Stereolithography sounds insanely complex, but it really isn’t. The technical definition: An ultraviolet laser builds layers out of photopolymer resin to create an object. The Foolish definition: A laser hardens a liquid into layers that stick to each other, forming a 3-D shape. Videos of this technology look like they’re straight out of a sci-fi flick, and the end result is a high-quality, intensely detailed object.
3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) is the company behind the Viper line of stereolithography apparatuses, a.k.a. SLAs. These devices produce the most detailed 3-D printing around, and the company’s performance on Wall Street has had the same high quality.
Annual sales have risen an extraordinary 185% for the company from 2009 to the most recent trailing 12 months in 2012, and 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD)’s margins have taken equally impressive leaps. The company’s operating profit as a percentage of sales jumped from 2% in 2009 to 16% in 2012 — the company was able to keep its R&D and SG&A expenses relatively under control, even as its revenue skyrocketed. Net income took a similar jump from 0.9% to 11% of sales within the past few years.
3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD)’s only catch? Its P/E of 87.42 is light-years away from the 15.13 industry average of diversified machinery. That either means the company is way farther ahead of the rest of the pack, or it’s overblown by market sentiment. Either way, it’s still a hot stock to watch.
Covering all the angles
Many have compared the 3-D printer to the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) computer. Both technologies boggled the mind when they first appeared, and one didn’t stop until it had burrowed itself into the cultural lexicon. Whether 3-D printing takes over the world or not, it’s still an exciting industry for investors to watch. The technology is disruptive, and thus far, the companies have retained their earnings and boosted operational efficiency, all while their income continues to soar.
The article Does This Taste Like 3-D Printing to You? originally appeared on Fool.com is written by Caroline Bennett.
Fool contributor Caroline Bennett has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of 3D Systems, Apple, and Stratasys and has options on 3D Systems.
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