3D Systems Corp (NYSE:DDD)

CAPS Rating: 4 out of 5

The Company through subsidiaries designs, develops, manufactures, markets and services rapid 3-D printing, prototyping and manufacturing systems and related products and materials.


Player Avatar TMFYoungGuns (94.65) Submitted: 11/21/2012 11:14:16 AM : Underperform Start Price: $27.67 DDD Score: +33.63

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2012/11/21/analysts-debate-is-3d-systems-still-a-top-stock.aspxAnalysts Debate: Is 3D Systems Still a Top Stock?The Motley Fool has been making successful stock picks for many years, but we don't always agree on what a great stock looks like. That's what makes us "motley," and it's one of our core values. We can disagree respectfully, as we often do. Investors do better when they share their knowledge.In that spirit, we three Fools have banded together to find the market's best and worst stocks, which we'll rate on The Motley Fool's CAPS system as outperformers or underperformers. We'll be accountable for every pick based on the sum of our knowledge and the balance of our decisions. Today, we'll be discussing 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD ) , the hottest company in one of the market's hottest niches: 3-D printing.3D Systems by the numbersHere's a quick snapshot of the company's most important numbers:StatisticResult (TTM or Most Recent Available)Market Cap $2.6 billionP/E and Forward P/E60.6 / 31.6Revenue$322 millionNet Income$36 millionFree Cash Flow$50 millionCash and Investments$184 millionPrinter Sales (and Y-o-Y Growth)* $34.1 million (130% growth)Materials Sales (and Y-o-Y Growth)*$25.5 million (38% growth)Services Sales (and Y-o-Y Growth)*$31.0 million (28% growth)Healthcare Sales (and Y-o-Y Growth)*$12.1 million (67% growth)Revenue from New Products$89.0 million in first nine months of 2012 (76% growth)Printer Sales Growth123% for Q3, 128% for first nine months of 2012Key CompetitorsStratasys (Nasdaq: SSYS )Proto Labs (NYSE: PRLB )MakerBotSources: Morningstar and corporate reports.* Y-o-Y = year over year, Q3 2011 to Q3 2012.Alex's takeI think 3-D printing has tremendous potential. I've probably written more about this technology over the past year than any other Fool, and in many of those articles I've been strongly bullish on 3D Systems. But three things are keeping me from recommending 3D Systems today.First is growth by acquisitions. This was recently the subject of a bear raid that displayed a rather egregious lack of understanding of GAAP accounting principles. The issue caused some whipsawing in the stock this month, and even drew 3D Systems' CEO Abe Reichental into the fray, as he felt it necessary to hold a special conference call just to rebut two articles on Seeking Alpha. Don't worry, Abe, I'm not going to get creative with your books on this one. You can still hold a press conference about me if you want, though. I could use the publicity!Over the last three years, 3D Systems has bought 31 companies. The decade before 3D Systems' buyout binge looks like this:DDD Revenue TTM data by YChartsGot that? Over a decade, 3D Systems' net income and free cash flow didn't budge, except maybe to move lower. Its revenue rose 42%. Then, starting toward the end of 2009, 3D Systems started buying up as many companies as it could. Profit and free cash flow jumped, and revenue rose 145%. This performance is indisputably better than that of rival Stratasys, which has only completed one notable acquisition in the same time period, of specialty 3-D printer manufacturer Solidscape in mid-2011. Its merger with Objet, which should reestablish Stratasys as the market leader over 3D Systems, has not yet been finalized. However, despite completing a single acquisition to 3D Systems' 31, Stratasys improved its revenue since 2009 by 60%. Its free cash flow -- which was already positive at the start of that year -- has doubled.How many more meaningful acquisitions can 3D Systems make before it effectively consolidates all of the viable smaller 3-D printing companies under its roof? Will it simply continue to acquire every start-up with a decent idea? I just have a difficult time seeing this three-year burst of acquisitions as something that can be maintained for much longer.3D Systems' valuation is also a concern. Its stock has been pumped to the moon in 2012, rising from a P/E that was under 20 a year ago to one that's over 60 today. The company's price to free cash flow ratio is also near all-time highs at 52, more than double the P/FCF level it dropped to a year ago. When a stock's P/E rises as quickly as its price for an extended period, then you're either in for some margin compression or you probably own Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) .It doesn't take a whole lot to undermine a momentum stock. Just ask Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR ) shareholders how they feel about David Einhorn. Or ask Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) shareholders how they feel about Qwikster. The market is littered with stocks that used to have P/Es as high as 3D Systems' before a single piece of bad news started a long slide.Finally, the technological aspect of 3-D printing isn't really as well-understood by many investors as it should be. Reading a lot of hype around 3-D printers almost reminds me of the scene in Star Trek IV when Scotty uses a Macintosh -- this was in 1986, mind you -- to create a metal from the future in less than 10 seconds. A lot of movies from the 80's had a similarly fawning blind spot when it comes to computers. Scriptwriters used "computer" as shorthand for "magic deus ex machina box," creating scenes that showed no understanding of how the devices worked just to wrap up a major plot point.I'm occasionally guilty of excessive technological optimism as well, but I try to temper my expectations by offering examples of real-world capabilities. This is often absent in articles about 3-D printing. It's fascinating technology, but it's not going to work miracles. When investors turn technology into magic, it leads to bubbles, and bubbles always pop. Always.3D Systems might be one of the two most important 3-D printing companies on the market today, but that doesn't mean it's a great buy right now. Remember the old greedy-fearful adage. All I see are investors with dollar signs in their eyes, thinking about replicators. This may be the technology of the future, but investing is about making the best use of your money in the present, and I have to say that I do not think 3D Systems can sustain its current price.Sean's takeI'm not sure how many times I have to say it before it finally sinks in, but we as investors are horrible predictors of when a technology will take off. Everyone expected Amazon's marketplace business and cloud business would be instant hits. They did become successful platforms eventually, but nowhere near as quickly as everyone expected. The same can be said of genome sequencing, where sequencing price points have finally dipped enough that it's conducive for researchers to use their technology.As cool as 3-D printing is, and as low as its prices have moved, it's just not yet a commercially feasible or fully understood technology, and it's going to take some time before it is. Do I think the technology has merit, as many of my Foolish colleagues have described? Absolutely. But I doubt we're ready for the technology to take off just yet.One concern I have is 3D Systems' reliance on acquisitions to drive growth. As Alex notes above, in the past three years 3D Systems has purchased 31 companies, which has been the primary driver of its growth. Can 3D Systems grow organically? I'd say yes, but we're probably looking at nothing more than high-single-digit organic growth, as compared to the robust double-digit growth most pundits are forecasting. This also relates to the fact that half of 3D Systems' revenue stream comes from outside the U.S. With both Asia and Europe experiencing slower growth, 3D Systems' prospects may prove too bullish. 3D Systems' valuation is also a major concern. In terms of book and sales valuation, 3D Systems is priced higher than at any time over the past decade, despite being profitable in only five of the past 10 years. This is important, as I see its technology being extremely susceptible to economic downturns. Simply put, at even 27 times forward earnings, I don't see this stock being able to hold its current valuation if GDP growth slows further.In total, I'd lean toward being a modest long-term optimist on 3D Systems. However, at its current valuation, and with economic growth looking tepid at best, I'd actually advocate a short-term bet against 3D Systems here.Travis' takeI'll approach this with the viewpoint of someone who has actually designed hundreds, if not thousands of parts that were rapid prototyped with a 3-D printer of some sort. Many observers may be surprised to find out that this is not new technology at all; it's just more accessible for the average designer or consumer than it was when I began making parts over a decade ago. At least some of this new-found attention is a little naïve about the novelty of 3-D printing.One of the products that has brought a lot of attention to 3-D printing is 3D Systems' Cube printer and its Cubify marketplace. It has allowed a whole new demographic of people to see and build 3-D models, and its attractive price point makes it feasible for a whole new set of customers. But the general technology isn't new at all. I remember watching larger machines do similar work with more precision a

