The Future of 3D Printing

Focus: STRATEGIES

Paul Goodwin Image Paul Goodwin Emerging Markets Specialist and Analyst, Cabot Heritage Corporation

This newly public company is bringing something to the table in the 3D printing world, says Paul Goodwin of Cabot Wealth Advisory.

My favorite growth stocks with enormous potential are those that involve a "disruptive technology," or have the potential to be disruptive. For example, Apple (AAPL) disrupted the computer and other markets by the time its growth phase ended.

But disruptive technologies aren't easy to recognize. By definition, they don't fit into any existing model, so they can seem odd and unlikely. I remember one critic asking, after Apple introduced the iPad, "but what can you really do with it?"

And some people throw the term around, using it for something trivial, such as a "disruptive" toothbrush technology or a "disruptive" light bulb.

(The disruptive light bulb would be Cree's (CREE) LED bulbs, which last for many years, use less energy and don't generate heat. But that's not really disruptive, that's just better. Cree bulbs will still screw into the same sockets as the old incandescent bulbs and the fatally flawed compact fluorescent bulbs. A great product with big potential, but not a disruptive one.)

My candidate for a genuinely disruptive technology is the emerging 3D printing industry. For most people, 3D printing is just a novelty that will allow home users to create plastic toys or neat-looking iPhone cases. But for manufacturers, the technology has rocketed past the novelty phase into a mature business.

3D printers have often been seen as a way to produce fast prototypes of products.