3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) is set to report its 2014 first-quarter results before the market opens on Tuesday. With the stock down more than 44% so far this year, this will be an opportunity for the maker of 3-D printers to prove that it can boost revenue growth in the remainder of 2014. Let's look at 3D Systems' recent initiatives and what Wall Street expects from the company in its earnings report.
Smart partnerships drive consumer awareness
One of the big questions surrounding 3-D printing today is whether this technology will ever see widespread adoption on the consumer level. The bulk of money today in the space comes from industrial manufacturing. However, increasing consumer awareness around additive manufacturing or 3-D printing could open up new growth channels for the technology down the road. 3D Systems is ahead of the game in this regard thanks to its recent collaboration with Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS).
Together, the office supplies chain and 3D Systems are offering 3-D printing services in two Staples locations in New York City and Los Angeles. This takes 3-D printing out of the industrial space and into the retail environment, with 3D Systems branding itself as the face of the technology.
Customers can use in-store software to create miniature figurines of themselves via the 3DMe photo booth, as well as items such as custom smartphone cases. Meanwhile, business customers can bring in data to be printed as a service, according to 3D Systems. "3D printing offers enormous potential for small businesses, and by using Staples, they can print with the technology without having to invest in it," Damien Leigh, senior vice president of business services for Staples, said in a press release announcing the partnership.
This connects nicely with 3D Systems' other recent consumer facing initiative: Project Ara. In November, 3D Systems teamed up with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) to create 3-D printed smartphones featuring parts that can be interchanged and reconfigured on the fly. Google sold its Motorola business to Lenovo in January, but it kept Motorola's patent portfolio and thus still holds claim to Project Ara.
3D Systems will be responsible for printing the shells for these modular devices, which has led the company to develop a high-volume printer platform. This should boost growth for 3D Systems, particularly if these new Ara modular phones are a hit with consumers. While this won't be material to 3D Systems' earnings when it reports next week, the company's initiatives on the consumer front should help fuel growth throughout 2014.
In the meantime, new product launches should help 3D Systems beat Wall Street estimates for first-quarter earnings.
Why sales should be strong in Q1
3D Systems blamed new product announcements in the fourth quarter of 2013 for weaker than expect revenue in the period. The 3-D printing pioneer unveiled 24 new products between December 2013 and Jan. 9, 2014. This likely caused customers to delay purchases. Therefore, we should see a nice spike in sales when 3D Systems reports first-quarter results.
The Street is looking for adjusted first-quarter earnings of $0.15 per share, down from $0.20 per share in the year-ago period, as well as revenue of $145.5 million. Shares of 3D Systems are trading toward the low end of the stock's 52-week range at roughly $50 per share today. However, the stock should climb higher if 3D Systems is able to demolish the Street's expectations next week.