Eden Prairie-based Stratasys, which makes the world's largest installed base of industrial 3D printers, plans to expand its product line to include printers that build objects out of metal, not just plastic.
The company's machines, used by GE, BMW and Medtronic, lay down thin layers of molten plastic, to slowly build three-dimensional objects.
"We are very seriously investigating the metal question, whether we want to be there, what is the right way to get there," said David Reis, CEO of the rapidly growing company.
For the first half of this year, Stratasys had about $200 million in sales and a net profit of about $3 million.
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!
Last year, Stratasys merged with one of its top competitors, Israel-based Objet. Earlier this year, Stratasys merged with MakerBot, which focus on desktop 3D printers. However, Stratasys doesn't have the metal printing technology in-house, and the two other companies didn't add metal printing to its portfolio.
Meanwhile, a major U.S.-based rival of Stratasys has acquired a European firm that makes 3D printers that work with metal.
To add a similar product line, Stratasys likely would have to combine with a firm that already has expertise in metal printers.
"I would imagine there's probably some incentive on their part to take a good long look at a metal manufacturer for some type of merger or acquisition in the not-too-distant future," said Timothy Caffrey, an industry consultant with Wohlers Associates, which tracks the 3D printing industry.
Stratasys' stock price has about doubled in the past year. Wall Street pegs the company's value at about $5 billion.