The Future of 3D Printing Stocks: An Explanation of the 3D Printing Hype Curve

By understanding the 3D printing hype curve, investors can determine what lies ahead for this disruptive market.

future of 3D printing stocks

Much has been made of the 3D printing industry’s sharp rise and quick fall, but most experts in the sector claim that this is all part of the bigger picture. Historically, new technologies experience a sharp peak after their introduction to the market, as early adopters are quick to jump on the bandwagon.

However, the technology rarely lives up to its early hype, and this high is followed by a sharp decline. It’s what comes after this peak that’s of most interest to long-term investors: as the kinks are worked out and a broader percentage of the population adopts the new technology, investors see slower, more stable, and more permanent growth in a sector.

In this article, the Investing News Network takes a look at the stages of this process in order to determine the top trends for the future of 3D printing stocks. Analysis shows that educational environments, like 3D printing in the classroom, may be the next big market for this technology. However, investors will have to wait, as predictions place this boom as occurring over the next five to ten years.

The 3D printing hype curve

According to Gartner, the general trajectory for new technologies is as follows: an innovation trigger, followed by a peak of inflated expectations, the trough of disillusionment, a gradual slope of enlightenment and, finally, plateau of productivity. What happened to the 3D printing industry at the end of 2013 falls into the “trough of disillusionment”: a steep curve downwards when the technology didn’t live up to its overhyped expectations.

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What this means is that the 3D printing industry is set to enter the latter phases of the cycle, where less hype and steady growth result in a much safer investment. A report from Sophic Capital titled “Tech Themes for 2015: Mining for Small Cap Tech Gems” explains that at some point, “these stocks will be as oversold as they were overbought, which would make them attractive investments.” Now could be the key time to begin looking into these investments: “Through the years, we have seen this overbought to oversold trend many times, and we would argue that we are now in the phase where long-term investors can do very well over the next several years in this sector, a sector that remains in growth mode.” Take Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS), for example. The company’s share price has been on a downwards trajectory since 2014. However, with year to date growth of 11.24 percent in 2016, this trend could shifting.

Future of 3D printing stocks

Despite the general upward trend that the 3D printing market is anticipating, the sector remains broad and diverse. While some areas of the industry are well on their way to the final states of the hype trajectory, other nascent technologies are just beginning to gain recognition on the market.

So where are the best places to look? According to a Gartner graph cited by Sophic Capital, 3D printing for prototyping is one of the most advanced areas of the 3D printing market, and will enter the “plateau of productivity” phase in the next year or so. The 3D printing of hearing devices, 3D printing of scanners, 3D printing service bureaus, 3D print creation software, and 3D print creation bureaus are all currently on the “gradual slope of enlightenment” and should hit the plateau in the next two to five years.

Still the potential for big risk, high reward

However, if you’d like to make a riskier bet, it’s a good idea to look earlier in the technology trajectory. For example, 3D bioprinting systems for organ transplant is still in a nascent stage, as is 3D printing for oil and gas. Likewise, 3D printing for consumable products is anticipated to take five to ten years to reach the plateau stage. Nonetheless, there are still ways for individuals to invest in these innovative technologies. For instance, 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) opened its culinary innovation center, the 3DS Culinary Lab, in Los Angeles last fall, causing industry watchers to take note. The space is equipped with the company’s ChefJet Pro 3D Printer, the world’s first professional, kitchen-ready 3D printer.

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Thus, the 3D printing industry is maturing and settling into itself, becoming a much safer bet for investors. However, for those who enjoy the risk factor, it can still be achieved in the 3D printing industry – just look for technology that is still in the “innovation trigger” phase of the hype cycle.

Securities Disclosure: I, Morag McGreevey, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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