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Minnesota giant in 3D printing industry acquires competitor

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Eden Prairie-based Statasys, already a leader in the burgeoning 3D printing industry, is buying one of its top competitors in a deal valued at more than $400 million.

MPR reports the union brings together Stratasys, which has focused on industrial 3D printing, with MakerBot, a New York company that specializes in desktop machines for individual consumers.

MakerBot will operate as a subsidiary of Stratasys and maintain its own identity. In announcing the deal, Stratasys predicted the combination of the companies will speed the growth of 3D printers toward becoming a mainstream tool across many market segments.

The Washington Post seems to agree, expecting that the deal will help make both companies household names in a 3D printer industry. That industry seems poised for rapid growth, the Post notes, with retailers such as Amazon and Staples now beginning to sell 3D printers.

As the Associated Press reports, Stratasys CEO David Reis puts the industry at about $3 billion currently and expects that to double by 2016.

The Business Journal says the deal announced Wednesday includes earn-out payments that could eventually bring the price over $600 million.

Not familiar with 3D printing?

We're not talking about copy machines.

It's a manufacturing process that uses a digital model to make objects ranging from automotive parts to jewelry to artificial limbs and much more.

Here are a couple of guys spelling out the basics of the desktop version, using MakerBot printers to illustrate:

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