Additive manufacturing (AM) has become an integral part of a number of businesses and industries, including aerospace and medical, and the technology’s impact is only likely to increase as time passes. Defense is taking a hard look at AM, automotive is finding ways to leverage 3D printing, and numerous small businesses still find plenty of rapid prototyping value in their AM systems.
Continued growth relies on innovation as much as consumer appeal and, in a capitalist world economy, the monetary forces that drive innovation generally come from outside investments. Alan Meckler has launched the first 3D printing mutual fund, named the “3D Printing and Technology Fund,” to bring more funds to the global business of 3D printing.
Note the use of the word “global.” While US companies like 3D Systems and Stratasys are part of the scheme, the mutual fund is meant to drive 3D printing around the world. That includes the growing European and Asian markets. The fund will also be investing in companies with a serious interest in AM, such as GE, which has invested heavily in AM, or even service bureaus such as Materialise.
Meckler’s past enterprises have included Virtual Reality World and Internet World magazines and conferences, Internet.com, SearchEngineWatch, Earthweb and Jupitermedia. He’s also responsible for the Inside 3D Printing conferences that have raised 3D printing awareness around the globe. Meckler has likened the AM boom to the rise of the internet as a platform for entrepreneurial enterprise that includes small businesses along with corporate giants.
The minimum initial buy in for the new mutual fund is set at $2,500, and it has an expense limitation of 1.25%. It will trade under the name TDPIX. Before you pull out your checkbook, though, there are some things to consider. Stock analysts have been watching and waiting for the 3D printing bubble to collapse. Some believe the current rate of market growth is unsustainable, and will eventually lead to something similar to the dot-com troubles seen around 2000.
Even if the market remains stable, AM as a business is still relatively new, particularly as an openly traded business. Sometimes that works out just fine (see IBM), other times, not so much (see various alternative energy businesses). The deck is still shuffling, as it were, to see which companies are going to come out on top, particularly when some big names in business (HP, Apple, Epson) have yet to stake a claim.
Below you’ll find a couple of videos about the launch of the mutual fund. The first features Meckler answering questions about his new venture. The second is a shorter blurb (go to two minutes in if it doesn’t auto forward) with some interesting insights into the 3D Printing and Technology Fund.