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Member Avatar chris293 (86.64) Submitted: 1/1/2013 4:38:54 AM
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What have I missed?, DDD's numbers and sales are the leader with its products aren't they?

Member Avatar Raphael1990 (41.73) Submitted: 1/7/2013 9:55:07 AM
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Ofc but that doesnt mean that you should pay too much for it. At this point a crash of the price to a more appropriate level is bound to happen. When it actually happens mainly depends on how long the hype can continue.

Even as a long term investor with a low entry price I would consider selling at least a part of my holding now because the price is simply through the roof and when it goes down it will take years to recover to the current level.

Member Avatar canuksteve (< 20) Submitted: 1/7/2013 11:51:29 AM
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Totally agree. Great concept stock and perhaps the beginning of another industrial giant but it will cycle down because of an age old thing called "fear".

Member Avatar BentMike (40.24) Submitted: 2/7/2013 3:22:36 AM
Recs: 1

Wish I could see the rest of Sean's commentary...

I bought my first rapid prototype (RP) in 1995, a stereolithography part (laser cured liquid epoxy). It was a little pricey and fragile. We were still doing CAD on slow machines, I remember rotating parts in ProE then, it was very time consuming. The transparent RP part gave me the ability to check out wall thicknesses and get better discussion with the mold and stamping die engineers before committing to tooling. It was worth every penny.

But, I did not need to buy a 3D printer to get what I needed. Nothing has changed almost 20 years later except I can do a much better job of understanding the individual parts in 3D CAD - I don't need the RP part as a final review like I did then. The materials are less fragile and can can handle more sever use, so there is an uptick in the usefulness of the RP parts. They are cheaper so you can afford more of them when building a set of field service usable parts. But there is still no need for in house ownership of the RP machine itself.

If fact there are valid reasons NOT to get one. The finish work of RP parts is intense, this is not new, and if you bring the RP machine home you must now do all that finish work. You have to purchase the materials and maintain the RP machine yourself now instead of doing product development, or you have to hire people to do it for you. And you have to have 40 hours of RP work for each of them to do. I can say for sure, even in better times, service bureaus, who did little else but RP parts, had a hard time keeping their RP technicians busy.

When going out to service bureaus for RP parts there are many competing suppliers. Prices are low if you are a smart shopper. $10000 will buy a LOT OF PARTS. So the payback on the RP machine is not very good.

What is new is the marketing that DDD has done. The machine cost is lower. I think it is a fad. Even 20 years ago a lot of parts were made just because they were cool, not because they were really needed. Now it is cool to make them yourself. Is there really a business case for all these new customers?

I wonder where all these new engineers and part developers are coming from? New grads can't get jobs, and old hands are fretting. Where is the new market for these wares? There may be millions of iPhones, but you still only needed a relatively small number of RP parts to develop it.

I see a bunch of RP machines gathering dust and taking up space. Once the gullible engineering managers buy their new machines, the run will slack off. This just doesn't look like a growth business to me. Nothing much has changed to ramp up demand and in the US and EU the need was already met. Maybe there is more untapped demand in India and China. I don't see why they buy the machines from DDD though. Some Indian or Chinese RP makers will pop up. This is not rocket science. I think material development is the likeliest area for growth.

In hindsight faith in the marketing of DDD turned out to be a good bet to drive business. But is that still in play? I think this is an under perform.

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