3D Printing News Sliced: Proto Labs, Optomec, ARMI and Strandbeest

In today’s Sliced 3D printing news digest: ColorPod, the 3D Pioneers ChallengeOptomec, id.arts, Proto Labs, Joint Mitnor, 3Diligent, ARMI, University of Florida, Sculpteo and Strandbeest.

ColorPod demos full color 3D printed busts

A new video from Aad van der Geest, founder of VDG Spitstechniek, shows how the ColorPod full-color FDM upgrade can be used to make 3D printed busts.

From scan to sculpture” clip via filmpjeslader on YouTube

At a fraction of the cost of other full-color 3D printing alternatives, the clip serves as a teaser to what is possible with material know how and a lot of ingenuity.

Winners of the 3D Pioneers Challenge announced

The second edition of 3D printing design competition 3DPC has celebrated the work of seven designers from across the globe.

In addition to getting their designs noticed by industry partners including Stratasys and Autodesk, each of the winners received a share of €15,000 ($17,800) and exclusive prizes from MakerBot and designreport.

Winning entries include a metal 3D printed skateboard truck by Philipp Manger, and the Palmyra Rebuilt project from Eric Geboers and Matteo Baldassari.

Jury comment on Project T.O.S.T. (Topology Optimized Skateboard Trucks): " It´s so lightweight, that even Marty Mc Fly could hover on it." Image via 3DPCJury comment on Project T.O.S.T. (Topology Optimized Skateboard Trucks): ” It´s so lightweight, that even Marty Mc Fly could hover on it.” Image via 3DPC

Optomec publishes 3D printer materials recipes

To help customers make the most of new additive manufacturing techniques, Optomec has released a catalogue of material recipe sheets.

Available for both LENS and Aerosel Jet methods, the examples provide detailed parameters of what to expect from the respective materials and inks.

A GE Turbine blade with 3D printed strain sensors. Photo via Optomec.A GE Turbine blade with Aerosol Jet 3D printed strain sensors. Photo via Optomec.

Designers use 3D printing to create a vision of the dream kitchen

Japanese design firm id.arts demos FDM, SLA, SLS, and inkjet 3D printing techniques in a miniature kitchen model.

With added textures and post processing, the finished product has a hyper-real quality, and is developed for clients with a keen eye for detail.

Detail of 3D printed worktop in id.arts model kitchen. Photo via id.artsDetail of 3D printed worktop in id.arts model kitchen. Photo via id.arts

Proto Labs adds HP MJF to its services

Rapid manufacturing service provider Proto Labs (NYSE:PRLB) is speeding up its 3D printing capabilities with a HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer.

The company is the latest in a line of North American companies to offer the technology to its customers.

A Multi Jet Fusion 3D printed camera shutter. Photo via HPA Multi Jet Fusion 3D printed camera shutter. Photo via HP

University of Chicago researchers use 3D printing to envision fluid dynamics 

A team of researchers studying fluid dynamics, applying to the likes of airplanes, boats and tornados, have made a discovery using a 3D printed model of a helical vortex.

3D printed helical vortex from he University of Chicago. Image by William Irvine3D printed helical vortex from the University of Chicago. Image by William Irvine

Conclusions show “that helicity can remain constant even in a viscous fluid and provide an improved basis for understanding and manipulating helicity in real flows.”

A full paper on the study can be read online in Science Magazine.

Joint Mitnor cave to reopen with 3D printed fossils

The Joint Mitnor cave in Devon, England, is set to reopen August 12 2017.

Ransacked by thieves in 2015, the site has been refurbished with 3D printed replicas of the fossils it used to contain. The models were created using CT scanning techniques and gypsum casting, so they look and feel faithful to the original remains.

3D printed fossil replicas in Joint Mitnor. Photo by Charlie Bird3D printed fossil replicas in Joint Mitnor. Photo by Charlie Bird

3Diligent releases Complete Guide to Metal 3D Printing

Digital manufacturing service 3Diligent has released a 13 page report detailing leading metal additive manufacturing technologies.

Featuring the likes of Boeing and GE the document provides 3Diligent’s perceived overview of the “State of Professional and Industrial 3D Printing”.

ARMI liquid silicone 3D printing used to model cancer cells

In an interview with Fox News, associate professor Thomas Angelini has revealed new developments in 3D printing research at the University of Florida.

Using a liquid silicone 3D printing technique, reviewed by 3D Printing Industry in May 2017, the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) is making microscopic models of cancer cells.

Known collectively as “tumeroids”, the models will be used to test the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs and gain a better understanding of the disease.

