Ever since I saw a 3-D printer available for a $15/hour at a college design lab, I've been convinced of its eventual ubiquity. Remember when only universities and large companies had mainframe computers? Remember when you went to a professional shop to get something printed? 3-D printing is on the same trajectory--but for physical products.
Right now, 80% of the materials consumed for 3-D printing are being used for prototyping. In other words, it's still in the land of universities, big companies, hackers, and the military. (And, coincidentally, Jay Leno has one in his garage for fabricating parts for his classic car collection.)
But I predict that by 2020 we will be downloading products to home printers as easily as we print out emails or buy a song on i-Tunes.
I've been writing about this for a long time. Notably, so has been the normally unexcitable Economist. (Here's my summary of one of the best Economist pieces.) The press corps is getting on the bandwagon. VC's are funding upstarts in the space. Daily Grommet is creating a business model that gives all this upcoming innovative product supply a place to get launched.
But it's also interesting to see how the Motley Fool outlines the investment opportunity being created by 3-D printing. They equate investing in the space now to investing in Apple in 1980 or Microsoft in 1986. I know they are selling a publication that pushes stocks...but their investment thesis for the 3-D printing space strikes me as solid and perfectly understandable.
If you can't be Daily Grommet and build a whole business around this new industrial revolution, an investment in the 3-D Printing space seems like a pretty good idea to me.