NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The 3-D printing space is rapidly changing industries, as more companies begin to realize the benefits of making their own parts, cutting costs, and expanding into new fields. Stratasys (SSYS) is the "behemoth" in the 3-d printing industry and it's only poised to get bigger, according to one analyst.
Deutsche Bank analyst Sherri Scribner initiated coverage on Stratasys with a "buy" rating and a $140 price target, noting that Stratasys' leading technology is helping the company take a lead over its competitors, including 3-D Systems (DDD) and ExOne (XONE). "We expect Stratasys to continue to benefit from the growth in the nascent additive manufacturing market, driven by is leading position in FDM (fused deposition modeling, one of the most cost-effective technologies available today," Scribner wrote in a note.
She noted that Stratasys, which recently bought Object and Makerbot earlier this year, has the highest gross margins in the industry, and "has room to return operating margins back to historical levels as it improves services margins."
Shares of Stratasys were higher in premarket trading on Tuesday, up 0.71% to $118.50.
Though the Makerbot acquisition put Stratasys more in line with consumers, as the industry just starts to come into people's homes, Scribner noted the Object merger may help strengthen Stratasys' lead in other areas. "With the recent merger with Objet, Stratasys has cemented its lead as the largest shipper of industrial 3-D printing units in the world," she wrote in the report.
The additive manufacturing market has been growing like a weed over the past 20 years, expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18%. But it's only been the past few years when the industry has really started to take off as the media and investors begin to take notice. Over the past three years, revenue from 3-D printing has more than doubled to $2.2 billion, and it's only poised to continue to grow, Scribner noted.
Even though Stratasys is poised to be the big name in the space, according to Scribner, 3D Systems and ExOne may also benefit.
3D Systems should benefit from its "extensive technology portfolio," Scribner said. It has the ability to increase the materials it uses, as well as services offered, all adding to the company's margins. "With strong industry growth just beginning to take off, we view 3D Systems as one of the key beneficiaries," Scribner wrote. She rates shares "buy" with a $95 price target.
According to Scribner, Stratasys and 3D Systems are likely to be the two biggest beneficiaries, but ExOne is also well positioned in the space, as it features sand castings and metals, which can add to the additive manufacturing space.
Because of its smaller size, ExOne may wind up growing faster than its peers, but its margins are below the others in the space. That's likely due to the company not participating in other technologies, which could put it at risk if other technologies become more popular.
--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York
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