Desktop Metal Stock and Additive Manufacturing 2.0

When the company that produces the world’s fastest metal 3D printers, Desktop Metal, announced their intentions to go public, shares of another metal 3D printing company, ExOne (XONE), soared. On the surface, this makes no sense. If ExOne’s competitor is successfully raising more capital to sell a superior metal 3D printer, shouldn’t that be bad news for ExOne?

The answer to this question may lie in Desktop Metal’s plans for “constructive consolidation,” something elaborated upon in the various artifacts made available to support their initial public offering (IPO). While your typical special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) reverse merger offers up little more than a forward-looking glossy investor deck, Desktop Metal has filed sufficient documentation for us to assess the value on offer. It may even provide some clues as to why shares of ExOne surged.

About Desktop Metal

Click for company website

If you’re not familiar with Desktop Metal, we published a piece on them last December titled “Desktop Metal 3D Printers Set to Disrupt Manufacturing.” Long story short, they’ve built a metal 3D printer that’s “more than four times faster than any binder jet competitor and offers a 100 times speed improvement over any laser-based system – all at up to 20 times less cost than other 3D metal printers.” They’ve made heavy investments in software, and they’re now selling printers to customers while revenues start to climb.

Credit: Desktop Metal S-4 Filing

Given that Desktop Metal is backed by some deep pockets, we’re not overly concerned with their burn rate surpassing $100 million per year. Their flagship printer – the Production System – has 90 pre-orders which would bring in around $500 million to several billion in lifetime value (provided all orders are filled). Given the 2019 3D printing market is currently valued at around $12 billion, Desktop Metal is only scratching the surface right now with 2019 revenues of around $26.5 million. Much of the value on offer lies in their master plan.

After the IPO, Desktop Metal will have $526 million in cash, some of which they plan to make acquisitions with. They’ve shortlisted 60+ companies representing $2 billion worth of inorganic revenues. Of those, they’re in contact with ten.

Credit: Desktop Metal Investor Presentation

While ExOne shareholders may be hoping their shares will be acquired at a premium, it’s likely they’re not even on Desktop Metal’s radar (we’ll explain why in a bit.) The initial focus for Desktop Metal will be on capturing the tremendous upside to be found in consumables. The below slide shows how much additional value can be realized by vertically integrating with metal powder suppliers. (Our emphasis in yellow highlight.)

Credit: Desktop Metal Investor Presentation

Beyond vertical integration, there lies a vast open plain of metal 3D printing technologies and companies that could provide the 2 + 2 = 5 synergies that every MBA dreams of.

The Disparate World of Metal 3D Printing

We owe a great deal of our knowledge in metal 3D printing to the man who first helped us understand the space, CEO of Digital Alloys, Duncan McCallum. In spring of last year, we took a look at his exciting startup in a piece titled “Joule Printing – Fast, Low-Cost Metal 3D Printing.” We learned that there is no single winner in metal 3D printing. As seen in the below diagram, each approach to 3D printing metals can cater to a different use case based on part size, production volume, and material performance.

Credit: Ampower

What Desktop Metal probably hopes to do is cherry-pick the winners of the lot and then bring them under their umbrella. They believe that the industry is now moving from Additive Manufacturing 1.0 to Additive Manufacturing 2.0, something they’ve defined as follows.

Credit: Desktop Metal Investor Presentation

We previously looked at “10 Powder and Binder Metal 3D Printing Companies,” and counted more than 50 different companies working on 3D printing metals. Desktop Metal believes this opportunity for consolidation, coupled with organic growth, represents nearly one billion in revenues by 2025 – “the first $10 billion additive manufacturing 2.0 company.”

While Desktop Metal has a great product and an ambitious plan, the latter and $3 won’t get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks these days. An investment in Desktop Metal is a vote of confidence in their management team’s ability to execute. Several slides in the pitch deck highlight how strong the management team is, and how experienced they are in making acquisitions. If you’re someone who had their ass handed to them investing in Additive Manufacturing 1.0 (raises hand), this may be the type of opportunity you originally hoped you were investing in.

