Complexity comes at a high cost, bidding farewell to 3D Printing: 1987 – 2023.

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The Silent Decline: A Wake-Up Call for the 3D Printing Industry

It’s a grave situation that has gone largely unnoticed. The once-thriving 3D printing industry is now shrouded in silence. As job losses become more prevalent and budgets tighten, even top-tier talent is not safe from the downward spiral. The effects are widespread, with investment in venture capital and private equity-backed startups grinding to a halt. Sky-high valuations are plummeting, and numerous publicly traded companies are now on the brink of insolvency.

Among the casualties are Stratasys (Nasdaq: SSYS) and 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD), two giants in the industry. The potential merger between the two companies has sparked much discussion, but it shouldn’t divert our attention from the grim reality. Both Stratasys and 3D Systems have experienced stagnant revenue growth since 2014. To put things into perspective, the entire 3D printing industry generates only about $15 billion in revenue, roughly the same as Apple’s AirPods sales for 2021 alone.

Meanwhile, the allure of AI and ChatGPT has enraptured investors, drawing attention and resources away from the struggling 3D printing industry. Journalists have relegated us to the realm of mere Post-Its, forsaking our potential amid the clutter of nanotech, IoT, RFID, and flying cars. Our sector languishes in the forgotten piles of coffee-stained paper, like an archeological relic trapped in a journalist’s maze.

Moreover, companies specializing in polymers and metals show little concern for the future of our industry. Their focus lies elsewhere, preoccupied with fluctuating fuel costs rather than forging ahead and disrupting traditional manufacturing. Most so-called competence centers are content with churning out PowerPoint presentations and paperweights, while true manufacturing progress is confined to press releases.

While we pride ourselves on applications like Invisalign, jewelry, dental and surgical guides, orthopedic implants, and hearing aids, it’s disheartening to see that these successes have remained stagnant for over a decade. We have barely scratched the surface in exploring new possibilities. Marginal improvements in cost and part quality fail to offset our prohibitive expenses and persistent challenges with accuracy, yield, and repeatability.

It is clear that we find ourselves adrift, lacking direction and trapped in stagnation. The outlook is bleak, and the once-optimistic industry now hangs in the balance. However, amidst this gloom, I believe it is crucial to inject some much-needed positivity into the conversation.

Our world is beset by fractures, with extremism on the rise and long-term cooperation and achievement waning. Faith in political parties, corporations, and even fellow human beings has steadily eroded. Democracy itself is under threat from various political entities, while state actors appear intent on sowing chaos and instability. The power of the press has been reined in, making it nearly impossible to hold slippery leaders accountable in the court of public opinion. Truth is under attack, and the gains made in women’s and minority rights since the 1960s face a troubling regression.

China, once seen as a peaceful economic powerhouse, has shifted its stance and openly challenges the global order. The country’s economic miracle has been stifled by increased control over startups, billionaire entrepreneurs, and businesses in general. Growth is no longer the priority, but rather subservience. China’s economic engine now relies on a complicated web of local governments, party-influenced banks, connected individuals, and property companies. Debt-driven urbanization has led to a proliferation of marginal properties in remote cities, with the entire system built upon endless optimism and the assumption of perpetual growth. Recent high-profile collapses, such as those of Evergrande and Country Garden, serve as glaring indicators of deeper issues within China’s economy. Regulatory crackdowns and extended lockdowns have triggered capital flight and exacerbated doubts about the country’s stability. China now grapples with a record youth unemployment rate of over 21%, while both exports and imports have plunged by more than 7%.

Meanwhile, in the United States, political discord has reached unprecedented levels, rendering meaningful structural changes and effective leadership seemingly unattainable. The once-United States feels far from united – a mere satirical reflection of the harsh reality. Europe, burdened with its own set of challenges concerning migration and the rise of far-right parties, also faces the threat of anti-democratic movements.

In light of these global issues, the struggles of the 3D printing industry may seem inconsequential. However, it is crucial not to underestimate the impact of a declining industry. Innovation and technological advancement are vital drivers of economic growth and societal progress. The 3D printing industry has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing, but to do so, it must escape the clutches of stagnation and rediscover its sense of purpose.