The speeded-up liquid silicone 3D printing process from the ARMI. Clip via UF Soft Matter on YouTube

Sculpteo designer goes viral with 3D printed Strandbeest

Nicolas Raynaud is a freelance software engineer based in Montpellier, France.

Taking inspiration from Dutch artist Theo Jansen, Raynaud has gone viral on Reddit and Twitter with his version of a Strandbeest mechanism.

Gif by Nicolas Raynaud

Made using Sculpteo’s online 3D printing service, the design has since been picked up by the cloud-based rapid prototyping company, and now features in a “how to” on the company’s website.

If any of our readers have a go at 3D printing their own Strandbeest or other design projects, be sure to tweet a photo at us or share it on our Facebook page.

Stay up to date with all the latest additive manufacturing news by signing up to the 3D Printing Industry newsletter, and check out or events page here.

Featured image: Sliced logo over an original Strandbeest by Theo Jansen. Photo by Robbert van den Beld, robbeld on Flickr

Proto Labs Manufactures Solid Revenue Growth, but Shares Fall on Cautious Guidance

Continue Reading Below

Image source: Proto Labs.

Proto Labs (NYSE: PRLB) reported its third-quarter 2016 earnings before the market opened on Thursday. In light of the slowdown in the manufacturing environment, thequick-turn manufacturing service provider posted decent numbers, with revenue coming in at the top end of the company’s guidance range and adjusted earnings per share exceeding its projections.

Shares closed down 8.9% on Thursday, likely because Proto Labs provided very cautious forward guidance.

Proto Labs’ Q3 headline numbers


Q3 2016

Q3 2015

Change (YOY)


$78.2 million

$67.8 million


Organic revenue*

$74.2 million

$67.8 million


GAAP operating income

$16.9 million

$17.4 million


GAAP net income

$12 million

$12.4 million


Adjusted net income

$13.5 million

$13.7 million


GAAP earnings per share (EPS)




Adjusted EPS




Continue Reading Below

Data source: Proto Labs. YOY = year over year. GAAP = generally accepted accounting principles. *Organic revenue = revenue generated from businesses owned for at least one year.

Organic revenue excluded the $4 million contribution from Alphaform, the German service bureau that Proto Labs acquired last October. About half of Alphaform’s revenue in the quarter came from 3D printing and half from injection molding. Proto Labs acquired this business to significantly expand its 3D printing capabilities in Europe by adding selective laser sintering, direct metal laser sintering, and additional stereolithography capabilities. Prior to this acquisition, its sole European location was in Telford, England. The acquisition also gave Proto Labs a major presence in Germany, which is the largest single market for the company’s services in Europe.

Analysts expected Proto Labs to deliver adjusted EPS of $0.44 on revenue of $75.27 million, so the company comfortably beat both estimates. Of course, investors shouldn’t give too much credence to analysts’ estimates, as Wall Street is focused on the short term. However, they can be helpful to keep in mind because together with forward guidance they often help explain market reactions.

Revenue in the quarter grew, while operating income and net income contracted, indicating that both operating and profit margins contracted year over year.

Revenue results by service provided

Manufacturing Service


Change (YOY)

Injection molding (Protomold)

$46.5 million


CNC machining (Firstcut)

$21.8 million


3D printing (Fineline)

$9.9 million


3D printing organic*

$7.9 million


Data source: Proto Labs. YOY = year over year. *Excludes Alphaform’s $2.0 million in 3D printing revenue.

The fact that 3D printing is growing much faster than the other businesses is both a positive and a negative. For one thing, the company’s revenue growth wouldn’t be nearly as good without this business. However, 3D printing has a lower gross margin than the other services, which flows through to some degree to operating and profit margins.

What happened with Proto Labs in the quarter?

  • The number of unique product developers and engineers served increased 14% year over year to 14,271.
  • The average revenue generated per developer/engineer declined 3.9%.
  • Gross margin was 57.2%, a decline from 59.4% in the third quarter of 2015, but up from 56.4% in the second quarter of 2016. The 80-basis-point sequential improvement is attributable to improved margins at Alphaform and improved execution in the injection molding and CNC machining businesses. The sequential improvement was particularly notable because it occurred while the company was completing its moves into new facilities in North Carolina and Japan. The year-over-year decline is largely due to the acquisition of Alphaform/product mix — 3D printing has a lower gross margin than the company’s other services.
  • GAAP operating margin was 21.7% compared to 25.7% for the third quarter of 2015. Adjusted operating margin was 25%.
  • Cash generated from operations was $19.6 million.
  • The company accelerated the geographic launch of its overmolding process (which bonds two different materials together), which initially launched in September, and also launched 5-axis machining, a CNC offering.
  • Worth noting, but occurring just after the quarter ended, the company opened its new 3D printing facility in Cary, North Carolina, on Oct. 7. The 77,000-square-foot facility triples space devoted to 3D printing, and consolidates all 3D printing operations in one facility. Proto Labs expanded into 3D printing and beyond its Minnesota base in the U.S. via its 2014 acquisition of North Carolina-based FineLine Prototyping.

