Saturday, August 11, 2012

Make a 2500 sq ft House in 20 Hours with a 3D Printer - Seriously!

Now I get it. Now I understand what the big deal is about 3D printing. When I first heard about it, I thought it was sort of a gimmicky technology for hobbyists to 'print' their own three dimensional toys. (I guess that's similar to the old days, when people thought the first Apple (AAPL) computer was just for nerds and geeks to play with.) But after watching this video, which is 12 minutes long by the way, but well worth watching, I now see the long term future potential of the 3D technology from a business standpoint.

The video features University of Southern California engineering professor, Behrokh Khoshnevis, who shows how houses can be built with a large scale 3D printer in only 20 hours. He calls it Contour Crafting. He also talks about the numerous benefits of using this technique beyond just the cost savings for the construction business. There are many social benefits also. The walls that are created are structurally more sound than conventional walls, there are less CO2 emissions generated, less waste,less inefficiency, reduction of construction accidents, and elimination of slums. He believes that the 3D construction industry can create more jobs, offsetting building jobs that would be eliminated. 3D houses can even be all different in a neighborhood, avoiding the tract housing look, by just making a choice in the software.

I guess if we see KB Home (KBH), Lennar Corp. (LEN), or PulteGroup, Inc. (PHM) start to use one of these 3D homebuilding printers, then we will know that 3D is here to stay.

There are a couple of 3D printing stocks that are available to investors, according to the free list at 3D Systems Corporation (DDD), a Rock Hill, South Carolina based company, makes and sells 3D printers and related products. The company recently implemented its 3D @home experience, which allows sharing printable content and has intuitive apps to modify and print creations, along with a Kinect-to-print app powered by Geomagic and many tablet-to-print content creation and manipulation apps are being showcased.

3D Systems, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange, has been around since 1986. The stock trades at 69 times current earnings and 30 times forward earnings. Earnings for the latest quarter were down 37.8%, however, the company had a 51.7% boost in revenues. The company has $158 million in cash and about $140 million in total debt.

Another 3D printer business is Stratasys, Inc. (SSYS), which produces three-dimensional printers, rapid prototyping systems, and related consumable materials. This Minnesota based company was founded in 1989. Latest quarterly earnings tanked by 24.4%, but revenues were boosted by 31.6%. The company is debt free and has $51 million in cash. The stock trades at 76 times trailing earnings and 42 times forward earnings.

Of course you need software to run the 3D printers. Autodesk, Inc. (ADSK) makes 3D software for many different industries, everything from entertainment to architecture to manufacturing. The stock has a price to earnings ratio of 28 and a forward PE of 15, is debt free, and has $1.5 billion dollars in the bank.

For a free list of the companies involved in 3D printing, which can be downloaded, sorted, and updated, go to

Disclosure: Author owns AAPL and DDD.


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