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3D Printing Industry

Written By Nick Hodge

Posted August 8, 2012

I often extol the virtues of taking things into your own hands.

My garden this year has provided squash, beans, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, and more for not only my household… but for relatives, neighbors, and coworkers as well.

Those plants were sustained on water I collected from roof run-off. I did all the plumbing for that system. I crafted the entire chickenwire fence around the garden and a lattice system for vine vegetables as well.

Many meals I’ve had this summer came entirely from invested sweat equity. Even the proteins were my own doing – some from self-caught and cleaned fish, frozen wild game from last hunting season, or beef from the family farm in northeastern Maryland.

It’s virtuous and prosperous to be as independent as possible.

And that’s why I’m excited modern technologies are allowing do-it-yourselfers to be as autonomous as possible.

When DIY Goes DIY

In the past 30 years the Harry Homeowner revolution has ballooned, oh, let’s call it 14,000%.

Home Depot Lifetime

That’s how much Home Depot has surged since 1984.

Think about the skill set you acquired during that time…

Having a depot (it’s called simply “The Depot” in my house.) 1.2 miles from my driveway has allowed me to acquire vocational training in plumbing, electric, carpentry, roofing, landscaping, and more.

I can fix leaking pipes and faucets (copper and PVC), install back-up sump pumps, finish a basement, hang and finish drywall, install tile, do basic wiring, pour footers, sidewalks, and pads, measure grades, tune-up small engines, and plenty more.

All this was learned via two things:

  1. The Internet

  2. A conveniently located Home Depot

Take my most recent project installing a French drain system in my soggy backyard. I needed hundreds of feet of PVC pipe in both 1.5-inch and 4-inch diameters. And I also needed dozens of connections – 45 degree elbows, 90 degree elbows, Ts, end caps, couplings.

Since I was designing as I went, I didn’t know how many of each I would need. So I bought tan-colored plastic bags full of each part. And I still ended up back at the Home Depot several times.

Then I had to return all the extra pieces when the project was complete.

I saved a couple thousand dollars doing it myself, and I got a hands-on education in run-off management.

That’s how we’ve done things for decades: four trips to Home Depot for every home project.

But that’s changing right now.

For a one-time fee of less than $2,000… I can buy my own portable factory.

Everyone Becomes Henry Ford

If Home Depot appreciated 14,000% by turning homeowners into basement tinkerers… wait until you see what this new advancement ushers in.

It’s called 3D printing, and will allow anyone to design and “print” custom parts and pieces for any endeavor.

Here’s how Research & Development Magazine described it last month:

Imagine being able to design a new aircraft engine part on a computer, and then being able to print it. Not the design — the actual part. And not just a lightweight, nonfunctional model, but an actual working part to be installed in an engine.

While traditional paper printers use a moving toner cartridge head to form lines of text, adding row upon row of toner as the paper moves through the printer, 3D printing works much the same way. Instead of toner, however, a free-moving printer head precisely deposits layer upon layer of plastic or other material to create a solid object from the bottom up.

3D printing technology has existed for about 20 years, but additive manufacturing in its current form is only about five years old, said Brian Rice, head of the Research Institute’s Multi-Scale Composites and Polymers Division and program lead for the Third Frontier-funded Advanced Materials for Additive Manufacturing Maturation program.

Additive manufacturing, which made headlines in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today and was named number one in Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine’s May list of “Top Technologies to Watch,” is a rapidly growing manufacturing technology being touted for its cost savings and waste reduction.

The 3D printing market is expected to double in size by 2015.

It’s like Home Depot in 1984. So now is the time to start placing bets.

Jay Leno already uses a 3D printer to “print” hard to find parts for his collection of classic cars.

GE, ATK Aerospace, Boeing, Goodrich, Honda, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman are all pursuing the technology to make parts for planes and drones.

A paleontologist at Drexel is using one to create robotic dinosaurs from fossilized skeleton structures.

The possibilities, as they say, are endless.

And the profit plays will be, too – from companies making the printers to the ones using them to increase productivity and the bottom line.

I’ll be spending the next few weeks exploring them all.

Call it like you see it,

Nick Hodge Signature

Nick Hodge

follow basic@nickchodge on Twitter

Nick is the founder and president of the Outsider Club, and the investment director of the thousands-strong stock advisories, Early Advantage and Wall Street’s Underground Profits. He also heads Nick’s Notebook, a private placement and alert service that has raised tens of millions of dollars of investment capital for resource, energy, cannabis, and medical technology companies. Co-author of two best-selling investment books, including Energy Investing for Dummies, his insights have been shared on news programs and in magazines and newspapers around the world. For more on Nick, take a look at his editor’s page.

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