Feb 03 - The 3D printing boom has seen shares at Swedish firm Arcam surge over 500 percent in the last year. The company's one of just five listed companies in the world that makes 3D printers. But is the hype to be believed? Ivor Bennett reports
It's a window into the future of manufacturing. High energy electron beams melting metal powders into structures previously unattainable, even unthinkable. To the rest of us, it's called 3D printing - a sector where, quite literally, sparks are flying. SOUNDBITE (English) ISAK ELFSTRÖM, VICE PRESIDENT R&D, ARCAM, SAYING: "I've been surprised there hasn't been such a large fuss about it earlier. We've been doing it for quite some time but it has been I think fairly unnoticed." Isak Elfström is vice president of R&D at Swedish firm Arcam - one of just 5 listed companies in the world that MAKES 3D printers. The huge, heavy, fridge-like blocks cost 1 million dollars each. But despite the hefty price tag, orders have been flooding in. Revenues grew 75 percent last year, swallowing up targets for both 2014 and 2015. The hype over 3D printing has also seen the company's share price go through the roof - soaring 530 percent in the past year. SOUNDBITE (English) IVOR BENNETT, REUTERS REPORTER, SAYING: "Arcam's success is down to these. Hip implants made from titanium powder. The company reckons its machines have produced 30-thousand already, accounting for 2 percent of the global market." Arcam's customers also include Boeing, Airbus and NASA - the aerospace industry one of many licking its lips at the technology's potential. The hype's because of this: a complete freedom of design, all at the push of a button. The real benefit though could be what comes next, be it cheaper, lighter aircraft, or improved fuel consumption. But according to Arcam CEO Magnus René, it's still a long way off. SOUNDBITE (English) MAGNUS RENÉ, PRESIDENT & CEO, ARCAM, SAYING: "Most of the industry are still focussing on the values they get when they use these systems for prototyping. But in order to fully develop the value of 3D printing you have to move into production." General Electric is one of those moving into production. recently announcing plans to make fuel nozzles via 3D printing. But from jet engines to implants, ears to guns - the technology could have an impact across the board. It's now just a question of when.