) is by many counts one of the most successful brands of all time.
After dark days during the '90s, Apple re-emerged to pioneer new
products like smartphones. The name of its founder, Steve Jobs,
will probably go down in history alongside the likes of Wright and
Ford as paragons of American ingenuity. What's more, the company's
technologies have always been disruptive. Whether by putting
computers into the home or directly into your hand, Apple has
always had a knack for creating new markets.
With that in mind, we decided to look to the story of Apple's
ascendance for clues to the future of 3D printing stocks. Are any
of the still-relatively-unknown companies in 3D printing on track
to becoming a household name? After all, it took a rare combination
of technical savvy and investing prowess to separate Apple from the
pack, where it was often outpaced by bigger sales at companies like
Commodore and Tandy.
Let's look at four axioms involved in Apple's success.
Educate the public about your new product
. Steve Jobs was not really a hardware guy, at least not at the
outset. As the story goes, it was his early partner, Steve Wozniak,
who was the brains behind the Apple 1, the circuit-board basis for
the first home computer. Jobs also wasn't successful at selling his
idea to bigger companies - including executives from
) -- which
both scoffed at the usefulness
of a personal computer. Apple's own employees were still
using typewriters as late as 1980
A "disruptive" product needs to be explained to the public, and
Apple undertook an exhaustive campaign to make sure that it was
doing just that. In an approach that combined
instructive print advertisements
, and carefully written instruction manuals, Apple successfully
made a case to the public that normal people could use computers to
heighten productivity and minimize busy work.
For several reasons,
3D Systems Corp
) may be ahead of the curve on this front. Its clever ticker and
ubiquity on YouTube,
thanks to a special spot on
, give it an edge in terms of visibility with the public,
heightening anticipation for 3D printers in the home.
Don't fear partnerships with bigger companies.
If you can't get a larger company to buy you outright, you can
still explore other kinds partnerships, such as when Jobs offered
Xerox cheap stock in exchange for permission to view their new
graphics technology. Jobs
was convinced that Xerox's interface
, which used graphically designed representations for folders and
applications, was the future. And it was.
) recently severed a partnership with
(HPQ) after collaborating on a Design Jet 3D printer. Stratasys's
stock has soared ever since, in no small part due to
an upgrade from Credit Suisse
, a sign that finance is paying more attention to the industry as a
Making history is cool, but not as cool to investors as
making history by making money.
Apple had what could probably be referred to as the most successful
IPO in American history. It raised more capital than any other
(F), and made more instant millionaires than any offering at all.
Jobs was featured on the cover of all the major financial magazines
that year, from
further boosting Apple's notoriety. It didn't seem to matter that
many of those profiles also contained negative assessments of some
Apple products, including its word processing, which
slow" and "clumsy
Don't try to compete in two markets at once.
Apple never succeeded in its bids to siphon off market share from
business supply giants like IBM, which typically kept pace with
Apple's innovation despite being slower to recognize the potential
(MSFT) Office Suite is still the industry standard, and Apple was
forced to shift its focus
toward consumer electronics like iPods and tablets in order to
remain relevant during the late 2000s. 3D printing stocks are
relevant to a number of different markets (arguably most of them),
but firms will have to remain focused if they hope to compete with
the more established names like
(ADSK) that have much more to spend on R&D and advertising.
Will some of these companies utilizing 3D printing successfully
disrupt the market?
Click on the interactive chart below to see data over
Which 3D printers have the smartest strategy? Here's a list to
1. Stratasys Inc.
: Engages in the development, manufacture, and marketing of 3D
printing, rapid prototyping, and direct digital manufacturing
systems primarily in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific.
Market cap at $3.62 billion; most recent closing price at $93.45.
2. 3D Systems Corp.
: Engages in the design, development, manufacture, marketing, and
servicing of 3D printers and related products, print materials, and
services. Market cap at $4.82 billion; most recent closing price at
3. Autodesk, Inc.
: Provides design software and service solutions to customers in
architecture, engineering, and construction; manufacturing; and
digital media and entertainment industries. Market cap at $8.72
billion; most recent closing price at $39.07.
4. The ExOne Company
(XONE): Engages in the development, manufacture, and sale of three
dimensional printing machines and printing products in the
Americas, Europe, and Asia. Market cap at $674.73 million; most
recent closing price at $50.80.
5. Hewlett-Packard Company
: Offers various products, technologies, software, solutions, and
services to individual consumers and small- and medium-sized
businesses, as well as to the government, health, and education
sectors worldwide. Market cap at $41.94 billion; most recent
closing price at $21.74.
List compiled by James Dennin. Analyst ratings sourced from
Zacks Investment Research. All other data sourced from Finviz.
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originally appeared on
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