse[3] generally support that growth estimate.  These projections speak to a bright immediate future, but many investors in the space are thinking long term when placing their bets. The global manufacturing industry is $10.5T in size, and many believe 3D Printing is destined to displace at least 10% of that market share. Beyond displacement of traditional manufacturing, 3D Printing also stands to create new opportunities not currently addressed by traditional manufacturing operations. Custom printing of medicine, human tissue, housing, and food are all currently in varying stages of research and development.

The Technology

The market is at an inflection point, the near term growth projections are aggressive, and the potential market opportunity is enormous. But how does 3D Printing technology actually work? Here’s a quick summary of Computer Aided Design (CAD), the computer programming that provides the foundation for 3D Printing, as well as an overview of some of the most prominent 3D printing technologies today.

Computer Aided Design (CAD)

Providing the foundation for not only 3D Printing but also its rapid manufacturing brother CNC Machining is Computer Aided Design (CAD) technology. CAD is, for most intents and purposes, digital 3D blueprinting. Using this computer software, engineers are able to create designs which can then be fed into 3D Printers or CNC Machining devices. Using the designs, the machines then process the data based on the accuracy parameters provided by the machine’s technician to develop an approach to manufacturing the design. This creates incredible efficiencies…please have a look at the video behind this link, where Spacex and Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks to the power of CAD design and 3D Printing in product development: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xNqs_S-zEBY.

Primary 3D Printing Types

All 3D Printers are similar in one key respect – they all process CAD files to build a part additively, layer-by-layer, until the desired shape is created. Beyond that, differences abound. The exact process by which those layers are built, the materials available, and the physical equipment used to build those layers all vary significantly. With those differences in turn come significant variances in speed, cost, and quality. Figure 1 presents some of the most common 3D printing technologies, a brief description of each, and video links where you can see the respective technologies in action.

Figure 1. Different Types of 3D Printing

ProcessLeading ProvidersProcess OverviewVideo Link
Sterolithography (SLA)3D Systems, Autodesk, FormLabsBuilds parts by selectively curing a liquid photopolymer "resin" in a vat with an ultraviolet laser and a moving platformhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9m5gEtow88
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)Stratasys, >300 OthersA plastic filament is unwound from a coil, melted by a heated nozzle, and extruded onto a build platform where it re-solidifieshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKHMmKqdI68
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)3D SystemsUses a laser to selectively sinter (heat and fuse) powdered plastic in a powder bedhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Knizld-zyDI
PolyJetStratasysSimilar to an InkJet printer, PolyJet 3D Printers jet layers of curable liquid photopolymer onto a build trayhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqjXNewdwXg
Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)EOSUses a laser to selectively sinter (heat and fuse) a powdered metal materialhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRE-PzI6uZA
Selective Laser Melting (SLM)SLM Solutions, Concept LaserUses a laser (usually a ytterbium fiber laser) to fully melt a powdered metal materialhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llzdGiRDXKM
Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)Arcam ABUses a guided electron beam in a vacuum to fully melt a powdered metal materialhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxxIVLnAbLw

3D Printing Applications

As noted previously, the key benefits of 3D printing are twofold: the ability to rapidly manufacture small quantities and the elimination of design constraints inherent to traditional subtractive manufacturing. This leads to a number of key applications throughout the product lifecycle.

Rapid Prototyping

Because 3D printing allows for such rapid iteration within CAD programming, without the need for significant setup time between production runs, that it is an ideal tool for rapid prototyping. In fact, the term “Rapid Manufacturing” has been used synonymously with “3D Printing” and “Additive Manufacturing” over the past several years because of its unique suitability to this role.

Manufacture of Extremely Complex or Organically Shaped Parts

The elimination of design constraints and the arrival of production grade plastic and metal feedstock for 3D printers has allowed companies to consider creation of parts that would otherwise be impractical or outright impossible to manufacture with traditional subtractive manufacturing processes (e.g., lathing, milling). Most commonly, the parts chosen for mass 3D printing manufacture are either innovative new designs (e.g., patient-customized prosthetics) or to combine multiple subassemblies into singular parts to eliminate complexity and failure risk (e.g., NASA’s reduction of sub-assemblies in its rocket fuel injector from 163 to 2).[4]

Manufacture of Lighter Parts

3D Printing’s ability to lay down very specific patterns allows for what is commonly known as “honeycombing” of walls in manufactured parts. Like a truss bridge that is as strong yet lighter (due to its triangle-based support system throughout its sides[5] or the bee honeycomb from which it gets its name than a solid object) 3D printers can build parts with largely hollow walls that maintain a comparable material strength to parts that previously had to have solid walls via subtractive manufacturing processes. This has made the process especially attractive to industries where being light is key, such as aerospace and automotive.

