Proto Labs (PRLB 0.30%), a leading quick-turn contract manufacturer, is slated to report its first-quarter 2021 results before the market opens on Thursday, May 6. 

The company, which offers traditional manufacturing and 3D printing services, looks poised to kick off the quarterly earnings season for the 3D printing space, as it usually does. 3D Systems plans to release its first-quarter results on Monday, May 10, while Stratasys, Desktop Metal, and other 3D printing players haven't yet announced their release dates.

Along with many companies that serve customers in the industrial sector, Proto Labs has been hurt by the pandemic. But it still managed to beat Wall Street's modest earnings expectations in all four quarters of 2020. 

In 2020, Proto Labs stock -- which is a holding in several of top stock-picker Cathie Wood's ARK Invest funds -- gained a whopping 51%, easily beating the S&P 500's 18.4% return. But shares have pulled back this year. In 2021, the stock is down nearly 28% through April 12, while the broader market has returned just over 10%. 

Close-up of a 3D printer producing a red plastic object.

A 3D printer at work. Image source: Getty Images.

Key numbers 


Q1 2020 Result

Q1 2021 Wall Street Consensus Estimate

 Projected Change (Decline) YOY


$115.1 million

$113.3 million


Adjusted earnings per share (EPS)




Data sources: Proto Labs and Yahoo! Finance. YOY = year over year.

For Q1, management guided for revenue in the range of $108 million to $118 million. That total includes a projected contribution of about $5 million from 3D Hubs, which became part of Proto Labs on Jan. 25. 3D Hubs operates an online platform that provides customers with on-demand access to a global network of manufacturing partners. 

Excluding the expected contribution from 3D Hubs, Proto Labs' revenue is expected to decline 5.9% year over year. 

For context, last quarter, Proto Labs' revenue fell 6% year over year to $105.2 million. Its 3D printing and injection molding businesses eked out revenue growth of 2% and 1%, respectively, but its CNC machining and sheet metal operations posted double-digit revenue declines. 

Last quarter, adjusted net income was $13.5 million, which translated to EPS of $0.50, down 21% year over year. The earnings drop was driven by the revenue decline and an increase in research and development spending relative to the year-ago period. 

3D Hubs' performance

Investors can probably expect that management will comment on 3D Hubs during the earnings call. More specifically, hopefully management will give an update on the integration process, share how much revenue 3D Hubs contributed to total first-quarter revenue, and share its effect on the company's overall profitability.

As I wrote in last quarter's earnings preview, "Proto Labs expects this acquisition to be accretive to its revenue growth rate but slightly dilutive to its adjusted EPS in 2021."

Second-quarter 2021 guidance

The stock market looks ahead. So its reaction to Proto Labs' earnings release will probably hinge more on the company's Q2 guidance than its Q1 results, relative to Wall Street's expectations.

For Q2, analysts are modeling for adjusted EPS to decline 14% year over year to $0.51 and revenue to jump 12% to $119.6 million. The quarter's year-over-year revenue result will benefit not only from a full quarter's contribution from 3D Hubs, but also from an easy comparable. In the second quarter of last year, revenue fell 8% year over year largely due to the fallout from the pandemic.