Investing in Desktop Metal Stock

One reason SPACs don’t benefit retail investors is that they behave so irrationally. Given most SPACs are priced at $10 per share when they debut, it’s easy to quantify this irrationality. For example, it was recently rumored that Switchback Energy Acquisition Corporation (SBE) would acquire ChargePoint. As of now, nothing has been filed with the SEC about this possible merger, yet shares of SBE are trading up +37%. It’s bad enough most SPACs trade at a premium before the deal even closes, but trading up on rumors is just pure stupidity. If you’re a serious retail investor who wants to buy shares and hold them for the long term, you need to wait for that dust to settle.

In looking at the SPAC Desktop Metal plans to merge with, Trine Acquisition Corp. (TRNE), shares closed at $11.50 today, a premium of about +11.5%. This pales in comparison to the premium other SPACs command. If Desktop Metal backs out of the deal, they’ll owe Trine almost $55 million which can then be added to the roughly $300 million already in the SPAC. That’s an increase in cash of about 18%. All things being equal, shareholders of Trine don’t have much downside if the proposed transaction fails to go through. If the deal does happen, you’re only paying – as of right now – a premium of +11.5% over what institutional investors paid to buy shares in Desktop Metal.

That’s a pretty simple analysis, but we’re pretty simple people. Having had our paws burned before investing in Additive Manufacturing 1.0., we’re a bit reluctant to invest in the companies producing the printers. Instead, we prefer the distributed manufacturing business model of Protolabs (PRLB), a company whose success isn’t dependent on which 3D printer maker comes out ahead in the long run. The appeal of going long Desktop Metal would be their management team’s ability to vertically integrate and expand margins, then consolidate the best 3D printing technologies out there under a single roof, dominating everyone who didn’t make the cut.

Desktop Metal Stock vs. ExOne Stock

As for ExOne, it’s hard to believe that Desktop Metal is aching to acquire a company that builds slow legacy 3D metal printers. They may not even see ExOne as a threat, something that’s hinted at when looking at Desktop Metal’s comparables.

Where is ExOne? – Credit: Desktop Metal Investor Presentation

Above you can see Stratasys and 3D Systems classified as “legacy additive manufacturing,” and then excluded from the averages because they’re presumably not fit to breathe the same oxygen as the others. (Having followed both these companies on their long downward slide to nowhere, we’re in agreement there.)

Legacy additive manufacturing – or Additive Manufacturing 1.0 – is also the same category where ExOne ought to be placed, but Desktop Metal has chosen not to include them. Is that a blatant dig at a competitor they plan to steamroll, or a hint that they’re currently in M&A talks? Who knows, but if you’re thinking about buying shares in a pure-play company that 3D prints metals, Desktop Metal, as it exists today, is a far better choice than ExOne, solely based on today’s analysis. Similarly, if you’re holding shares in ExOne today, maybe it’s a good opportunity to get out while the going is good. The same could be said for the other two publicly traded “Additive Manufacturing 1.0” companies that have done nothing but disappoint shareholders over the years.


We were initially dismayed to hear that Desktop Metal went the SPAC route, but it seems they’ve figured it out. They have a compelling value proposition, they provided sufficient detail in their filing documents, and they’ve avoided the Robinhood hype train. The real value to be found is in Desktop Metal’s grand plan for consolidation within the metal 3D printing space. This may be the first SPAC we’ve looked at which makes sense for retail investors – at least at today’s prices.

Prior to the deal closing, the SPAC trades under the ticker symbol TRNE. Once the proposed transaction is complete, the ticker symbol will change to DM.

We’re only long one 3D printing company right now. Will Desktop Metal make two? Find out in “The Nanalyze Disruptive Tech Portfolio Report,” now available for all Nanalyze Premium annual subscribers.

8 thoughts on “Desktop Metal Stock and Additive Manufacturing 2.0
  1. Dear Sir,
    for the time being 3D printers is an hype business, you cannot imagine the different technical issues which are not solved up to now. I don’t discuss about the marketing strategy but the industry needs for a part repeatability, reproducibility, and productivity, but it’s not. Even if BMW invested initially it’s to see if there is an opportunity. for aerospace the payload saving is important and even you use two process printer + milling to get a final part, it is a competitive option. For my opinion it seems for automobile, due to the low level of productivity of metal printer and the cost of the metal powder, there is no further.
    I agree with your article PROTOLABS is a good investment, I used personally the service of this company.
    sorry for the mistakes, a french citizen,
    best regards.

