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3D Printing Must Create Its Next Big Wave

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Many of the current 3D printing stocks have seen wild swings but it's a matter of time before the technology connects with its perfect wave. I admit I completely missed the first phase of 3D printing craze. It's not for lack of awareness of its tremendous potential. Quite the opposite, actually, I was too far ahead of the craze.

I first learned of Stratasys  (SSYS) in 1999 and was instantly excited. They had a 3D printer that printed plastic objects from digital models (yes, way back then). It was based on rapid prototyping technology they bought from IBM (IBM) -- just another golden egg IBM casually tossed away. This incredible technology struck me as fantastic, with so much potential, too. We could only imagine the benefits this held for life, industry and investors.

Unfortunately, after enthusiastically pitching this great discovery to everyone I knew I got nothing but disappointment. I was so disheartened I didn't even buy the stock.

That was 15 years ago. Since then, I've taken a number of baths. I worried a lot about girls and what had happened to my bike. (Apologies to the great author Douglas Adams, may he enjoy the scenery in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.) Then the 3D printing rage hit like a tsunami. I was hysterical. Rapid prototyping, huh? I've seen that movie before. 

Hence lies the biggest investment lesson I've learned many times over, and am still learning: Truth is less important than perception of it.

But let's face it, the first phase of 3D printing craze was mostly laughable, not unlike the 1990's dot-com bubble. A few items included a toy that squeezes out plastic noodles, printed hamburgers, travel with no luggage, along with CAD files for toothbrush and underwear. That's cool, dude, but let's try to be serious?

I missed the first 3D printing salvo but watched its subsequent burst with great moral satisfaction. I'm still a huge believer in 3D printing after 15 years, baths and all. And I want to make sure not to miss the next wave.

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