3D printing stocks have been on a roller coaster since the general public discovered 3D printing in 2013. Most stocks have experienced exponential growth and peaked at the end of 2013, dropping to then peak again in the middle of 2014. After this relatively small bubble burst, causing some 3D printing stocks to lose as much as 80% of their value, many things have happened.

The reason why Protolabs and Materialise are doing very well now (and 3D software companies like Dassault and Autodesk have been doing very very well for over 5 years) is that they are perceived as service providers – which is (correctly) seen by analysts as a more immediately profitable operation for AM, since it does not require high capex. On the other hand, hardware companies such as Stratasys, 3DS, voxeljet and ExOne, while they do provide AM services, are seen primarily as hardware manufacturers. This means that they are expected to become profitable when large companies start bringing AM production in-house, which is going to happen more gradually.

So the stock growth progression goes: 3D Software -> AM Service -> AM Hardware. Today, while AM could be seen as a way for aerospace and automotive companies to streamline operations in the medium and long term, the huge shock to the aerospace and automotive sectors that is coming in the short term will impact these investments as well. We’ll see. And as always we’ll keep tracking all of this on 3D Printing Media Network’s free 3D Printing Stock Watch Service.

Nasdaq/NYSE Indexes:

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