If you listen to the investor community about 3D printing/additive manufacturing (3DP/AM), you may find yourself skeptical about the viability of this industry. Recent reports, as of this writing, claim that the stock prices of the major public vendors are at an all-time low.
It’s time to revisit the Gartner Technology Hype Scale. Now that the hype about 3D printing is clearly winding down, we are entering the phase known as the Trough of Disillusionment, at least as far as the stock market/investor community is concerned. Good. Now, let’s move on to the next phase (enlightenment), which promises even better advances and developments in 3DP/AM technology.
In my opinion, the stock analysts never really understood this market. Like many others, they fell for the click-bait headlines: 3D printing an organ, 3DP will revolutionize the home, and so on. Stock investors seemed to get completely caught up in home-based 3DP and ignored the business and manufacturing side of this industry. In addition, some stockbrokers were deliberately short-selling 3DP stocks, betting the stock prices would fall, so that they could make money.
You might think the stock market is a good indicator of the viability of a company or industry, until you look into the ignorance that becomes the basis of buy-and-sell decisions and the stock manipulations that go on.
Business uses of 3DP/AM systems may not grab attention, but these uses are the ones that will help build this industry. They include:
• making custom medical parts and devices tailored to individuals
• making 3D-printed versions of surgical areas for pre-surgery planning
• reducing weight from parts, especially for aerospace and automotive
• adding new mechanical properties to parts, aerospace and automotive
• creating lower cost molds for injection molding
• fast development of fixtures and other tooling for machining and assembly operations
These applications may not have the “sex appeal” of a cosmetic Iron Man or Spider Man prosthetic hand, but they deliver a needed function. Based on Gartner’s Technology Hype Scale, the best is yet to come for 3DP/AM.