GE's 3-D Printing Acquisitions Are a Mixed Blessing for 3-D Printer Makers

It's completely understandable that shares of 3-D printer makers rallied on Tuesday following news General Electric (GE) is buying two of their peers. The purchases are a big vote of confidence for 3-D printing by one of the world's largest companies, and raise the potential for other firms to counter GE by making their own 3-D printing acquisitions.

Still, printer makers might be a little nervous that such a big name is entering the space. Particularly since GE's move is the latest in a string of noteworthy entries over the last few years.

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GE is buying Arcam AB and SLM Solutions, two European makers of additive manufacturing systems used to create metal objects for industries such as aerospace, healthcare, energy and automotive, for a combined $1.4 billion. The companies produced $142 million in revenue last year between them.

GE forecasts Arcam and SLM will underpin an additive manufacturing business that will produce $1 billion in annual sales by 2020, and also drive $3 billion to $5 billion in cost savings over the next decade by allowing it to avoid buying printers from third parties.

Nonetheless, the news fueled M&A hopes for 3-D printer makers 3D Systems (DDD) , Stratasys (SSYS) , ExOne  (XONE) and Voxeljet (VJET) , and resulted in them posting gains ranging from 3.8% to 5.8% on Monday. Belgian 3-D printing software/services provider Materialise  (MTLS) rose 7.9%.

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