What management had to say

CEO Vicki Holt acknowledged the current challenging macroeconomic environment, but expressed optimism about the long-term outlook for the business:

There is uncertainty in the market right now due to the election in the United States and Brexit in Europe and that uncertainty is impacting the economy. Our business is not immune to that impact. While the current economic environment is challenging, we are focused on our internal processes, in both sales and operations, to position ourselves as economic conditions improve. We remain very optimistic about the outlook for Proto Labs. We are fortunate to serve a large, underpenetrated market with a unique value proposition, unsurpassed service and quality for customers, and the commitment and employee talent to successfully execute our strategy for profitable growth.

Looking ahead

CFO John Way provided Proto Labs’ fourth-quarter guidance on the analyst conference call as follows:

Metric Q4 2016 Guidance Q4 2015 Results Change Using Midpoint of Guidance (YOY)
Revenue $70 million to $75 million $73.66 million (1.6%)
Adjusted EPS $0.36 to $0.44 $0.50 (20%)

Data source: Proto Labs. YOY = year over year.

Going into the earnings report, analysts expected Proto Labs to earn $0.49 per share on an adjusted basis on revenue of $79.88 million in the fourth quarter. Both expectations are beyond the upper range of Proto Labs’ guidance, which is surely why the market sent shares tumbling on Thursday.

Holt and Way acknowledged on the call that the company was being “cautious” on guidance. There are three basic reasons for this: the lack of good visibility into market conditions, softer-than-anticipatedorders thus far in October, and the fact that the fourth quarter has historically been hard to project.

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Beth McKenna has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Proto Labs. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Proto Labs: Significantly Undervalued Niche Market Manufacturer (PRLB)


  • PRLB was unjustifiably clumped with overvalued 3D printing stocks and fiercely sold-off.
  • At $62.68, the company is now priced far below intrinsic value, with upside potential of 173% till intrinsic value over the long term.
  • PRLB is a tremendously well run company from both a qualitative and quantitative standpoint.
  • The company possesses significant sustainable competitive advantages, which are protected by patents.


2012-13 saw the rise and fall of overvalued 3D printing stocks, as bullish hype reversed into a bearish correction. Fortunately for us, the resulting fear commenced a sell-off of all companies associated with 3D Printing – including those with justified valuations.

One such company is Proto Labs Inc. (PRLB) – a niche market manufacturing company that utilizes 3D Printing (amongst other) technology. Specifically, the company specializes in manufacturing prototypes and custom made parts. Caught in the crossfire, the company’s shares have seen a 35% decline in value. Within 6 months, the company went from the high of $90, to a low of $58.

PRLB’s ‘clumping’ with traditional 3D Printing companies has left it far below intrinsic value, with huge upside potential over the long term.

Business Segments and Revenue Drivers

PRLB consists of four operational segments, three of which relate to its manufacturing operations and one devoted to research and development. Each of these segments is suited to a different stage of the manufacturing process, creating synergy throughout the development chain and within the business model.

Firstcut CNC Machining

Firstcut uses computer numerically controlled (CNC) machining to manufacture small quantities of prototypes, fixtures, jigs or custom projects from blocks of plastic or metal. Firstcut offers the speed of additive rapid prototyping but without the limitations in material selection or surface finishes.

PRLB’s Firstcut service produces the minority of its revenues, with an annualized average of 26.19% over the last three years. However, it does play an important role in the growth of the company, averaging 50.95% in annualized growth over the last four years.

(click to enlarge)

(PRLB financial statements).

Protomold Injection Molding

Protomold is the company’s main revenue driver. This business segment manufactures custom parts in low- and mid-volume, using a selection of thermoplastic resins and metals.

Injection molding has been responsible for most of the company’s tremendous growth over the years, averaging an annualized growth rate of 31.82% over the past three years. The business segment accounts for majority of the company’s revenues, averaging 73.81% of annualized total revenue.

(click to enlarge)

(PRLB financial statements).

