Materialise collaborates with PTC to make manufacturers Industry 4.0 ready

Software company PTC has teamed up with Belgium-based 3D printer market leader Materialise to expand the capabilities of its Creo CAD software.

Taking the form of a new software package, the collaboration will allow Creo users to integrate 3D printing into their manufacturing processes, with a special emphasis on metal additive manufacturing.

Part analysis in Creo. Image via PTC.Part-analysis in ThingWorx. Image via PTC.

Design with PTC, build with Materialise

The new PTC software package is intended for manufacturing end-use products and will be compatible with machines linked up to the Materialise Build Processor.

The Build Processor is a slicing feature of Materialise’s Magic 3D Print Suite, an all-encompassing 3D software bundle.

The enhanced connection between PTC CAD software and the Materialise Build Processor simplifies the integration of 3D printing for discrete manufacturers, making distinct items such as plane, cars and mobile phone.

The software package also includes Materialise’s support generation technology, which gives designers more control over the design and creation of metal support structures.

“This collaboration with PTC will expand access to 3D Printing and help engineers and designers think in terms of additive, rather than traditional manufacturing for rapid product design and development,” said Stefaan Motte, VP at Materialise Software.

“Together with Materialise, we will bridge the gap between CAD design software and the 3D printing machines,” added Brian Thompson, senior VP at PTC. 

A Chain Dress prepared for slicing in the materialise build processor. Image via Materialise.A chain-dress prepared for slicing in the Materialise build processor. Image via Materialise.

Integrating CAD, 3D printing and IoT with PTC

Materialise integration is the latest in a number of software integration agreements made by PTC to facilitate interaction between software and hardware.

In May 2017, 3D printer manufacturer 3D Systems announced that it was embedding intelligent features powered by PTC’s ThingWorx industrial internet of things (IIoT) platform into its machines, allowing users to monitor prints in real time.

Later that year, PTC integrated ANSYS simulation into its ThingWorx platform, allowing customers to both analyze the part manufacturing process and predict the component’s performance based on the design and a set of parameters.

Let us know what you think the most important 3D software release has been this year.Make your nominations for the 3D Printing Industry Awards 2018 now.

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Featured image shows functional end-use part design in Creo. Photo via PTC.

3 Stocks We're Ready to Sell

At The Motley Fool, we’re big fans of buying high-quality companies and sticking with them for the long term. However, you sometimes need to be willing to sell a position when the investment thesis is not playing out as expected, or if the business fundamentals are simply deteriorating.

In that spirit, we asked our contributors to share with our readers which stocks they might consider selling in the middle term, and names such as 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), and Brookfield Infrastructure Partners L.P. (NYSE:BIP) popped up during the conversation. 

Andres Cardenal: 3D Systems stock is up by 165% from its low point in January, but even after this massive gain, the stock is still down by more than 40% over the last 12 months. This shows that 3D Systems is a tremendously volatile stock, and that’s not even the worst part. Volatility would not be much of a problem if the business fundamentals were moving in the right direction, but 3D Systems is a fairly uncertain investment at this stage.

The company is one of the leading players in 3D printing, an exciting industry offering potential for innovative disruption. Nevertheless, just because the industry looks promising doesn’t guarantee that different companies in the business will be solid propositions for investors, and 3D Systems is just not delivering in accordance to expectations.

Images

Image source: 3D Systems.

Total revenue during 2015 came in at $666 million, a sluggish increase of 2% year over year. Most of the weakness was concentrated in products and materials, with revenues in these segments declining 9% and 5%, respectively. The services division, on the other hand, is doing much better; revenue in this segment grew 22%. Adding to the concerns, 3D Systems is being hurt by declining profitability; gross profit margin fell from 48.6% of revenue in 2014 to 43.8% of sales in 2015.

I still believe 3D Systems offers upside potential over the long term. However, unless the company proves it can capitalize on its growth opportunities in a profitable way, I may need to sell 3D Systems and invest the proceeds in a sounder and more reliable stock.

George Budwell: After its second high-profile M&A flame out, I’m seriously considering kicking Pfizer out of my portfolio. While the market cheered the U.S. Treasury’s actions to break up the planned merger between Allergan and Pfizer, I think this whole episode reveals a deeply disturbing aspect about Pfizer’s approach toward creating value for shareholders: In short, Pfizer’s management seems to be focused far too much on accounting issues — such as its effective tax rate and outstanding share count — rather than on growing its top line. 

