Can GE Transform 3D Printing from a Consumer Gadget Business to a Valuable Industrial Automation Component?

Last year I looked closely at several of the 3D Printing ISVs. My reason for looking into 3D Systems, and its direct competitors, was to put together an opinion on the long term profitability of this business. In my opinion, a lot of the potential for 3D Printing ISVs is at the comparatively boring high end of the application requirements curve, where custom parts for industrial automation projects can be built at substantially lower cost with a 3D Printing solution than would otherwise be the case. Airplane parts production, and the manufacture of custom parts required for new automobiles, are two types of industrial automation projects likely to benefit substantially from a technology like 3D Printing.

But in June of this year, GE announced THE FIRST IN A SERIES OF 3D PRINTING
. This GE project is built around a contest between “entrepreneurs, companies and institutions[. All participants are asked] to offer their solutions to two additive manufacturing challenges: 3D Printing Design Quest and 3D Printing Production Quest: High Precision and Advanced Materials.”

On the day GE announced this effort, and added its endorsement of 3D Printing technology as the most likely method to deliver very high value to its manufacturing process, 3D Printing ISVs took on a much higher level of credibility. Needless to say, several publicly traded businesses increased their book value, substantially, in the aftermath of the GE announcement.

At the heart of GEs effort, of course, is to find, truly, the lowest cost method of producing custom components. Certainly 3D Printing meets this requirement, and promises an advantage to US based manufacturers that offshore competitors will not likely be able to match.

It would be nice to see the media pursue other stories about industrial applications of this technology and downplay the consumer gadget component.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

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