  2. Did DM pay you to write this ad? Exones X160 Pro is as fast as DM says their Unicorn production printer is supposed to be. The production printer was first introduced in early 2016. Its late 2020 and perhaps one has been delivered for beta test. That tells anyone with business and technical experience that it is having issues making parts in spec. Exones 160 Pro also has a build box 8x the size of DMs yet to be seen production printer. I believe they are rushing to IPO because of issues with the printer. If the reasons for the years long delays are announced I believe the stock is a penny stock at best. Better do your DD before you buy this. Exone has 20 years metal printing experience. Not to mention they are the leader in 3D sand casting.

    1. Hi Victor,

      Thank you for taking the time to write this comment.

      Nobody paid us to write this piece but your remarks are certainly interesting. If Exone is such a formidable competitor, why wouldn’t Desktop Metal address that in their comparables? We held shares of Exone for a number of years in hopes that they would be able to become a leader in metal 3D printing. Then, revenues stopped growing in 2019. Seems unlikely Desktop Metal has issues with their printer if they’re currently selling it and moving towards vertically integrating their offering. We can only do as much due diligence as the SEC filings allow. Since we’re currently long the stock, we’ll be checking in regularly to make sure revenue growth is on track.

  3. Thanks for the level-headed approach to this upcoming IPO. I’m curious what your thoughts are now that $TRNE is trading north of $17, and $19 post market heading into the weekend? It will undoubtedly plummet back down to earth as investors sell $DM on December 10th, but will it head back down to $10 or stop before? I suppose as an interested long-term investor, I’ll have to wait for the dust to settle, as you say.

    1. Thank you for pointing out that rapid rise Brian. After many years of sleepless nights and stressful days spent trying to trade stocks in and out of the market, we’ve decided to take a much different approach and try to never sell that we want long-term exposure to. If we like a stock and the price drops below our average purchase price, we should add to our position if it makes sense. If it rises, we should do nothing. We like to have 5-10 year time horizons or ideally, several decades. If the thesis hasn’t changed, there’s no reason to sell the stock.

      With that said, it’s often very tempting to try and take some profits off the table. For example, we recently trimmed our position in solar ETF TAN because of some ridiculous hype surrounding several stocks in that sector. Meanwhile, the ETF continues to soar.

      In regards to holding Desktop Metal, our average cost per share is somewhere around $11.50 and we expect lots of volatility going forward. We’re not going to try and time the market by moving in and out of a position. Our target position size is 3.7% of our portfolio and right now it’s at 2.35%.

      If you’re standing on the sidelines thinking about buying in, just set up a recurring purchase schedule over the next 6 months or whatever time frame suits you. Use dollar cost averaging and try to remove some of the market timing. Pick an arbitrary date in the future and make your first purchase on that day.

      We haven’t been watching the status of the deal but you’re implying it closes on December 10th and some shareholders will then be able to sell? That’s not far away so let’s wait and see what happens then. Thank you for the comment.

  4. Hello guys, any thoughts on the news about Ford and ExOne
    qualifying aluminum? I have to believe Ford has soured on DM.
    Just the fact they have chosen to patent the aluminum process with
    the worlds largest aluminum consumer is a issue for DM. What would happen to DM when a patent is issued. And what is the potential market with Ford. Obviously they will be needing hundreds if not thousands of printers to make the parts they need. Also I believe the relationship has soured for DM and Ford because Ken Washington has left the DM board. Would be hard for Ford to have him there when they announced the deal with ExOne. I believe sour grapes were evident with DMs PR statement on the same day as Ford and ExOnes news release. Big difference in the two statements. Anyone who understands the qualification process knows Ford and ExOne are years ahead with actually qualifying it for production. I think DM is counting on investors not knowing the difference between the two statements. I believe as ExOnes statement said titanium is coming soon as well. Huge and probably the reason for the 675% jump for XONE. Your thoughts??

    1. Thank you for the heads up on that. You’re way ahead of us in regards to reading the tea leaves on what’s happening here with Ford for both of these companies. We’ll look to do an updated article on ExOne in the near future and try to see what that massive jump in price is all about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.