Some are predicting that the market for 3D printing is poised to explode when key patents for laser sintering (or LS) expire in February 2014. LS can produce high quality parts from a range of materials, and from simple to very complex geometries. Duann Scott of Shapeways thinks that we’ll see a “huge drop in price” in LS printers if prior patterns in this industry are anything to go by. We’ll also be seeing an influx in printers from China, where the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology funded 10 research centers devoted to 3D printing. That influx may be good or bad, depending on your perspective: this article also says that 3D Systems has a 12 to 18 month waiting list for LS printers.
Say you can’t wait that long? eBay, the online marketplace, just launched an iPhone app called eBay Exact that lets you buy customized 3D printed items from MakerBot, Sculpteo and Hot Pop Factory. Right now it’s jewelry and iPhone cases but everyone involved promises more offerings soon. Options include color, material, engraving, and more.
If you’re looking to do this yourself, you have options too. In what’s likely a first for a library, the Harold Washington Library in Chicago just became host to a pop-up “maker lab,” where you can try out 3D printing without dropping a wad of cash. It sounds as though they have a complete setup from CAD to print, though it’s not clear whose products they’re featuring. You could also head to a local Microsoft store, where you’ll be able print your design on a MakerBot Replicator 2 soon — especially after you install Windows 8, which supposedly will make “3D printing just like 2D printing”. And if all that doesn’t work for you, you can always try a UPS store, which may have a Stratasys uPrint SE Plus 3D printer to help small businesses “show prototypes to their current and potential customers”. I’m looking forward to seeing how these rapid prototyping options catch on; I don’t make stuff like this, so I’m not the target demo — but even if I were, I couldn’t see needing to make something all that often so would be at best a casual user. What about you? Sound off in the comments!
In the here and now, 3D Systems announced earnings that saw revenue jump 45% year/year to $121 million, and up 30% on an organic basis. “Products” revenue was up 60% to $83 million; “Services” revenue was up 19% to $37 million. Within Products, though, there’s a bit of a problem: printers & other revenue was up 108% to $54 million but print materials revenue was up only 12% to $29 million. Printers are one-time sales; materials are good indicators of how companies are using their printers — and the slowdown in consumables worries a lot of investors. Software revenue was $5 million in Q2. The company now expects revenue for the year to be between $485 million and $510 million.
That “organic” definition continues to be challenging at 3D Systems, as its acquisition mania continues. The company completed its acquisition of Phenix Systems, paying $15 million for 81% of the share capital and continues to work on acquiring the rest. Phenix’s Direct Metal 3D Printers use LS to print from stainless steel, tool steel, super alloys, non-ferrous alloys, precious metals and alumina for aerospace, automotive and medical device applications. During the company’s Q2 call with investors, CEO Avi Reichental said that Phenix holds about 50 patents and that “most of them are fairly recent and so they don’t have any meaningful near or mid term expiry dates”. 3D Systems also announced that it acquired CDRM, a UK provider of rapid prototyping and rapid tooling services and TeamPlatform, a cloud-based collaborative design and project management platform that will be integrated into Geomagic and Cubify.com.
ExOne, on the other hand, is a lot less frenetic. Its Q2 revenue almost doubled to $9.2 million (from $4.7 million a year ago). Even so, the company pulled back a bit on its outlook for the rest of the year, saying that it now expects to see revenue at the lower end of its guidance range of $48 million to $52 million. Company management said that it had expected to sell two $1 million machines this year and now “those two sales are simply not going to happen.” From comments, it seems that one sale (into the Russia aerospace industry) was deferred and the other never materialized. Investors are not impressed. Nonetheless, ExOne’s other big news is that it just filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to sell 2.66 million shares that could raise nearly $200 million if sold at $65 apiece. According to the filing, roughly 1.1 million shares will be sold by ExOne and 1.55 million by two trusts controlled by CEO Kent Rockwell and another trust controlled by Lafayette College. On Friday August 23, the share closed at $67.80.
Finally, Stratasys completed its merger with MakerBot and announced boffo Q2 results. Q2 GAAP revenue was $107 million, up 20% on the combined Stratsys and Object. Management said that growth accelerated in Q2, compared to Q1, as “the benefits of our recent channel integration and cross-selling initiatives begin to materialize”. Product revenue was $90 million while Services revenue was $16 million. Including MakerBot, Stratasys expects 2013 revenue to be between $455 million and $480 million; organic revenue growth in the second half of the year is expected to be “relatively stronger” than in the first half.
And one last, pseudo-related item. If you’re a veteran, please check out TechShop‘s free one year memberships, which include “access to a world class workspace and over $1 million worth of design software and equipment for milling, forming, cutting, welding, woodworking, electronics and much, much more” at any of its six US locations. A great way to build serious skills!