3D printing continues to be an attractive sector for investors looking to capitalize on the future anticipated growth in the industry. While the sector currently sees firms with high valuations—even with some reporting substantial losses on financial statements—many investors are expecting that these companies can generate substantial profits in the future, and as 3D printing adoption continues to grow. Three of the largest 3D printing firms by revenue include Stratasys Ltd. (SSYS), 3D Systems Corp. (DDD), and Proto Labs (PRLB).

Stratasys

Stratasys, headquartered in Minnesota, focuses on both the commercial 3D printing market and also the consumer, desktop, and 3D printing market. The company serves a diverse set of industries—aerospace, automotive, healthcare, consumer products, and education—and provides technology to manufacture tools, create prototypes, and produce parts. 

Key Takeaways

  • The 3D printing industry continues to grow and mature, offering potential opportunities for investors.
  • Three of the largest players in the space are 3D Systems, Stratasys, and Proto Labs.
  • These companies offer both products, like 3D printers, and services that help companies through the process of moving prototypes into a production environment.
  • While competition is likely to remain fierce as large companies and startups attempt to capture market share, 3D Systems, Stratasys, and Photo Labs will be worth watching as the 3D printing industry continues to mature.

Stratasys was formed through the 2012 merger of two prominent 3D printing firms: Stratasys Inc. and Objet Ltd. Then, in 2013, SSYS completed the acquisition of MakerBot Industries, a leader in desktop 3D printing. The company now has two business segments: products and services. Products include commercial and desktop 3D printers, filament, and other accessories. On the services side, the company offers and installation, maintenance, and training of its products and systems. 

3D Systems

3D Systems invented 3D printing in 1989 with the development and patenting of its stereolithography technology. DDD has also developed additional technologies, including selective laser sintering, multi-jet printing, film-transfer imaging, color jet printing, direct metal printing, and plastic jet printing.

3D Systems has three business units: products, materials, and services. The products category includes 3D printers, software, and other products. The 3D printers include a wide variety of different products, including small desktop printers, direct metal printers, and commercial printers that print in plastics and other materials. In terms of software, the products are computer-aided design (CAD) and other software used in design and manufacturing. 3D Systems also makes 3D scanners for both consumer and commercial applications. Lastly, 3D Systems’ materials segment includes the various materials that the DDD’s printers use. This creates a recurring revenue stream for the firm.

Proto Labs

Larry Lukis founded Proto Labs in 1999, calling the company Protomold at the time. Headquartered in Minnesota, early efforts were focused on building automated solutions to develop plastic and metal parts used in the manufacturing process. In 2014, the company launched an industrial-grade 3D printing service that allowed developers and engineers to move prototypes to the production process. The company acquired Rapid Manufacturing in 2017 to further into sheet metal fabrication.

Proto Labs has 2,500 employees and 12 manufacturing locations. The company further breaks down its business into four suites of services: injection molding, sheet metal fabrication, CNC machining, and 3D printing. The 3D printing services business started in 2014 through the acquisition of FineLine. The company further expanded 3D printing in Europe in 2015 after acquiring Alphaform.

The Bottom Line

3D printing is a dynamic industry and may be attractive for investors looking for exposure to a growing technology industry. Leading companies in the space will likely see additional competition as established firms begin to devote more resources to the 3D printing industry and new startups enter the field. Stratasys, 3D Systems Corporation, and Proto Labs will be three companies to watch as the industry continues to mature.