Now is the time for the industry to regroup, refocus, and reignite its innovative spirit. Collaboration and collective effort are essential to overcome the hurdles that lie ahead. The 3D printing industry may have fallen silent, but it can rise again, reclaim its position as a pioneering force, and contribute to a brighter future for all.

decades, that’s only 10,000 potential customers. Is that a big enough market for the hundreds of software companies that have emerged in recent years? Probably not.

The reality is that the 3D printing industry is facing a challenge of oversaturation. With so many players in the market and limited growth potential, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for companies to differentiate themselves and capture a significant market share.

This is where consolidation becomes a crucial strategy for survival. By merging with or acquiring other companies, 3D printing firms can pool their resources and expertise, eliminate redundancies, and create a stronger and more competitive entity.

But consolidation is not just about survival, it’s also about growth. By combining forces, companies can leverage each other’s strengths and capabilities to tap into new markets and expand their product offerings. A merger between Markforged and a large machine tool manufacturer, for example, could open up new opportunities in industries such as aerospace and automotive.

In addition to mergers and acquisitions, there is also the potential for strategic partnerships with established corporations. Companies like Ricoh or Canon, with their vast resources and distribution networks, could provide the necessary boost for smaller 3D printing firms to reach a wider customer base and accelerate their growth.

Furthermore, the current market conditions present opportunities for investors and venture capitalists to acquire undervalued companies with strong potential. The rapid growth of the 3D printing industry over the past few years has attracted significant investor interest, and there are still hidden gems waiting to be discovered and nurtured.

While the challenges and uncertainties facing the 3D printing industry are undeniable, there is still cause for optimism. The industry has come a long way since its inception, and despite the current slowdown, the potential for innovation and growth remains high.

However, companies cannot rely solely on investor capital or the promise of revolutionary change. They need to focus on delivering tangible products and services that meet the needs of their customers. This requires a shift in mindset from hype and promises to practicality and value.

In conclusion, the 3D printing industry is at a crossroads. Consolidation, strategic partnerships, and a focus on delivering real value will be crucial for companies to navigate the challenges and uncertainties ahead. By coming together and embracing change, the industry can continue to thrive and shape a better future.

The 3D printing industry is constantly evolving and presenting new opportunities for growth. One potential market segment that holds great promise is the development of specialized 3D printing software packages. With the potential to charge $1,000 per license per month, this segment alone could be worth around $60 million a year. However, it is important to note that this figure does not include the broader 3D printing software market, which includes CAD and tools like Magics.

While the growth potential for this new software segment is promising, it may take some time before it becomes lucrative enough to support a multitude of thriving companies. For those selling post-processing or other specialized equipment in this market, the opportunities may be narrower than initially anticipated. Additionally, finding the right clients who are aware they need the product and are ready to buy could prove to be a challenge.

Another area that still lacks robust solutions in the 3D printing industry is powder and materials management. Universities have yet to find comprehensive software that can efficiently manage multiple printers, and many companies still lack an effective internal version of Thingiverse. There is also a demand for printers that can automatically replace builds, from industrial-scale machines down to desktop versions. Additionally, while there is an abundance of PLA varieties, the industry is still missing many industry-specific materials.

It is clear that the 3D printing industry has been focused on building tools and solutions for a theoretical future rather than addressing the industry’s immediate needs. However, it is in this gap that unexplored opportunities lie, offering hope for innovation and growth. The primary focus should be on developing applications that have high criticality, volume, and profitability through 3D printing.

The beauty of our technology lies in its ability to fail fast and iterate rapidly. This means we are well-equipped to develop a wide array of products, prototyping multiple versions, refining them, and ultimately creating products that perfectly fit market needs. We have the capability to produce niche items, unique solutions, and innovations that are unattainable through traditional manufacturing methods.

In order to not just survive but thrive in this industry, we must harness our equipment and expertise to create end-to-end applications. The user experience should be so seamless that with just a few button clicks and a payment, anyone can order a 3D printed part. This approach holds the promise of a revitalized future for both individuals and the industry as a whole.

To stay informed about all the latest news and developments in the 3D printing industry, as well as receive information and offers from third party vendors, make sure to stay up-to-date and connected. Innovation and growth are on the horizon, and it’s an exciting time to be a part of this industry.

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