Will voxeljet Give 3D Systems and Stratasys a Run for Their Money?

On Thursday, voxeljet (NYSE: VJET  ) will release its quarterly report, and investors are looking forward to seeing how well the 3-D printing company does in its first report as a public company. With very little revenue, voxeljet isn't ready to challenge first-mover 3-D printing veterans 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD  ) and Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS  ) just yet. But investors hope that the German company can find its niche in the high-growth space and enjoy the same returns that its peers have earned for their shareholders.

Looking at its business, voxeljet makes money in roughly equal proportions by making high-speed, large-format 3-D printers and by providing parts on demand to commercial and industrial customers. With its printers, voxeljet specializes in sand-based and plastic-based printing, with ExOne (NASDAQ: XONE  ) being its primary competitor in sand printing and 3D Systems and Stratasys providing plastics. But voxeljet boasts a continuous-build system in its printers, and that has brought in several major car companies as customers. Let's take an early look at what's been happening with voxeljet over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its report.

Stats on voxeljet

Analyst 2013 EPS Estimate

$0.00

Analyst 2014 EPS Estimate

$0.11

Revenue Estimate

$3.75 million

Year-Ago Revenue

$2.61 million*

Source: S&P Capital IQ. * Uses half of second-half reported figures.

How will voxeljet fare?
With voxeljet only having come public less than a month ago, most analysts haven't even had time to come out with their initial projections on the 3-D printing company's earnings, let alone adjusting them. But the stock has soared in the weeks following its debut, climbing nearly 70% since its mid-October IPO.

In attacking its target market, voxeljet doesn't have anywhere near the level of mass sales that 3D Systems and Stratasys have. Yet even though it has just more than 50 printers installed worldwide, voxeljet's key competitive advantage that offsets the much larger market penetration of its rivals is the fact that it can produce much larger objects at faster speeds. With a capacity of about eight cubic meters -- enough space to hold more than 2,000 gallons of water -- voxeljet printers can create massive objects that offer a much wider array of applications than the tiny objects in which its competitors specialize. Indeed, voxeljet owns patents that ExOne uses in its own sand-printing capabilities.

The key to voxeljet's growth will come from its impressive customer list. In particular, its automaker clients are a who's who of the industry, with German giants Volkswagen, BMW, and Daimler joining South Korea's Hyundai and U.S. giant Ford. But the company also has interesting exposure to the entertainment industry, with a close relationship with a major maker of props for films and other productions.

One challenge, though, will come as voxeljet experiences new competition from larger rivals. Last month's announcement that Hewlett-Packard would enter the space sent waves of concern throughout the space, given the tech giant's huge amount of available capital. Yet with HP likely targeting consumer applications rather than industrial ones, voxeljet might be less exposed to competition than Stratasys and 3D Systems.

In the voxeljet earnings report, focus less on past results and more on where the company sees itself moving in the near future. With so much promise, voxeljet still needs to move swiftly to capture its share of the 3-D printing market before 3D Systems and Stratasys can crowd it out.

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