3D Printing Financials: Protolabs & Lincoln Electric’s Earnings Highlight 2023 Success

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In the challenging landscape of 2023, two manufacturing businesses, Protolabs (NYSE: PRLB) and Lincoln Electric (Nasdaq: LECO), reported their earnings for both the fourth quarter and the full year 2023, demonstrating resilience and growth amid a tough 2023 with sharp with plenty of hurdles. Both companies, while not only focused on 3D printing, integrate this technology into their broader array of manufacturing services. Protolabs, a leader in digital manufacturing, uses 3D printing, CNC machining, injection molding, and sheet metal fabrication to serve thousands of customers with rapid production capabilities. On the other hand, Lincoln Electric, known for its welding and cutting solutions, incorporates 3D printing for prototyping and product development, helping it adapt to the evolving manufacturing landscape that demands advanced technologies like 3D printing.


In 2023, a tough year for manufacturing, Protolabs’ earnings report proves it’s doing well. The Minneapolis-based digital manufacturing leader reported a significant revenue increase, net income, and positive EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) for both the fourth quarter and the full year of 2023. These achievements are particularly impressive given the harsh economic climate for the manufacturing sector last year. Additionally, Protolabs reported positive cash flow from operations, repurchased common shares during the year, and served over 53,000 customer contacts.

CFO Dan Schumacher commented, “Along with record revenue in 2023, we significantly improved profitability in both the digital factory and the digital network. We generated an industry-leading $73 million in cash from operations, and we paid 97% of our free cash flows to shareholders through share repurchases.”

The business reported a revenue of $125 million in the last quarter of 2023, an 8.2% increase from the same period in the previous year, against a backdrop of widespread industry struggles. Fourth-quarter 3D printing revenue grew 3% year over year. For the full year, Protolabs achieved a record annual revenue of $504 million, marking a 3.2% increase over the previous year.

PolyJet 3D printing at Protolabs. Image courtesy of Protolabs.

Amid a landscape where 3D printing businesses have begun to report downturns and losses in their 2023 finances, Protolabs reported record annual revenue and declared profitability. In the fourth quarter, it recorded a net income of $7 million, or 27 cents per share, reversing the previous year’s net loss. Over 2023, the company reached a net income of $17.2 million, or 66 cents per share, proving a solid recovery and financial resilience compared to a net loss in 2022.

Reflecting on its operational efficiency, Protolabs reported a strong EBITDA of $18.3 million, or 14.6% of revenue, in the fourth quarter of 2023—a significant improvement from the previous year. This upward trend in profitability was also seen in the company’s full-year performance, with an EBITDA of $63.2 million, or 12.6% of revenue. Meanwhile, adjusted EBITDA for the year further highlighted the company’s financial stability, reaching $83.2 million, or 16.5% of revenue, also considered a substantial increase over the previous year.

In 2023, Protolabs served over 53,000 customers, which was key in fostering innovation across various sectors. During an earnings call with investors, CEO Rob Bodor explained the company’s successful strategy of integrating factory operations with the Protolabs Network (previously Hubs), which experienced a 70% growth. This approach has proven effective, especially in challenging times, allowing Protolabs to capture more market share.

Bodor also shared examples from the electric vehicle (EV) industry, where Protolabs has been key to advancing sustainable mobility. According to Bodor, an EV manufacturer benefited from Protolabs’ rapid production capabilities, bridging supply chain gaps with quality parts from the Protolabs Network. Similarly, Protolabs’ impact also extends to the aerospace sector, with contributions in commercial space exploration and sustainable agriculture, proving the company can deliver critical components fast, ensuring project timelines are met despite supply chain challenges.

Lincoln Electric

Lincoln Electric’s financial performance in the fourth quarter and the full year of 2023 shows a company that is not just navigating through challenging times but thriving amid them. The fourth quarter earnings report reveals a significant leap in net income to $156.6 million, or $2.70 per share—a substantial improvement over the previous year’s $109.1 million. This increase is even more impressive when considering the adjusted net income of $142 million, up from the prior year’s $113.2 million.

The sales growth reported by Lincoln Electric in the fourth quarter, surging 13.7% to reach $1.1 billion, is proof of the company’s strong market presence and strategic expansion efforts. This growth includes a 2.6% increase in organic sales, a 9.8% increase from acquisitions, and a 1.3% boost from favorable foreign exchange rates. Operating income also increased to $204 million, or 19.3% of sales, compared to $141.5 million in the prior year.

A Lincoln Electric robotic welder builds a piece of equipment layer by layer using its wire-arc additive manufacturing process. Image courtesy of Lincoln Electric.

For 2023, Lincoln Electric reported an impressive net income of $545.2 million, or $9.37 earnings per share, with adjusted net income rising 12.8% to $548 million, or $9.41. Total sales for the year increased 11.4% to $4.2 billion, highlighting Lincoln Electric’s successful expansion and the increasing demand for its solutions across various markets.

President and CEO Steven Hedlund attributed the year’s success to the strong demand for Lincoln Electric’s solutions and the effective execution of its Higher Standard 2025 strategy, under which the company invested over $900 million in growth and returned $1.2 billion to shareholders.

Hedlund pointed out: “We have a strong core business and operational platform and expanding automation portfolio, market-leading innovation and two new long-term growth initiatives, additive manufacturing and our DC fast charger, which are both in early commercialization phase and offer attractive long-term upside options for the business.”

Lincoln Electric Sculptprint RND Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM). Image courtesy of Lincoln Electric.

The financial outcomes for Protolabs and Lincoln Electric in 2023 highlight the potential of having many technological capabilities. By integrating 3D printing into a wider array of manufacturing services, both companies have shown an ability to weather the storm and thrive amid challenges. This strategy contributed significantly to their success, providing them the flexibility to meet many customer needs and proving crucial during supply chain disruptions. Perhaps the performance of these two companies shows how blending innovation with traditional manufacturing can help create a strong business model, driving growth and stability.

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