FineLine Additive Manufacturing

On April 24, 2014, PRLB successfully launched its additive manufacturing service, through the acquisition of FineLine Prototyping, Inc.

Additive Manufacturing utilizes stereolithography, selective laser sintering, direct metal laser sintering and 3D printing technology to produce parts requiring high-precision geometries.

The acquisition of FineLine was a smart play by PRLB’s management, due to the synergy it has with the company’s current manufacturing services. According to PRLB management, 70% of their customers utilize additive manufacturing in their development process. Until now, the inability of PRLB to provide customers with additive manufacturing has served as a significant loss of potential revenue.

As an investor, I am extremely optimistic regarding this acquisition. Why? Simple. PRLB has been sitting on and accumulating a lot of cash, which was earning a low (yet, fair) market return. Also, the company is earning tremendously above its CoC, with a ROIC of 52.72%. This indicates that management has proven to be extremely competent in their investment decisions and is generating excellent returns on those investments. That idle cash will now be put to far better use and earning a significantly higher return for shareholders.


Protoworks is the company’s research and development segment. This is the business segment that has successfully differentiated PRLB from competitors, through innovation of software and manufacturing processes.

Once again, the effectiveness with which PRLB’s management has positioned the company for future growth is evident. The company’s return on investments in R&D has proven to be indispensable to its success thus far, as it will continue to be in the future. Unlike many other companies, this has been R&D well spent.

Competitive Advantages

So what differentiates PRLB from its competitors? Speed and software.

The company could justifiably be described as a software company, rather than a manufacturing company. Much of its machinery functions using its proprietary software, which is developed and employed internally. Also, the company’s automated online platform serves developers’ needs instantly, allowing them to upload design schematics and automatically quoting them on price and specifications. This automated and highly efficient process allows developers to have their parts developed to specifications and shipped within a day of submitting an order.

There are plenty of similar companies to PRLB but none of them can match the effectiveness and efficiency that comes with its superior software development. This reliability and speed is invaluable to early-stage product developers.

All of PRLB’s proprietary software is patented within the United States and Internationally, preventing imitators from encroaching profits.

(click to enlarge)

(PRLB financial statements).

The Addition of Additive Manufacturing

PRLB’s past inability to offer additive manufacturing to its customer-base exposed an integral flaw in the company’s ability to maintain consumer captivity. As mentioned above, 70% of PRLB customers were utilizing additive manufacturing from competitors, as PRLB themselves did not offer the service. In a business where speed is of the utmost importance for customers, this served as a significant weakness in the company’s competitive advantage.

Fortunately, PRLB management seemed to be aware of this, utilizing some of their significant cash reserves to acquire FineLine for $38M. With an additive manufacturing service now in place, the company is in an excellent position to leverage a full array of services to its customers. In combination with its unique speed advantages, the company is set to increase its market share within the space, increase competitive advantages and encroach profits from competitors.

Franchise Analysis

A franchise analysis of PRLB reveals the existence of a valuable franchise with significant competitive advantages.

The company has an adjusted NAV / share of $4.81 and an EPV / share of $32.21. The fact that EPV is above NAV reveals two things to us:

  • Management is effectively utilizing the firm’s assets in producing a return.
  • PRLB possesses a valuable franchise, which indicates the presence of competitive advantages (which are sustainable based on our previous qualitative analysis).

Also, our franchise margin on sales indicates that to justify an EPV / share of $32.21, the firm must possess competitive advantages in the form of higher prices due to consumer captivity, and/or lower costs due to either proprietary technology, or economies of scale equal to 6.72% of revenues. PRLB currently possesses a net margin of 21.36%, indicating that it far exceedingly satisfies its EPV / Share value.

(click to enlarge)

Sustainable Competitive Advantages and ROIC

Now that we have established that PRLB does indeed have sustainable competitive advantages, we can be confident in making some assumptions regarding its future returns.

Plenty of firms witness unsustainably high returns on invested capital during their early growth stages. However, for most firms, by the very nature of sustainable competitive advantages, will be unable to achieve this. In other words, the vast majority of companies will not be able to sustain a ROIC above their CoC. In fact, most companies maintain a ROIC below their CoC and continue fuelling growth that destroys intrinsic value, rather than enhances it.

PRLB, however, does possess legal protection (patents) that have an expiry of 14 years. Therefore, there is the implicit assumption that its current competitive advantages will be sustainable for the foreseeable future. The exception to this will be outlined in the risk analysis section below.