While it’s true that some of Pfizer’s newer products such as Eliquis, Ibrance, and Prevnar 13 are expected to grow the drugmaker’s top line by 4.4% this year, the fact remains that the company hasn’t effectively dealt with its headlong dive over the so-called patent cliff. After all, its Global Established Products business reported a 14% decline in total sales in 2015, offsetting a healthy 11% annual sales increase within its Innovative Products segment last year. The net result is that Pfizer’s shares have steadily marched lower over the last 12 months:

PFE Chart

PFE data by YCharts.

The bottom line is that Pfizer’s cohort of newly approved products are being diluted — from a value creation standpoint — by the drugmaker’s older products that have lost patent protection. The merger with Allergan would have positioned Pfizer for a possible split in, perhaps, 2018 to solve this problem, but management’s decision to shutter the merger after the tax benefits evaporated leaves the company in a precarious position going forward.

Basically, Pfizer is wasting, in my opinion, some of the best years of its Innovative Products business because of its burning desire to lower its effective tax rate. In the process, Pfizer is getting left behind by many of its big pharma peers that are already starting to push past the patent cliff. Worse still, management doesn’t appear to have a solid plan in place to finally resolve these lingering patent problems, and that’s the main reason I may part with my shares in the not-so-distant future. 

Jason Hall: This is a tough one for me, but I think in the long run, it’s going to be the right decision to sell Brookfield Infrastructure Partners L.P. Why is it tough? Because I love the business, and I think it’s likely to beat the market’s total returns on average over the long term. 

So, why sell a business I love? Because I hold shares in an IRA, and Brookfield Infrastructure Partners is a master limited partnership, or MLP. 

Why does that matter? It matters because MLPs don’t pay corporate taxes, passing the tax liability down to investors. And unfortunately, that can lead to owing taxes on distributions, even if the shares are held in a retirement account. It’s a terribly inefficient investment in a tax-advantaged retirement account.

Today, it’s not a problem, since the income I derive from my Brookfield Infrastructure Partners investment is still below the threshold that would cause me to owe tax on it. But it’s in my best interest to not build up enough assets like Brookfield in my retirement accounts over time, since they could turn into a problem down the road. In other words, this is purely a tax-planning move. 

For that reason, I’m probably going to sell the units I hold in my IRA, though I’m certainly not selling the ones I own in my taxable investing account. To the contrary, this would be one of the first income investments I’d buy in a taxable brokerage account.

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Andres Cardenal owns shares of 3D Systems. George Budwell owns shares of Allergan PLC and Pfizer. Jason Hall owns shares of 3D Systems and Brookfield Infrastructure Partners. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems and Brookfield Infrastructure Partners. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

NASA's 3D printed rocket is almost ready

NASA claims it is 75pc of the way there with its first ever 3D-printed rocket engine after another batch of parts were tested this week.

It turns out you can pretty much 3D print anything nowadays. Prosthetic limbs? Check. Prosthethic turtle shells? Check. Food? Check. Guns? Check. Rockets? Well, pretty much now, yea. That’s because NASA’s latest project, to 3D print an entire space rocket, is almost complete.

This all makes sense, really. 3D printing, on the whole, is seen as a way to drastically reduce manufacturing costs. We’ve seen it already in a recent interview with ENABLE’s Stephen Dignam, whose homemade prosthetic arms and hands are creating incredibly affordable options for those unlucky enough to need one.

3D printing affects us all

For NASA it’s no different, with costings for space projects running into eyewatering sums. Space X, for example, is pouring an awful lot of resources into developing rockets that can land back down on Earth, rather than crashing (New Shepard, too). This is because the engine is often the most expensive part of the spacecraft.

For three years now NASA has been working with various vendors to make 3D printed parts, such as turbopumps and injectors, and test them individually. Now they have started testing them together, a huge step.

“We manufactured and then tested about 75pc of the parts needed to build a 3-D printed rocket engine,” said Elizabeth Robertson, the project manager for the additively manufactured demonstrator engine at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

“By testing the turbopumps, injectors and valves together, we’ve shown that it would be possible to build a 3-D printed engine for multiple purposes such as landers, in-space propulsion or rocket engine upper stages.”

What’s cool is some of the 3D printed devices contain far less parts than conventionally made alternatives.

The turbopump, for example, which NASA explains is “one of the more complex parts of the engine”, had 45 percent fewer parts. The injector had over 200 fewer parts and it incorporated features that have never been used before because they are only possible with 3D printing.

“This new manufacturing process really opened the design space and allowed for part geometries that would be impossible with traditional machining or casting methods,” said David Eddleman, one Marshall’s propulsion designers.

“For the valve designs on this engine, we used more efficient structures in the piece parts that resulted in optimised performance.”

Space travel is about to get an awful lot more affordable, it seems.

Rocket image via Shutterstock