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Will the 3D Printing Sector Be the Next Amazon Story?


The sector will not go the way of First Solar for a very important reason.

I have been trading (and even investing in my retirement plan) in 3D printing stocks for some time. Most of the stocks in the 3D universe are currently acting as "momo" stocks, so it has been easy to show good performance.

Naturally, when I decided to visit to the 2013 Solidworks Show, I was excited -- ready to take notes and report back on my findings. But two weeks has passed since attending the show and my "hot review" has cooled down: The show wasn't what I expected -- not even close.

The 3D show was geared toward software design (CAD drawing) for 3D printing rather than 3D hardware demos. There were some very interesting demos (quite a few videos have been posted; the highlight has been the smart artificial flying bird), but the show didn't meet my needs; I wanted to see and feel 3D printing in action so I could better wrap my head (and eyes) around select 3D printing stocks of interest.

Granted, I was only there for a brief portion of time and I am a total neophyte in terms of everything 3D; I simply invest in 3D printing stocks that represent the industry, so the show's "geek galore" was lost on me.

To anchor things back to the investment world of 3D, below are some 3D printing stocks that I am following (all hyperlinks point to Yahoo Finance pages. Be sure to read the disclosure at the bottom of the page.)
  • Dassault Systemes (PINK:DASTY): The actual organizer and sponsor of Solidworks; the world leader in 3D CAD software; +42% in last two years.
  • 3D Systems Corp (NYSE:DDD): One of the top-3 hardware manufacturers, and one of the two publicly traded; +234% in last two years.
  • A slew of smaller companies with small floats and riskier profiles, like Organovo (PINK:ONVO) and Arcam (PINK: AMAVF).
Given that select 3D printing stocks have been red-hot, the main overhang is simple: Are we witnessing a pure bubble, or not?

If you compare the monthly charts of First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) and 3D Systems Corp, the question becomes clearer: Are we going to repeat the likes of the solar industry (that is, are we already at a major top)?

FSLR Chart:

DDD Chart:

I will spend more time exploring these questions, but for now, I think the 3D sector will be closer to an Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) story than a First Solar one, for one very important reason: 3D printing is not relying on subsidies, on public funds, on an alternative competing solution that determines pricing and survival. 3D printing is potentially in a world of its own, not unlike the Internet was. This is why we may witness price appreciation of select 3D printing stocks that's more in line with this AMZN chart. But only time will tell.

AMZN Chart:

I plan to continue my quest of discovering 3D investing ideas, so stay tuned.

This article by Alex Salomon was originally published on See It Market.
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Alex Salomon had positions in DDD and SSYS at time of publication.
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