What 3D Systems Needs to Do This Week

High-beta lovers rejoice. 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD  ) and its bouncing ball of a stock chart reports earnings tomorrow. Stratasys (Nasdaq: SSYS  ) , its chief competitor, reports next Friday, Nov. 2.

Both stocks have more than doubled year to date as the business of 3-D printing -- i.e., sketching a product on a computer and then having the design "printed" whole -- has captured our collective imagination. Consumers increasingly see a future in which it's possible to print anything we need right at home.

And why not? January's unveiling of the $1,299 Cube printer and a sort of accompanying "app store" of 3-D designs at Cubify.com felt more like an homage to the iPhone than a new manufacturing system. Fast-forward 10 months and investors still see 3D Systems' potential, despite a slight Q2 revenue miss.

Stratasys merits four of five stars from the more than 740 Fools who've rated the stock in our Motley Fool CAPS database. 3D Systems rates a full five stars from the more than 1,200 investors who've weighed in at CAPS, a one-star improvement over August's rating.

Will 3D Systems reward investors' faith? We'll know more when the company reports earnings Thursday after the bell. In the meantime, here's a closer look at Wall Street's estimates versus last year's third quarter:

Metric

Q3 2012 Estimate

Q3 2011

Growth (YOY)

Earnings per share

$0.27

$0.14

92.9%

Revenue

$87.29 million

$57.54 million

51.7%

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

A win is by no means guaranteed. History shows that 3D Systems beat estimates by more than 92% in the March quarter, but only after falling more than 12% short in last year's Q3. Hence its 2.38 beta rating -- 3D Systems whips shareholders to and fro like a carnival ride. Investing in disruptive technology can be like that.

With the Greek debt crisis and slowing growth in China, many investors are worried, but fear not, because "The Future Is Made in America." Domestic manufacturing is poised to once again become the investment driver of the world, thanks to the rise of 3-D printing. I've already named two of the companies poised to benefit from this trend. Can you name the other our analysts love right now? A new special report has the details. Click here to get your free copy instantly.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home, portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Fool owns shares of and has written covered calls on 3D Systems. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of 3D Systems and Stratasys. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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