In recent years, 3D printing companies have, undoubtedly, come into their own, with stocks in this market doubling or even tripling in some instances. And it is not hard to understand why. For long-term investors looking to cash in on the next big thing, 3D printing companies are definitely it. On-demand manufacturing reduces costs for both consumers and businesses, programmers for 3D printers are the new software engineers, and the technology itself has turned out to be a defining cultural trend.
Granted, we are still in the early days of this trend, and some of its most exciting applications- such as printing of 3D homes or human organs for transplant- remain, admittedly, out of reach. But if you are a believer in this technology, there is still plenty of time to invest in this fast-growing sector. Below, therefore, we take a look at 5 of the biggest 3D printing companies as follows:
- Stratasys (SSYS)
This is the largest 3D printing company by revenue and also boasts the largest scale in terms of the 3D printers it has installed. SSYS is characterized by a decent midcap valuation, operates soundly year after year and put up an incredible market-beating performance in 2013. The company recently acquired MakerBot and the buyout not only gave it more scale, but it has also given it more control of Thingverse- the hottest open-source forum for sharing 3D printing designs. Here, whoever who owns a MakerBot can browse blueprints from anywhere across the globe and access them for free or buy them if the creators allow.
- 3D Systems (DDD)
This is, arguably, the biggest and, perhaps, the best known 3D printing company. It is also the largest stock both in terms of total revenue and market capitalization. Since 2013, DDD stock has doubled and it shows no signs of letting up. The reason for this staggering growth lies in its numbers with quarter earnings in 2013 turning up revenues of more than $136 million, up 50% from the previous year. In fact, DDD stock has been profitable every single quarter since the beginning of 2009 when the Great Recession was in full effect. 3D systems is also heavily involved in Tyvek-based printing. This is proof positive that this is a real business with real potential.
- Voxeljet (VJET)
Smaller than Stratasys or DDD, Voxeljet is a much more speculative play on the 3D printing stage that caters mainly to industrial clients such as Doranix industrial printers. Having only recently gone public, the company remains untested and there is little data about their operations. But while its stock is not really well known by consumers or investors, it does have a big tail wind behind its back in the form of R&D plans. Voxeljet has and continues to invest heavily in research and development, with a portfolio of over 150 U.S. and international applications and patents. The company raised over $84 million in its IPO three years ago which should go a long way in putting these patents into action and consequently seize the opportunity in the fast-evolving 3D printing space.
- ExOne (XONE)
EXoNE is a much smaller, and by extension, more speculative company than, say, 3D systems. The company is yet to turn a profit and its anemic revenues are only in the tens of millions of dollars annually but if you want to access the ground floor of the 3D printing industry, then ExOne might just be your best last chance.
ExOne specializes in 3D printers producing both production parts and prototypes, and has found a niche in several industries, including energy and automobiles. While it may lack the consumer appeal of a MakerBot, its enterprise focus could mean that the company is built more on sustainable sales than a simple fad appeal among tech junkies looking to catch the latest trend.
- ProtoLabs (PRLB)
PRLB is the odd man out in this group of 3D printing companies because it is technically a computerized numerical control manufacturer rather than a 3D printing company. This is a fancy way of saying that ProtoLabs conducts high-tech machining using computer-controlled methods and robots to create things and machinery operate- not exactly 3D printing, but pretty close. PRLB produces custom-machined parts and injection-molded plastic parts for clients around the world denoting its business-orientation.