Manufacture of Legacy Spare Parts

In industries such as aerospace, automotive, and industrial products, the productive life of a part is often measured in decades rather than months or years. Yet many Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) do not offer a warranty or reasonably priced replacement spares for older parts. Customers are often left hunting far and wide for aftermarket solutions while their machine sits idle. For those OEMs that offer long-term or lifetime warranties, the cost of manufacturing legacy parts is impractically high – either produce a small batch at a quantity well below scale or suffer the cost of carrying excess inventory for these seldom ordered parts. In both scenarios, high costs are understandably passed along to customers as high prices.

Production grade 3D printing will increasingly eliminate this dilemma. So long as there is a CAD file for the part, the spare can be manufactured on demand, to specification, and provided to the customer at a far lower unit price than possible before. This 3D printing application will become prominent in coming years, as regulators (e.g., FAA) become increasingly comfortable with 3D printed end use parts.

State of the Market

With the arrival of production grade 3D printing and all of its game changing applications, the question is naturally raised “Why haven’t I heard about all this yet?” That question begs a quick state of the market assessment as we close the chapter on this white paper, and prepare to open a new chapter in discussing how 3Diligent will play a role in helping accelerate the adoption of this technology.

The Market

According to a Wohler’s and Associates estimate, the global 3D Printing Market was $3.1B at the end of 2013. Of this, roughly two-thirds of industry revenues came from the United States. Industry revenues are split between 3D Printer sales, 3D Printer feedstock sales, printer-related service, and on-demand part manufacture, with on-demand part manufacture representing about 30%.[6] Most of these revenues are and will continue to be booked within the business sector – Goldman Sachs projects that only 2.5% of the market will be consumer spending. [7] Industries such as aerospace (e.g., Boeing, Airbus, NASA), life sciences (e.g., dental), automotive (e.g., Formula One Racing), and consumer/industrial products will drive long term growth.

The market’s growth to date has been hindered by two key issues – limited applications and cost. However, as noted earlier, the first of those items has increasingly been addressed by new production-grade materials and more reliable print quality, and the second is partially being addressed by the arrival of new competitors. Prevailing sentiment is that the applications outlined earlier will increasingly be adopted and that costs will continue to come down, resulting in a market explosion to $21B by 2020.

The questions that remain are “How will companies become more aware of these applications?” and “What will push the cost down to a level of broad market adoption?” That is where 3Diligent comes in. In our next white paper, we will outline the important role a B2B marketplace can play in promoting broader market awareness of 3D Printing’s technological capabilities, but more importantly how our unique approach to fostering competition and utilizing the industry’s excess capacity can drive down costs and promote quality to accelerate mass market adoption.



[1] CNC Machining also uses CAD data, but rather than use that data to build up a part additively, it uses that data to calculate very exact pathways for machine tools (lathes, mills, etc.) housed within a single apparatus that then gradually remove scrap material until the desired end use part is achieved. Of note, CNC Machining is a service also offered through the 3Diligent platform, as we anticipate a transitory period of many years where certain jobs are better suited for CNC Machining than 3D Printing. This video link offers some useful visuals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnIvhlKT7SY

[2] Forbes. “HP’s 3D Print Breakthrough Could Push Rivals out of Business.” 29 October 2014.

[3] http://www.businessinsider.com/the-3-d-printing-market-will-be-huge-2013-9

[4] http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/29/6083275/nasas-3d-printed-rocket-part-survives-6000-degree-test-firing

[5] https://sites.google.com/a/wyckoffschools.org/stem-grade-8/2-types-of-bridges

[6] http://www.popular3dprinters.com/credit-suisse-claims-3d-printing-is-going-to-be-way-bigger-than-we-think/

[7] Goldman Sachs. “Americas: Capital Goods.” 14 April 2014.

3Diligent Raises Nearly $1M in Seed Round

Well the word is out: we’ve raised a nearly $1M seed round and launched our web portal, www.3Diligent.com.  We are thankful to have a fantastic set of investors and look forward to enhancing the user experience on the 3Diligent web portal for our customers and vendors!  Further thanks to the good folks at 3DPrint.com for a great writeup.

With this funding in hand, we’ve been put in a position to launch 3Diligent.com, invest in ongoing development, and spread the word about this fantastic resource for anyone seeking use of advanced manufacturing.

3Diligent is the sourcing solution for industrial rapid manufacturing.  We connect customers who need 3D printing, CNC machining, casting, molding and other rapid manufacturing technologies with qualified vendors to perform their job on time and to spec.

Our platform gives customers seamless access to multiple vendors with expertise in a wide arrange of rapid manufacturing technologies.  Customers submit an RFQ, the right set of vendors to complete the job are identified, and those vendors competitively bid on the project opportunity.  Customers are given the ability to directly converse with vendors via the platform to refine their request and arrive at the ideal service provider for their job.

Meanwhile, the platform gives our vendors access to more customers and the opportunity to utilize excess capacity.  Vendors with excess or idle capacity can offer competitive bids to get the most out of their machines.  This ability is bolstered by 3Diligent’s “veiled bidding” concept: customers and vendors are provided all the information they need before consummating a transaction (certifications, ratings, reviews, etc.), but their names are left out of it until the deal is reached.  This allows vendors to comfortably offer below market prices when they have the ability to do so.

