3D Systems Corporation (DDD), Stratasys, Ltd. (SSYS): 3D Printers Level the Playing Field for Small Business

If you’re into making stuff, your life just got easier with the availability of 3-D printing technology that is increasingly becoming more affordable.

3-D printers have been used for years by companies such as General Motors Company (NYSE:GM), BMW, and Siemens AG (ADR) (NYSE:SI) in their manufacturing processes. Now the technology has become much more affordable and accessible for the average consumer or small business. By spending a few thousand dollars, you can create your very own design prototypes, courtesy of the following companies that make the technology possible.

3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD)3-D printing’s top players

Three of the main players in the 3-D printing universe are Dassault Systemes, 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD), and Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS).

Dassault Systemes, in business since 1981, provides its industrial customers the ability to design complex shapes and create digital mockups. The company’s solutions provide a 3-D vision of a product’s entire lifecycle from its initial creation to periodic maintenance.

In April, the company reported first-quarter results which were in line with business objectives. The company reports quarterly numbers in euros. I used a rate of $1 to 0.78 euros to convert to U.S. dollars. Dassault’s total revenue grew by 6% to $622.2 million, receiving support from 8% growth in software revenue, but dragged down by a 7% decrease in services and other revenue. The 7% drop was attributed to a lower number of new projects in the quarter. The increase in software revenue was due to growth in maintenance and rental activity. The company anticipated license revenues to go down 2%, due to lower economic demand and a strong first-quarter in 2012, where revenues rose 18%. Dassault’s board voted to increase the company’s cash dividend by 14% to $1.02 per share.

While Dassault’s focus is on the industrial uses of the technology, 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) provides both business and personal 3-D printing solutions. First-quarter results for 2013 showed an increase in revenue of 31% to $102.1 million over the first quarter of  2012, fueled by an increase of 61% in printers and other product revenue of $39.7 million. Once the company’s Cube 3-D printer for consumers goes on sale in the second quarter, it will be interesting to see how company sales are affected by the product. Chairman and CEO Avi Reichental commented the company was pleased with the outstanding quarterly results on higher printer sales and believes the company will benefit from continuing R&D and manufacturing spending by customers.

Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS). was born from the merger of two 3-D printing companies and, since June of 2012, has the widest range of 3-D printing materials in the industry. The company had good first-quarter results for 2013 with GAAP revenue of $97.2 million. There was a GAAP net loss of $15.5 million or $0.40 a share, however. Stratysys booked non-GAAP income of $17.6 million and $0.43 per diluted share, which was 40% higher than pro-forma figures for the same period last year. The GAAP loss absorbs expenses related to stock-based compensation, amortization of intangibles, and merger-related expenses. CEO David Reis sees continued strong worldwide demand for the company’s products and services and is pleased with the strong first-quarter sales and increase in non-GAAP income.

3-D print shops

For consumers or businesses not interested in forking over their cash for a 3-D printer, 3-D print shops are sprouting up to meet the demand of creating a prototype on the fly or products for sale with minimal investment.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, a non-profit program known as the State of Ingenuity Initiative, serving southeast Wisconsin and northern Illinois, aims to provide rapid prototyping using 3-D printing to any individual or business who can’t afford to invest in the necessary equipment. The design labs participating in the program mainly function to help businesses grow and create jobs.

Located in New York, Shapeways regards itself as “the world’s leading 3-D printing marketplace and community.” Through the company’s website, individuals can make, buy and sell their own products. They provide their users with access to cutting edge technology so they can customize and personalize their designs and have them printed and shipped on demand.


As individuals and smaller businesses gain greater access to 3-D printing solutions, you won’t need a team of engineers to produce a prototype. 3-D printing also greatly reduces the costs associated with mass production and inventory storage because products can be created only when an order is placed. As this technology allows smaller producers to compete more effectively with companies with bigger budgets and better equipment, greater and more diverse opportunities should surface for investors and the companies that bring 3-D printing to the marketplace.

The article 3-D Printers Level the Playing Field for Small Business originally appeared on Fool.com and is written by Eileen Rojas.

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