3D printing has recently been making the news for several reasons. Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) unveiled a 3D printing section on its website, and Staples (NASDAQ: SPLS) opened up its own offerings. Now, it appears Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) may be taking an interest too.
Quantum International (OTCBB: QUAN) is the company in question, and Apple may be thinking about dealings involving this company. Quantum primarily focuses on robotics innovations and is presently pursuing an approach to manufacturing iPad cases relying on 3D printing. It’s possible that Apple may mull over acquiring Quantum or another 3D printing company.
It wouldn’t be very unusual. Apple has habitually broken new ground well ahead of competitors in consumer tech advances, and the 3D printing market has bloomed into a market worth more than $2 billion (and that’s 2012 figures). By 2015, the US Finance Post reports, it should exceed $5 billion.
This seems a fair estimate. After all, just recently Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS) bought out MakerBot—an early pioneer of more affordable 3D printing equipment—in a stock deal estimated to be worth about $403 million. That’s actually the second such acquisition for Stratasys; in December the company bought out Objet for more than $1 billion.
And 3D printing continues to become more and more accessible to the general public. 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) has just come out with basic 3D printers; the Cube retails for $1,299 and the CubeX for $2,499. Prices will continue to fall as 3D printing takes industry after industry by storm.
The pharma and biotech industries are especially interested in 3D printing. Consider the possibilities if we could “print” out of organs or prostheses. The research for this is already taking place.
But that’s a while away, yet. The more immediate focus remains on Apple and what it may do with Quantum. After all, MarketWatch reminds us that Apple is due to launch the fifth generation iPad soon. It’s already expected to come out with the new iPhones later this year.
The iPad case Quantum is working on in collaboration with A-Plus Technologies is likely to have a fairly significant impact. Since 2010, more than 155 million iPads have been sold, and sales just continue to increase. The iPad accessories market is expected to hit $3 billion in short order, and the iPad is now widely used across healthcare, finance, and a host of other sectors.
"We're working to assure that through various adapters all iPad owners will be able to benefit from the features of the new case," Quantum CEO Robert Federowicz said. "This case is unique and is a much-needed accessory for any iPad owner."
3D printing is clearly on the way up, and if Apple gets in on the game, it could radically influence multiple sectors. Wohlers Report for the year 2013 suggested that the 3D printing market grew 28.6 percent to $2.2 billion, up from $1.7 billion the previous year when it expanded 29.4 percent. It’s estimated that the average yearly growth of the 3D printing industry over the past 25 years has remained at around 25.4 percent.
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Tech Companies and 3D Printing
It’s hard to predict how Apple might incorporate 3D printing technology; the company is known for developing highly innovative solutions that often fundamentally change how we think about computing and technology.
Just consider the iPhone; before its existence, we had a huge variety of phones that all pushed their own solutions. But after the iPhone launched, smartphones became the norm, and we’ve completely changed how we think of a cell phone.
3D printing has enormous potential, and it’s not just the actual devices or their components we’re talking about. As the case of Quantum indicates, the accessories and peripherals market stands to benefit enormously.
As an investor, you should keep an eye out for the major players in these markets; for example, Quantum clearly intends to compete alongside well-established peripherals giant Logitech International SA (NASDAQ: LOGI). 3D printing could open up the market for all kinds of new peripherals, and early adopters are the ones to watch out for.
With major names like Apple turning their eye toward 3D printing start-ups and newer companies, it’s clear the tech giants are going to get seriously involved in 3D printing technologies.
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