I have a pretty unique perch at T. Rowe Price, as the person who's got one foot in the public markets and one foot in the private equity markets. I scan the venture capital world to make sure that we're on top of these private companies that the venture capitalists are creating, and get to know them two, three, four, five years before their IPO (Initial Public Offering).
It’s a very useful knowledge pipeline for us, to watch developments through the eyes of the venture capitalist, and I've seen a lot of the most exciting things coming out of private equity.
From my vantage point, 3D printing is right up there as one of the most exciting innovations I've seen in the 20 years I've been around here. I think it's going to change the way goods are manufactured across many industries.
In order to wrap your head around this, file away what your mind tells you about printing or pictures. A normal printer squirts ink onto paper, but a 3D printer layers atoms on top of each other to create (or print) actual objects.
I can explain this in more detail by taking us through the history of the 3D-printing industry. What we now call 3D printing was called rapid prototyping for many years. An engineer would design an object as a CAD (computerized aided design) file, and then send that file to a machine to produce the real thing.
But for years, the plastics and the metals that were used were just not robust enough to create a prototype that you could be proud of. They resembled paraffin waxes. They could create the parts, but those parts tended to be flimsy. Because the end product didn't have structural integrity, the technology was really just for engineers who were creating a product in CAD and needed to see what it looked like in real life.