The mini bubble in three-dimensional printing stocks got another hard squeeze Wednesday night, as ExOne (XONE) reported plunging profit margins and lower revenue than a year earlier.
The tiny 3D printer maker with the long-gone $1 billion market value plunged when trading opened Thursday, down 14% in mid-morning trading to $26.46. The stock is now down more than 50% in 2014 and 67% from its all-time high of $78.80, hit last summer when the 3D bubble was at its peak.
As often happens with these theme-based mini-bubbles, the damaging earnings report from ExOne also hit stocks of its peers. Voxeljet (VJET) was down 6%, Stratasys (SSYS) was down 4% and 3D Systems (DDD) fell 3%.
Investors pushed the sector to outlandish heights last year on hopes 3D printing was about to revolutionize manufacturing and catch on with consumers who would fall in love with printing up their own, homemade iPhone covers and key chain fobs. But in reality, the technology has proven more unwieldy and expensive than those early boosters expected.
And while 3D printing enthusiasts speak breathlessly about how the technology will radically change the world as we know it, others warn that the hype should be clearly separated from reality.
ExOne reported revenue declined 8% to $7.3 million in the first quarter, less than the $10 million analysts expected, and it saw an adjusted net loss of 37 cents per share compared to the 12 cents analysts expected. Gross margin plummeted to 22.2% from 35.8% a year earlier.
Meanwhile, CEO Kent Rockwell had his head in the 3D clouds, saying he was “enthusiastic over the increased level of activity in the 3D printing industrial manufacturing space and our position in it.”
The problem was that, despite the enthusiasm, customers weren’t buying as many printers. The larger loss resulted from the lower level of sales as well as increased spending on a newer type of printing technology.
The big miss followed a similar disappointment from rival 3D Systems, which also disclosed a decline in gross profit margin in its April 29 first quarter report.