Every vendor goes through 3Diligent’s qualification process before joining the platform and vendors are rated and reviewed by customers to ensure quality.  Further, every transaction on the platform is backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee.  If your parts are not delivered to you on time and to spec, you will be given the option of your money back.

Thanks again to our investors!  We are very excited to bring the business community more efficient and affordable access to amazing rapid manufacturing technology with their backing!

Let us help your business source smarter. Sign up for free at www.3Diligent.com/signup to learn more about us and start taking advantage of our platform. Any questions? Drop us a note in the comment section. 

3Diligent: The Sourcing Solution for Industrial Grade Rapid Manufacturing

Instant Access to the Latest and Greatest 3D Printing, CNC Machining, and More…

3D Printing is an incredible technology.  But it’s expensive.  If you want to access the latest technologies but don’t want to fork over a small fortune for a machine or waste tons of time hunting down vendors, only to find they don’t have your desired material, process, or reasonable pricing, 3Diligent is for you.  

The 3DP Story

3D Printing is a game changer.  And we want to help your business access the best of it faster and for less.

Article after article says it, from The Economist to Forbes to Business Insider.  There is no denying that additive manufacturing (the more technical name for 3D printing) is fundamentally changing the way things are made.

But it’s somewhat remarkable to think that this is a technology that – at it’s heart – has been around for more than three decades.  A number of things have held this technology back from adoption – patent protections, speed concerns, size limitations – but quality and cost have generally been established as the biggest recent issues.

Recent Developments

Recent years have been kind to 3D printing on the quality front.  Material science has improved massively – with aerospace grade plastics and metals arriving in the market.  Production accuracy has similarly improved, with accuracy from industrial printers capable of meeting or exceeding +/- .005″.  Case in point, GE is manufacturing all of its next generation LEAP jet fuel nozzles by way of additive manufacturing.

There have been strides on the cost front, but cheap the technology is not.  Certain patents expiring on early technologies like Stereolithography (SLA) and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and community efforts like the Rep Rap Project gave rise to desktop printers like the Makerbot Replicator and Form One.  These personal printers could be offered for a few thousand dollars – relative peanuts compared to industrial printers.   But those industrial printers – the ones achieving the quality and certifications that I mentioned earlier – still carry price tags in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.  If you want to access this incredible professional and production-grade technology to achieve something better than a basic prototype, what do you do?

The Printer’s Dilemma

Buy a printer?  Not a chance…not with that price tag and related obsolescence risks!  By the time you hired and trained staff internally, it’s a safe bet the printer you bought has been surpassed by a slew of faster, better models.

Lease a printer?  The residual values built into leases after just a couple years make it almost the same as buying a printer without the capital asset.

Outsource to a service provider?  This makes the most sense for all but the biggest companies.  And even for mega corporations, it still makes sense to outsource some production that isn’t viable in-house – whether as overflow or for less commonly used materials and/or processes.  The trouble is, utilizing a service bureau, or even a few, has its own issues.  Service bureaus face the same concerns as their customers – trying to win the race against obsolescence by keeping machines running all the time, with full build trays, and striving to stock the right amount of material to perfectly match demand.  Since every vendor takes a different approach to recouping investment – and since no vendor is perfect at inventory management – pricing can be highly variable from one service provider to the next – sometimes 10x.  Further, since no provider carries all the technologies in the market, let alone all the available material-process combinations, even a handful of select service providers are not enough.

And that’s describing the challenge of how to go about 3D printing.  We haven’t even touched on the separate analysis of when to use 3D Printing, and the fact that it isn’t always the best option relative to CNC Machining, Molding, Casting, and a handful of other rapid manufacturing techniques.  How does a company not only access 3D Printing efficiently and affordably, but also know that they’re deploying the most cost effective technology for the particular job at hand?

The 3D Print Sourcing Solution

That’s where 3Diligent comes in.

3Diligent has networked independent service providers who have invested in the industrial grade rapid manufacturing technologies we’re talking about.  When customers submit an RFQ through our secure platform, our algorithm identifies the vendors equipped to bid on the job, then facilitates messaging and transactions between the interested parties.

So you’re not limited by a single provider’s material or process constraints.  You’re not limited by the backlog they may have.  You’re accessing the available capacity of the market.  And doing so not only provides more seamless and efficient access to the capability you seek, but also allows you to take advantage of serendipity.  If one vendor has excess capacity, or they have a scheduled run that your job could slide nicely alongside, you’re able to identify that vendor and take advantage of circumstances that may allow you below market pricing.

Savings of time.  Savings of money.  In sum, the ability to efficiently and effectively the best in 3D Printed metal, plastic, and more.  3Diligent.  More on our sourcing solution in posts to come.