NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When it comes to the 3-D printing industry, the market has been engaged in a long tug-of-war over expectations: Is the buzz around this transformational new technology hype or is it reality? Based on the punishment 3-D printing stocks have taken over the past couple of years, the "It's Hype" team is winning the argument.
Advocates have called 3-D printing "the new frontier" in architecture and design. That may be so. But thus far, for investors who've added any of the 3D-printing pioneers to their portfolios, it's been nothing more than a new way of losing money.
Among those pioneers is The ExOne Company (XONE), which is due to report fiscal first-quarter earnings results Thursday after the close. Headquartered in North Huntingdon, Pa., ExOne has been striving to open itself up to new and larger markets by revolutionizing its printer functions. It's also looking to separate itself from the pack of competitors like Stratasys (SSYS) and 3D Systems (DDD).
But with eight straight quarters of revenue and earnings misses, ExOne, which currently operates at a loss, has struggled to separate itself from an industry suffering not just from early expectations that were too high, but also from poor economics. Case in point: The average analyst estimate now calls for a loss of 29 cents per share for the quarter, wider than prior estimates of a 21 cent per share loss three months ago.
Beyond that, there are now additional concerns about the quarterly report, which was delayed due to "unforeseen difficulties." That prompted Nasdaq to issue ExOne a delisting notice for failure to report on time. As a result of all of these issues, XONE has plummeted some 20% so far in 2015, and almost 34% in the past six months. If you bought XONE a year ago, you're likely in the hole by about 53%.
But it's not because "the market has gotten this story wrong."
It would seem the only ones to have profited from 3-D-printing stocks are the short-sellers who have bet on their failure. In case of ExOne, more than 30% of its outstanding shares are in the hands of short-sellers as of the most recent settlement date.
For some context, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) -- a company that knows a thing or two about printing, and plans to enter the 3-D printing realm next year -- has less than 1% of its outstanding shares being shorted.
Yes, 3-D printing technology may eventually revolutionize how companies scale product models and get them to market. That's been the industry's sales pitch all along. But at this point, there is nothing to suggest that any of these companies, including ExOne, are worthwhile investments.
Given the rapid rise and subsequent fall of the industry, it's clear that investors were too optimistic about 3-D's path to profitability. Now it's time to get this industry out of your portfolio -- and certainly time to sell a company like ExOne that can't even fulfill a minimal public corporation requirement like announcing its results on time.