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Mass. 3-D printer makers recovering after a terrible year

A 3-D printer creates a face shield at Waltham company Markforged, which saw its stock price crumble in 2022, alongside rival Desktop Metal.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

After a year of plunging stock prices, a pair of Massachusetts 3-D printing companies are looking to rebound in 2023.

Shares of Markforged, headquartered in Waltham, dropped 78 percent last year, and Desktop Metal in Burlington lost 73 percent.

The stock price crash followed disappointment that the companies haven’t been pulling in the revenues they projected when they announced mergers with special purpose acquisition corporations and went public over the past few years.

Back in a February 2021 presentation, Markforged forecast its sales this year would hit $226 million. And in an August 2020 filing, Desktop Metal said it would take in $329 million in 2023.


Now, however, Markforged is on track for sales of about $117 million this year, according to the most recent analyst estimates, and Desktop Metal will garner $240 million.

But despite the disappointments, both companies continued to improve their printing technologies last year. Markforged added the ability to print items out of a rubber-like material dubbed “Smooth TPU 95A” and introduced simulation software to help customers with their designs. It also expanded its metal printing capabilities by acquiring Swedish company Digital Metal for $40 million.

3D-printed metal parts are displayed at Desktop Metal's Burlington headquarters on Sept. 2, 2020. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Meanwhile, Desktop Metal introduced a system for high-speed printing of wooden items and expanded its growing dental printing business after getting clearance from the Food and Drug Administration for a new resin. And it starts shipping customers its new $500,000 sheet metal printer this ‌year.

“The industry has made impressive strides over the past five years with significant improvements in print quality, speed, machine reliability, and overall capabilities,” said analyst Noelle Dilts at Stifel. “The continuing progress has been dramatic.”

Both stocks got an unexpected boost this month after Markforged filed a plan to compensate its senior executives if there was a change of control of the company. On Wall Street, that set off speculation that a merger might be in the works. Markforged declined to comment, and no deals have been announced.


But the sector could be ripe for consolidation after 2022′s tumbling stock prices. Markforged’s stock market value stands at less than $250 million, down from over $2 billion in 2021. And Desktop Metal’s market cap of around $500 million is down from close to $4 billion in 2021.

“We do think you’ll see consolidation over time,” Dilts said. “This is an incredibly fragmented industry.”

The market for 3-D printing may not have taken off as quickly as investors hoped, but the improvements in the printing processes, which bring costs down and open up new product areas, continue to impress venture capitalist Zack Smotherman, general partner at Battery Ventures in Boston. Battery so far has focused on investing in startups that could use 3-D printing technology rather than in 3-D printer makers.

“The market opportunity if this is adopted in a meaningful way could be really substantial,” said Smotherman, who focuses on industrial technology and life science tool startups. “I think there’s still a lot of room to run.”

Aaron Pressman can be reached at Follow him @ampressman.