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The stupendous run of the 3D printing solution providers such as Stratasys (SSYS - Analyst Report), 3D Systems (DDD - Analyst Report), The ExOne Company (XONE - Snapshot Report) in the previous year came to an abrupt halt after some of them provided lower-than-expected guidance.

In 2013, Stratasys, 3D systems and ExOne generated returns of 45.4%, 115.1% and 114.4%, respectively, compared to a decline of 8.3%, 4.7% and 9.1% in 2014, year-to-date. Another recently-listed 3D printing company Voxeljet (VJET - Snapshot Report) was down 5.4% year-to-date.

The major sell-off took place on Tuesday as ExOne lowered its fiscal 2013 revenue guidance and Stratasys provided a lower-than-expected fiscal 2014 forecast. Panic set in and almost all 3D printing stocks were affected.

Stratasys’ 2014 guidance indicated that operating expenses would increase significantly due to the incremental investments in sales & marketing and research & development. Moreover, Stratasys expects second-half fiscal 2014 non-GAAP net income to be governed by the rate of adoption of its new products and changing schedules of operating expenses. 

Encouragingly, Stratasys expects fiscal 2014 revenues to range between $660 million–$680 million, higher than the fiscal 2013 revenue forecast of $470 million to $490 million. Additionally, the company expects strong organic revenues. Despite these optimistic forecasts, the company’s stock was downgraded to a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell). This when accompanied by a 0.00% Earnings ESP does not indicate a favorable forecast for the current quarter.

Another stock that is in the news is ExOne which lowered its FY13 revenue guidance to a range of $40 million to $42 million from $48 million on account of deferment of machine sales to 2014. However, the company remained positive on organic top-line growth which is expected to be in the range of 40% to 50%.

In the trailing four quarters, ExOne posted an average 14.3% positive earnings surprise. However, for the current quarter, the company’s Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) and Zacks Earnings ESP of 0.00% makes surprise prediction difficult.

The other two stocks, 3D Systems and Voxeljet, carry a Zacks Rank # 3 (Hold) and a Zacks Earnings ESP of 0.00%. Thus, we are taking a wait-and-see approach to the current quarter as regards these 3D printing stocks.

As such the 3D printing companies operate within a high-cost structure and any sort of disruption in the top line is likely to impact their overall results. Moreover, 3D printing is a relatively new concept and is likely to take time to gain popularity.

Nonetheless, the 3D printing market presents a favorable long-term opportunity as a large number of engineers, designers, architects and entrepreneurs are resorting to 3D solutions for their primary designing and product modeling. We therefore think that the adoption rate and cost control measures will be important factors determining the fortune of companies in this segment.

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