Image source: 3D Systems Corp.

What happened

Shares of 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) climbed as much as 10.5% early Thursday, and settled to trade up 6% as of 11:00 a.m. EDT after the additive manufacturing specialist released better-than-expected third-quarter 2016 earnings.

So what

Quarterly revenue grew 3.2% year over year, to $156.5 million, driven by a combination of higher sales of 3D printers and materials into production applications, and solid demand for software and healthcare solutions.

Based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), that translated to a net loss of $21.2 million, or $0.19 per share, narrowed from a net loss of $32.2 million, or $0.29 per share in the same year-ago period. On an adjusted (non-GAAP) basis, 3D Systems generated net income of $15.8 million, or $0.14 per share, up from adjusted earnings of $0.01 per share in last year's third quarter.

3D Systems did not provide forward financial guidance along with its second-quarter report in August, namely as the company puts into place what CFO John McMullen described recently as a "very rigorous three-year planning process" to position itself for the transition of the 3D printing industry into a viable mass-manufacturing solution. But for perspective -- and while we don't pay close attention to Wall Street's near-term demands -- analysts' consensus estimates predicted 3D Systems would achieve slightly higher revenue of $160.2 million, but lower adjusted earnings of $0.09 per share.

Now what

3D Systems CEO Vyomesh Joshi contended the aforementioned growth drivers are "indicative of our growth potential and market opportunities," adding, "We believe our synergistic portfolio of technologies, our talent and our 3D printing ecosystem uniquely position us to support complete digital manufacturing workflows to make 3D production real."

3D Systems' slight revenue shortfall (at least relative to analysts' expectations) notwithstanding, this was an encouraging quarter in which the company not only enjoyed strong traction for its products on a broad basis, but also made strides toward its long-term quest to achieve sustained profitability. In the end, it's no surprise to see 3D Systems stock trading higher on Thursday.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.