Wednesday, February 2, 2011

MCAD and 3D Printing as a Sales Tool

This week's guest post is from John Kawola, Z Corporation CEO.
I had the pleasure of attending SolidWorks World 2011 last week in San Antonio. I have attended many of these events in past years and SolidWorks always does a great job in providing a complete agenda for engineers and designers to learn new skills, learn from other users and share ideas. As usual, the first day kickoff included an introduction by SolidWorks management. As many have heard, there have been changes at the top at SolidWorks. Congratulations to Jeff Ray for his new position within Dassault Systemes and Betrand Sicot for his new role as SolidWorks CEO.
In that first day session, Dassault CEO Bernard Charles and Jeremy Luchini from SolidWorks previewed a new technology called “Post-3D.” In the demonstration, they showed the power of using 3D data as a sales tool. For complex products, ones that don’t transport well and/or ones where some type of product demo is key to sales success, this concept can prove invaluable. They simulated a sales process, presenting a product called “CAD-Chair” in a virtual environment to a sales prospect in China. They were able to describe the product and outline features and benefits. But, most importantly, they were allowing the prospect the chance to “experience” the product. Impressive.
SolidWorks CAD-Chair

So, this brings me to the use of 3D printed parts as sales tools. Historically, prototypes and 3D printed parts have been primarily used by engineers, testing designs and checking form, fit and function. However, the number of use occasions and applications for printed parts is rapidly expanding into the customer-facing, sales environment. Z Corporation has numerous customers using the technology in this way.  Here are just a few examples:

Spirax Sarco: Leader in steam-related products and services
Spirax Sarco ZPrinted model

-Sales models of 1,000 lb. products reduce time, shipping, labor at tradeshows
-Sales staff is able to bring models of large products on sales calls
-3D printed model of a heat exchanger helped seal $600,000 sale, beating companies with only 2D drawings

Continental Tire: Largest tire maker in Germany, and fourth largest in the world
Continental Tire ZPrinted models

-Generated new revenue by putting early prototypes into hands of sales force
-Helped close sales on existing products because salesmen had physical models to help communicate product advantages to customers in sales meetings

Converse, Inc: A wholly-owned subsidiary of NIKE, Inc. offering men’s and women’s footwear and apparel
Converse ZPrinted model

-Among many other uses for 3D printing, Converse uses ZPrinted models to visualize design ideas with sponsored athletes in order to sign top athletes as sponsors

OBM International: highly prestigious design-consulting firm specializing in master planning and architecture for luxury hotels, resorts and mixed-use developments globally
OBM International ZPrinted model

-Dramatic 3D printed models make a deeper impact on prospective clients than 2D renderings or computer animations
-3D printing is galvanizing OBMI’s long-standing reputation as a leader in the global architecture community
-The 3D printer’s positive impact on securing business and minimizing redesign makes it a “bargain”

Gilberts: Gilberts, 16 person architectural practice

Gilberts ZPrinted models

-ZPrinted models improve the quality of proposals being produced which has a positive impact on business won
-3D printed models enhance the understanding of proposals and improve public perception of proposals
-Organizations presented with high quality 3D printed models appreciate the effort put in, hence subconscious reception is improved

These uses have been enabled by the rapid improvement in performance, ease of use, cost and full color capability. While virtual environments like “Post-3D” may prove to be powerful for some sales processes, it can be argued that the ultimate virtual experience is actually holding the product or part in your “real” hand.

There's nothing like holding a 3D printed model in your "real" hand

Related Resources
To learn more about how digital and physical prototyping work best together in specific applications, including sales and marketing, I highly recommend a white paper by By L. Stephen Wolfe, P.E. called, “Physical and Digital Prototyping Belong Together.”

If you’d like to learn more about other departments and applications within an organization where 3D printing can be used for strategic advantage, see this free Webcast called “3D Printing Across the Organization.”

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