Fundamental Analysis

The fear surrounding the 3D printing industry has led the market to irrationally group this unrelated manufacturing company with overvalued 3D Printing stocks. At its current price of $62.68, PRLB is tremendously below intrinsic value, at a price that does not even remotely justify its cash flows.

Cash Flow Analysis

Using the most up to date figures available (TTM), cash flow analysis reveals that PRLB’s present intrinsic value is $171.57.

This figure is calculated by performing an analysis of the company’s likely cash flows in 10 years, when it is a stable company, based on past and present performance. However, I also adjusted its future performance calculations, lowering it to reflect the performance of a stable company rather than the unsustainable growth it is currently experiencing. As such, the following changes were made:

  • The growth rate was lowered from 35.76% to 2.5%, which is the growth rate of the economy. A stable company cannot grow faster than the rate of the economy.
  • The return on invested capital was decreased from 52.72% to 6.68%, to reflect market saturation, in the absence of competitive advantages. Even though I do explicitly state that PRLB does have sustainable competitive advantages, I have taken to be extremely (likely, too) conservative here, lowering the ROIC to reflect possible profit encroachment.

The present value of PRLB’s future cash flows comes to a market value of equity / share of $171.57.

This is not surprising, considering the company’s current tremendous ROIC of 52.72%, with a reinvestment rate of 67.82%. This is clear indication of a competent management that has been doing an excellent job of utilizing its capital to make returns for shareholders. Clearly, the company has had and is poised for further extraordinary growth.

Cash flow analysis of the company indicates a current upside potential of 173%.

(click to enlarge)

(Present) Earnings Power Analysis

Using the most up to date figures available (TTM), present earnings power analysis reveals a present intrinsic value of $32.12 for PRLB. In other words, this is the intrinsic value of the firm purely from a present-day perspective. However, as we know, the value of any asset is the present value of the expected cash flows from that asset. Indeed, it would be even more advantageous if PRLB was below its present intrinsic value, but that is rare and usually occurs only after catastrophic events.

However, when taking the growth figure into account, we see that earnings power gives us an intrinsic value of $177.29. Our earnings power value analysis indicates a potential upside of 182%.

Bringing the Fundamentals Together

Our cash flows and earnings power value figures are extremely close to each other. This adds significant credibility to our intrinsic value analysis. However, being familiar with each form of analysis, we would place more weight on the cash flow figure of $171.57 as a specific target price than the earnings power value figure. Indeed, it seems that PRLB is significantly undervalued and presents huge potential for investors over the long term.

Technical Analysis

The long-term trend for PRLB is still clearly bullish, in support of our fundamental analysis.

(click to enlarge)

(Image taken from InteractiveBrokers trading platform).

However, it seems that short-term momentum is heavily bearish, going against the long-term bullish trend. Evidently, the current bearish momentum of PRLB is most likely a temporary one. In fact, we can see that price has been reacting to areas of high demand (unfulfilled buy orders) on the way down. Currently, the price seems to have reacted to the demand area below.

(click to enlarge)

(Image taken from InteractiveBrokers trading platform).

Risk Analysis

Missing the (Rocket Ship?) Train

With an intrinsic value of $171.57 and a current price of $62.68, there is a margin of safety of 173% until our target price. In the short term, there is a risk that price could very well continue downwards. As a value investor, however, a security so heavily undervalued and with such a tremendous margin of safety makes it far worth the risk. The marginal benefit from waiting slightly to *possibly* get in at a better price is not worth the marginal risk of missing out on the trade.

Market Position Risk

PRLB is a niche market manufacturer, which specializes in low- and mid-volume parts for product developers. The fact that it operates within a niche market, combined with its currently patented technology, makes it likely that it will maintain local dominance of the market for the duration of its patents (14 years). However, competitors are unlikely to idly standby, waiting for patents to expire. There is a possibility that in the future, its competitors could overtake PRLB through research and development, innovating superior forms of production. This would result in PRLB losing market share to competitors, leading to a decrease in overall performance. Therefore, it is imperative to the maintenance of its competitive advantages that PRLB continues to diligently innovate and effectively utilize R&D.


  • PRLB is a tremendously well run company, both from a quantitative and qualitative standpoint.
  • The company has been unjustifiably clumped with overvalued 3D printing stocks and sold-off just as fiercely.
  • At $62.68, the share price is currently far below intrinsic value, with huge upside potential over the long term.
  • The company possesses sustainable competitive advantages that will position it well for future growth and expansion.
Source: Proto Labs: Significantly Undervalued Niche Market Manufacturer

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article. (More…)