Now, 3-D printers are just one of the tools in what the company fittingly calls the “Nike Innovation Kitchen”. This is where Nike’s investing in Flyknit, another technology that could allow for on-site manufacturing by “knitting” shoes from precisely engineered yarns. Expect similar advancements like Nike Inc. (NYSE:NKE)’s to continue to spread and multiply over time.
Multiplying, in fact, is what 3-D printing is all about. This next iteration of highly advanced machines, when placed in the hands of hobbyists and entrepreneurs, will spawn entirely new industries. The way they use those machines will create a multiplier effect that will enhance productivity and allow creativity to flourish.
No one will deny that 3-D printing holds tremendous promise for manufacturing companies, but the real innovation will probably take place in our own garages and start-up labs. As MIT professor and 3-D fabrication expert Neil Gershenfield puts it: “These labs form part of a larger ‘maker movement’ of high-tech do-it-yourselfers, who are democratizing access to the modern means to make things.”
If the “maker movement” sounds a lot like the “hacker generation” of the ’80s and ’90s, well, it should. The makers will go on to create the Apples and Microsofts of future generations. Now that the means of production exist at our fingertips, barriers to entry are disappearing fast. What Steve Jobs described as a “paradigm shift” in the PC era will likely unfold as a radical manufacturing transformation in the next decade.
For investors interested in the 3-D printing arena, be sure to differentiate between the hype surrounding the technology and the fundamentals of the publicly traded companies. Easy to use hobbyist machines, like those sold by 3-D Systems, will allow everyday folks to innovate in ways we cannot currently imagine – this potential is what would excite a visionary like Steve Jobs.
The article Steve Jobs, PCs, and the Incredible Opportunity in 3-D Printing originally appeared on Fool.com.
Isaac Pino, CPA has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems, Apple, Nike, and Stratasys. The Motley Fool owns shares of 3D Systems, Apple, Nike, and Stratasys and has the following options: Short Jan 2014 $36 Calls on 3D Systems and Short Jan 2014 $20 Puts on 3D Systems.
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