3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) is joining the White House, UI Labs, and the Department of Defense among others on a new project called Digital Lab for Manufacturing that will use the company’s 3D printing tech, including its Geomagic perceptual design, to manufacture tools to give American manufacturing companies an edge over international competitors, the company said in a press release.
The Digital Lab for Manufacturing is a White House Initiative headed by UI Labs that includes 40 industry partners along with academic counterparts and another 500 supporting companies in an effort to modernize the US manufacturing chain. While the original lab is based in Illinois, the plan is to create a system of regional hubs called the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation to help companies across the nation make use of emerging technology as it comes to market.
“Perceptual design and manufacturing tools enable digital manufacturing technologies to catch up with advancements in design,” said Ping Fu, 3D Systems Chief Strategy Officer. “For America to lead in manufacturing, seamless digital threading needs to be readily democratized, localized and accessible; and the Digital Lab for Manufacturing is exactly what we needed to pave the way.”
3D System’s stock price down sharply since 2013YE
Sentiment has moved sharply against 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) in recent weeks, with a string of downgrades (Zack’s Investment Research calls it a Strong Sell, Bank of America Merrill Lynch maintained its Underperform rating and lowered its price target). Just this week a highly critical article in Barron’s argued that 3D printing isn’t ready for prime time, causing a sector-wide sell-off that put pressure 3D System’s stock price, which is now heading towards $60 after hitting $97 at the beginning of the year.
3D printing may not be ready for mass production
The problem is that 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD), and other 3D printing companies, have seen their stock prices swell on positive coverage and consumer applications, but the future of these firms really rests with large-scale manufacturing products that they aren’t ready to handle. Most bears will agree that the technology has powerful applications, but argue that the hype is at least two or three years ahead of the reality.
That’s why the collaboration with UI Labs and the Digital Lab for Manufacturing is so important for 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD). It needs to prove that its manufacturing tools are commercially viable sooner rather than later. Even if it can’t change investors’ minds in the next two or three quarters, two or three years may simply be too long.