Binder jet 3D printer manufacturer ExOne has revealed that its annual revenue increased by 11% during 2020, alongside a significant advance in the R&D of its proprietary technology.
During Q4 2020, ExOne generated $17.4 million in revenue, which was flat compared to Q4 2019, but it still contributed to an 11% overall rise for the year. The firm has credited its success through the pandemic-stricken period to growing interest in its technologies, a point accentuated by its recent breakthrough working with Ford, in which it developed a novel method of 3D printing lightweight aluminum parts.
“This is a breakthrough in making 3D printed and sintered parts for the auto industry,” said Harold Sears, Ford’s AM technical leader. “High-speed aluminum 3D printing paves the way for other opportunities that we’re just now starting to take a look at, because of the ability to do complex parts with aluminum that previously weren’t possible.”
ExOne’s Q4 2020 results
ExOne’s revenue is reported across two main segments, with the first including 3D Printing Machines, and the second comprising 3D Printed and Other Products, as well as the firm’s Materials and Services. In Q4 2020, the company’s Machines division generated $9.8 million, and although this represents an 8% decline on the $10.7 million raised in Q4 2019, it fed into a wider FY 2020 annual increase of 15%.
According to Hartner, ExOne “achieved top-line growth in excess of 20%” during H2 2020, and this was largely driven by higher unit sales of its industrial 3D printers. As a result, the firm’s fourth quarter reduction in Machine revenue can be viewed as a decline in the value of systems sold, rather than the symptom of any wider drop in customer demand.
By contrast, ExOne’s 3D Printed, Other Products, Materials, and Services segment performed better during Q4 2020, growing by 12% compared to Q4 2019. While both the firm’s core segments continued to be impacted by COVID-19, pandemic-induced shipping disruption appears to have affected its Machine division more severely.
Following the results’ publication, shares in the company sunk by 5% in early trading, as investors identified a slowdown between the 60% growth seen during Q3, and an annual decline in Q4. However, given that ExOne’s stock has risen by over 250% since the turn of year, the blip is unlikely to affect investor confidence for very long.
|Segment Revenue ($)
|3D Printing Machines
|3D Printed, Other Products, Materials and Services
A binder jet “breakthrough”
Alongside the release of its financials, ExOne also revealed that it has successfully worked with Ford to develop a new, more rapid process of binder jetting aluminum. The novel approach, which is expected to be patented imminently, reportedly yields ultra-light components, with properties similar to those produced using die casting.
While it’s already possible to 3D print aluminum with binder jet systems, the firms’ new technology holds the potential to expedite the process, and create parts that offer both size and weight reductions. Now that Ford has verified the system’s accuracy, it intends to continue working with ExOne, as it seeks opportunities to leverage the technology to enhance the design of its automotive components.
“Developing a fast, affordable, and easy way to 3D print aluminum with traditional material properties is a critical step toward light-weighting,” explained John Hartner, CEO of ExOne. “Our world-class engineers and scientists are focused on solving the toughest problems with 3D printing technology, and this achievement is a real win for all of us.”
ExOne’s advances in 2020
Over the last six months, ExOne has not only benefited from the interest generated in binder jetting by rival Desktop Metal’s high-profile $2.5 billion merger, but also made strides of its own. For instance, the firm’s revenue was boosted by a U.S. Air Force contract during Q4, in which it developed a novel steel 3D printing process.
The company’s coffers were further reinforced by the launch of its new S-Max-optimized desanding station, and the installation of an Innovent+ machine for FreeFORM Technologies in December 2020. Since the start of 2021, ExOne has also invested heavily in expanding its portfolio to drive future growth, including the launch of a new cost comparison tool.
More significantly, the firm has recently worked closely with Rapidia to launch its inaugural Metal Designlab system and X1F furnace. The new machines are ExOne’s first to include Rapidia’s proprietary ‘two-step’ technology, and their uptake will no doubt be vital to the company’s revenue performance during the year ahead.
Elsewhere, ExOne has been contracted by the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a ‘mobile 3D printing factory,’ and named the ABC Corporation as a distribution partner in Korea, both deals which will factor into its Q1 2021 financials.
An optimistic outlook for 2021
Given that ExOne ended 2020 with a largest-ever order backlog of $39.4 million, it has forecast revenue growth of between 15 and 25% for the year ahead. As of December 31st 2020, the company also had $59.7 million in liquid capital, which has since been boosted by the sale of around $100 million in shares during last month.
As a result, ExOne is in such a strong financial position, that it has terminated its outstanding loan facilities, and indicated that it now intends to continue investing in further opportunities for growth. According to Hartner, the firm remains optimistic yet cautious, considering the impact that the pandemic could continue to have on its client demand in 2021.
“While there are still some headwinds as a result of COVID-19, which continue to influence the timing of our customers’ capital spending, and cause operational disruption and compressed margins in the mid-term, our backlog growth, refreshed product portfolio, and enhanced liquidity supports our projected revenue growth,” concluded Hartner.
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Featured image shows a proof-of-concept aluminum engine block model, that was 3D printed using ExOne’s new binder jetting process. Image via ExOne.