Report Card: 3D Printing Stocks (CAMT, DDD, SSYS, VJET, XONE)

Back in late January, yours truly pointed out that 2014 — as of that time — had been a miserable year for 3D printer stocks like 3D Systems (DDD), Stratasys (SSYS) and ExOne (XONE). All three of those names were down by double-digits for the first month of the new year, along with Voxeljet AG (VJET).

3d-printing-stocks-camt-xone-ddd-ssys-vjetThe only one of the 3D printing stocks that looked like it was holding up was Camtek (CAMT), and even Camtek shares took a dive after that.

As it turns out, things were destined to get worse for the whole crop of 3D printing stocks. The entire industry’s top names are all now well under their January lows.

Has this continued pullback finally right-priced some or all of these names? As usual, it depends on the company in question. Rather than a simple buy or sell call on the likes of Stratasys or 3D Systems, though, let’s put these 3D printing stocks back in school and grade

3D Printing Stocks: Camtek (CAMT)

3d-printing-stocks-camtek-camt-stockCAMT Return Year-to-Date: -15%

Even the one and only winner from January hasn’t remained bullish since then. After peaking at $5.84 on January 29, Camtek (CAMT) stock has given up 35% of that value through Monday of this week.

CAMT also hit a new low yesterday, and that downtrend still looks like it’s going strong.

But wasn’t Camtek supposed to change the world with its introduction of the world’s first circuit board printer? Sure, and it still may.

From a publicity-management standpoint, though, the timing of the news that it was going to commercialize its PCB know-how probably should have come a little closer to an actual launch of the marketable product.

Throw in the fact that the demand-outlook is getting fuzzier rather than clearer, and the market’s struggling to find a reason to buy CAMT stock.

Grade: D

3D Printing Stocks: Stratasys (SSYS)

ssys-stock-stratasys-3d-printing-stocksSSYS Return Year-to-Date: -25%

The big name in 3D printing stocks also happens to be one of the best of breed, now largely on the heels of a wave of wise acquisitions.

Specifically, Stratasys (SSYS) recently acquired Solid Concepts, Harvest Technologies and Interfacial Solutions. They’re all good acquisitions, giving SSYS a dose of vertical and/or horizontal integration.

But they weren’t particularly seen as game-changers, even though one of them might have been. The inclusion of Solid Concepts is a foray into the increasingly critical metal-printing arena. Solid Concepts’ claim to fame in the metal-printing is owning the title of the company that printed the world’s first metal gun.

SSYS stock is still struggling, hitting new lows for the year on Monday. But Stratasys still has size and muscle it can leverage that other players in the space just can’t tap into.

Grade: B+

3D Printing Stocks: Voxeljet AG (VJET)

voxeljet-vjet-stock-3d-printing-companiesVJET Return Year-to-Date: -38%

To give credit where it’s due, Voxeljet AG (VJET) saw huge sales growth last quarter … 78% better than the year-ago figure. It also beat its top-line estimate for the fourth quarter of last year, by about 8%. Per-share earnings fell, but that was largely expected as the company spent heavily to prepare for expansion plans.

Still, there’s a huge red flag waving here: Some of the company’s top people have been selling their shares in a huge way.

CEO Dr. Ingo Ederer is selling or will sell 75,400 shares, while CFO Rudolf Franz has or will shed 33,800 of his 274,625 shares of VJET stock. Ederer still owns a pretty good stake, but 75,000 shares is still $1.8 million worth of the stock. And bear in mind that these guys are selling out despite the fact that they’re selling now at fairly miserable prices (just like the other 3D printing stocks).

Do they see something worse in the future?

Grade: C-

3D Printing Stocks: 3D Systems (DDD)

3d-systems-ddd-stock-3d-printing-stocksDDD Return Year-to-Date: -43%

While 3D Systems (DDD) hasn’t been as busy as Stratasys has been on the acquisition front, it still has picked up an interesting target of its own in Medical Modeling. The company combines 3D imaging and 3D printing to meet variety of medical needs.

That capability adds to an already impressive portfolio of medical 3D printing services that fall under the 3D Systems umbrella, and though that line of business won’t make or break DDD stock in the near term, it’s a field with a ton of longer-term opportunity.

That said, don’t think for a minute the 3D Systems doesn’t have a big near-term opportunity on its plate. The company is the premier name in metal 3D printing, on the heels of its Phenix PX printers. Since metal shaping is where 3D printing can make the most dramatic strides in manufacturing capabilities, it’s tough to bet against DDD stock.

In fact, 3D Systems might be the top dog among 3D printing stocks.

Grade: A

3D Printing Stocks: ExOne (XONE)

xone-stock-exone-3d-printing-stocksXONE Return Year-to-Date: -48%

Down 48% since the end of last year, ExOne (XONE) is leading the race to the bottom among 3D prining stocks.

Don’t let this year’s implosion fool you, however. There’s some value here — especially now that ExOne has finally determined its role among the 3D printing stocks.

How’s that?

Now that ExOne has figured out that its cast-making technology is better marketed to metal tool buyers rather than metal tool makers, it’s back on the path to growth. The problem is, this year will be a tough one for the company as it morphs itself — and its sales arm in particular — into a company better geared for that marketing approach. Investors just haven’t wanted to wait it out.

The sellers might have overshot their wholesale shedding of XONE stock, however, creating a little bit of surprise value.

Grade: C+

As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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