The 3-D printing industry saw no shortage of headlines in 2012 as it made its charge at the mainstream manufacturing world.

The industry was simply abubble last year with high profile breakthroughs, powerful startups and exciting new applications. There were government-led initiatives for development, innovations honored, spotlights shined and even some controversy -- all adding to the growing thesis that additive manufacturing really is growing up.

So, without question, 2012 was a big year for 3-D printing. 2013, however, may prove to be even bigger thanks to the long-awaited merger between two of the industry's biggest players, Objet and Stratasys -- a deal that could be enough to push the industry over its last developmental hurdles.

As David Reis, former Objet CEO and current CEO of the newly formed Stratasys Ltd., explained, "The combination of Stratasys and Objet creates a company that can provide manufacturers and designers with the full suite of products to cover all of the design stages."

"The industry is bubbling. There is a lot of activity, a lot of new entries," he said. "But the industry requires larger players" to cope with it.

The potential of 3-D printing industry and of additive manufacturing in general is enormous, based, as he said, "on the fact that we're basically suitable or required by anyone who designs or manufacturers anything."

In order to reach that infinite market, he said, the industry requires large, global companies with the reach and drive required to give them what they need.

After the merger, with a market valuation of $3 billion, dual headquarters at strategic locations in the U.S. and Israel and a mature infrastructure for sales and distribution filling in those 6,000 miles between, the new Stratasys might be the big player the industry has been waiting for.

But that's not the real gift the merger has given the industry. Buried in the details of the deal, the real gift to the industry and to the customers of any additive manufacturing company is the incredible R&D powerhouse the expanded Stratasys is about to become.