3D Printing – Great Insight From DHUnplugged Listener (DDD) (SSYS) (ADSK)

After an interesting conversation with John C. Dvorak, I received this very interesting email from a listener. I thought I would pass it along (with his permission. We have been watching some of the companies in this space and it has become a very interesting area of investing.

Thanks for sharing!

“Hey Andrew, just listened to the last DHUnplugged and got me thinking about 3d printers. I’m in the architecture business so they’re not exactly new to us. We’ve been using them since the early 2000’s.

What 3d printers have done for our industry is basically kill the model builder’s job. We used to have two model builders in our SF office and now we’ve cut out both of those jobs because it’s a whole lot cheaper and faster to get models printed now (in full-color no less). We don’t maintain our own printers in the SF office but we do have one of the Stratasys’ Dimension printer in our LA office. In most cases it’s easier to have model printed and cleaned off-site. We use ARC/Ford for a lot of our 3d printing and laser cut models.

At the professional level, this market is pretty saturated. Stratasys owns a large chunk of that market since they’re basically a merge of the two big players. The excitement around 3d printing comes from the fact that we’re very close to the point where this technology is going to be “consumer grade.” The Makerbots and other sub $1k printers are
where I think the mass market printers will be. I have reservations on whether Stratasys and 3D Systems can get their printer price down to the sub $1k level. It seems like they want to compete with Shapeway and Ponoko on printing services instead.

I agree with John on Autodesk being the sleeping giant in all of this. They already own the professional market for CAD applications. The other player is Dassault (maker of Solidworks). The big revolution currently happening at the professional level is the transition from CAD to BIM   (See more HERE)

That in itself is exciting but Autodesk still license/price their professional bundle the same way so I don’t see too much revenue increase from this revolution for them. What they’re doing at the consumer level though is way more exciting. Check out their 123D apps for the iPhone/iPad. You were saying that there should be a 3d “scanner”, well 123D Catch is exactly that. Not only is it a 3D scanner, it can send them as a print job to Ponoko. Now that’s seriously exciting!

The other “tool” companies that might be interesting to keep an eye on is Trimble (TRMB). They purchased SketchUp from Google recently. For a long time SketchUp have been the “consumer grade” easy to use CAD. A lot of that has to do with the fact that they offer free version and the modelling method is very intuitive. Google bought it to crowd source the 3d modelling of buildings/landmarks in Google Earth/Map.

They sure got a lot of mileage out of that. Trimble kept the sales model and kept SketchUp affordable. It might be interesting to see where they take that.”