ExOne Co (XONE), Organovo Holdings Inc (ONVO): 2 Extremely Expensive 3-D Printers, Are They Worth It?

The industry of 3-D printing has been on fire over the past two years. That’s thanks in large part to industry stalwarts Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) and 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD). Both companies have turned solid profits for years now while introducing revolutionary new technology to industrial and consumer markets alike.

The stocks of both companies have been on fire since January 2012, far outpacing the S&P 500’s return of about 35%

DDD Total Return Price Chart

DDD Total Return Price data by YCharts

This has made the time ripe for smaller players in the 3-D printing field to go public. While investors are willing to pay a premium for companies that develop this technology, it makes financial sense to tap the markets for money to help grow business.

Today, I’m going to take a dive into two of the lesser-known, smaller players in the 3-D printing field: ExOne Co (NASDAQ:XONE) and Organovo Holdings Inc (NYSEMKT:ONVO)

Company Specialty Market Cap Revenue Profitable? Price-to-sales
ExOne Printing with non-plastic inputs $800 M $33.8 M No 24
Organovo Bio-printing $480 M $1.3 M No 370

Source: Yahoo! Finance, SEC filings

ExOne Co (NASDAQ:XONE)

While it might seem hard for 3-D printing companies to find a niche when 3D Systems Corporation (NYSE:DDD) has been working to corner the consumer field and Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) has been aggressively courting industrial clients, ExOne Co (NASDAQ:XONE) has found a new twist: Offer a device that can print with a dizzying array of inputs.

Source: ExOne.

Currently, ExOne Co (NASDAQ:XONE)’s printers can work with steel, ceramics, sand, glass, and bronze. And soon, ExOne’s printers will also be able to produce objects with tungsten carbide, titanium, aluminum, and magnesium. That’s an important technology to have, as it moves the idea of 3-D printing from just prototyping and mass-producing of plastic parts to more of a mass-manufacturing model.

ExOne Co (NASDAQ:XONE)’s head start in this field is beginning to gain notice from the competition as well. Just this month, 3D Systems closed its acquisition of Phenix Systems, a company that specializes in printing metal and ceramic parts

At the same time, however, investors need to realize how small operations currently are, and how expensive the stock is. During the first quarter of 2013, ExOne sold only five 3-D printers for $4.2 million — and during all of 2012, it sold just 13 printers. On one hand, these are extremely small numbers; on the other, it shows just how much room for growth there could be.

Equally important is that the company has generated only $33.8 million in revenue and no profit over the past year yet is valued at roughly $800 million. Short-sellers are well aware of this fact, as 34% of ExOne’s float is currently sold short.

Organovo Holdings Inc (NYSEMKT:ONVO)

If printing metal, sand, and glass parts sounds interesting, you’ll be blown away by what Organovo Holdings Inc (NYSEMKT:ONVO) hopes to accomplish. Currently, the company uses its Novogen MMX Bioprinter to create “functional human tissues that can be employed in drug discovery and development,” according to a company filing.

Source: Organovo.

But one day, the company hopes to be able to make “therapeutic implants for the treatment of damaged or degenerating tissues and organs.” I’m not a medical expert, but this sounds like a best-case scenario if this company is eventually able to, for instance, make a brand-new liver for a patient waiting for a transplant.