North Huntingdon company lands Defense Department contract for 3D printing lab
Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA)
Mar. 28—A North Huntingdon-based firm with an international reach has landed a Defense Department contract to build a 3D industrial sand and metal printing lab using binder jet technology that can make replacement parts inside a 40-foot-long shipping container that can be set up where the military needs it.
The "3D printing factory pod" ExOne is developing for the military can be fitted into a large shipping container and dropped where it is needed —be it for military purposes or in a response to a natural disaster.
Under the $1.6 million contract the company received from the Defense Logistics Agency in August, the firm will focus on improving the ruggedness of its binder jet 3D printers for a wide range of operating conditions. The 3D printers need to be able to operate in a variety of conditions, unlike the temperature-controlled manufacturing facilities in civilian-operated companies.
Permitting military personnel to make the parts at a site "gives them a lot of flexibility," said ExOne CEO John Hartner, a McKees Rocks native. The shipping container with the printing equipment would be powered by a generator, Hartner said.
ExOne is collaborating with business partners specializing in materials engineering and weapons systems and providing complex composite components in the aerospace and defense markets.
The 3D printer can make parts in more than 20 metal, ceramic or composite materials. It uses an industrial printhead that is programmed to selectively spray a bonding agent onto the powered particles to make a specific part, one layer at a time. When it is done, the excess powdered materials can be recycled, Hartner said.
In an ideal situation, ExOne said a soldier could print a digital file of a broken or damaged part and finish it within two days, much faster than conventional machining. That eliminates the need to store shelves of spare parts in a warehouse.
The company has about 300 employees globally and about 100 at the North Huntingdon facility, where products are designed and assembled, Hartner said.
Hartner said the company remained relatively stable despite the coronavirus pandemic, while most of the competition declined. That was even in the face of "major disruptions in the supply chain," Hartner said.
The company has been "aggressive" in the marketplace, resulting in double-digit growth in 2020, he noted.
Hartner is anticipating expansion this year and in 2022. In terms of the geographic market for ExOne, Hartner said he sees more opportunities for growth in the United States.
ExOne reported revenues of $59.2 million in 2020, up 11% from $53.2 million for 2019.
ExOne's fourth quarter revenue of $17.4 million, down slightly from fourth quarter 2019 revenue of $17.5 million, was slightly ahead of Stifel Financial's consensus, Noelle C. Dilts, an analyst at Stifel Institutional's Equity Research Group, said in a recent note about the company.
The company's profit margins remain pressured by a challenged operating environment because of the pandemic, Dilts wrote.
Stifel rates ExOne's stock as a "buy" and views ExOne's expected growth of 15% to 25% in 2021 as a clear positive and indicator of ExOne's internal efforts and momentum in the 3D printing market. Dilts said they believe much of the underperformance in the gross profit margin is pandemic-related.
"The question is to what extent these challenges will persist into 2021," Dilts wrote.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .
(c)2021 Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)
Visit Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) at www.triblive.com