Why 3D Systems' Big Strategy Reveal Fell Short

By Markets Fool.com

Image source: 3D Systems.

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A few weeks ago, 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) hosted an event at the International Manufacturing Trade Show (ITMS) in Chicago, outlining its future strategy and solutions to drive long-term profitable growth. It marked a pivotal moment for the company's new CEO, Vyomesh Joshi, who was appointed in April after the company's former CEO abruptly departed. The reveal gave investors a better sense of Joshi's management style and vision.

But while there were notable takeaways from the event, there weren't many groundbreaking developments. Most of what 3D Systems revealed was already known to investors.

Rehashing the present

Joshi spent a considerable amount of time talking about the 3D printing industry's current transformation and 3D Systems' positioning. According to Joshi, the 3D printing industry is undergoing a massive transformation, and over the next three years, it will transition from mostly prototyping uses to a viable manufacturing platform.

For 3D printing companies, this transition represents a tremendous opportunity because users who increase the utilization of their machines to accommodate larger volumes of parts consume more materials, and this stream of recurring revenue tends to command a higher profit margin than 3D printing hardware.

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Prior to ITMS, 3D Systems began emphasizing three of its 3D printing technologies -- stereolithography, direct metal printing, and selective laser sintering -- to meet users' manufacturing needs. Additionally, 3D Systems previously announced its plans to build out a suite of end-to-end solutions -- from conceptualization to final product -- that cater to industry-specific use cases, much in the same way it's done for healthcare --a notable bright spot amid 3D Systems' recent earnings struggles. Its focus will be on automotive, aerospace, defense, and durable goods industries.

New developments

3D Systems demonstrated its Figure 4 printing platform earlier this year, a repackaged version of its stereolithography technology geared toward higher-volume manufacturing, competing directly with injection molding manufacturing. Thanks to automation, a modular structure, and deep integration into a manufacturing line, 3D Systems claims Figure 4 is up to 50 times faster than conventional stereolithography systems, capable of producing millions of parts per year.

Video source: 3D Systems.

At ITMS, 3D Systems showcased an updated version of Figure 4, which featured automated inspection technologies to monitor print jobs in real time and provide instant feedback.

On the software front, 3D Systems made two major announcements: the launch of 3DXpert and a partnership with PTC, a design software company. As an all-in-one solution, 3DXpert simplifies and streamlines the metal 3D printing process, while the PTC partnership more deeply integrates 3D Systems' ecosystem into the software maker's design products.

Putting it all together

After ITMS, 3D Systems' plan is the same: to own the entire digital workflow that surrounds 3D printing. This entails building out end-to-end solutions for specific use cases, taking on a more consultative approach with customers, and becoming an authority on 3D printing for direct manufacturing. While the company's presentation at ITMS may have fallen short of groundbreaking new developments, the company improved its messaging around how it's equipped for what it believes is a coming boom.

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Steve Heller owns shares of 3D Systems. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems. 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.