We’ve got a really good interview today that I think takes us further into the whole 3D scanning and creating a real product out of that exploration. I was at CEO Space, which is our networking and executive and entrepreneurship education forums we participate in quite a few times a year. They have five of them. We’ve done two this year or something like that already. It’s just one of those things where you meet people and they know that we are in the 3D printing industry and they bring me things. LoraLee Harmon, who I absolutely love, she’s a CEO Space Club President and such a great connector, excitedly runs up to me on the last day of CEO Space and has these 3D print figurines in her hand of a bride and groom. She had some with her.
I’m sitting there looking at them going, “I’ve never seen this good quality before. The face’s expression is there. The colors look vibrant.” I was shocked at that and she goes, “I know this woman of 3DTransformations, Barbara Wood. Would you like to meet her? Maybe you could interview her.” I go, “Maybe? We’re definitely going to interview her. I may even go and order one of these for my daughter’s wedding.” She was explaining a little bit about Barbara Wood and 3DTransformations out of Charleston, South Carolina. It’s more than figurine printing to me. She started the business with this vision of really helping to give people something to feel and touch about people they love. Especially, started out in helping the blind to be able to have a better experience through 3D prints of loved ones and things like that.
When I look at it, what I saw was a great transformation of the quality that is necessary to make it a viable product. We talk about that all the time. In the industry here, we get a little complacent with the lines and the color quality and the limitations of the tech. We make excuses for it and we say, “It will get better when the industry gets better. It’s good enough. That’s really good, considering.” When you see something of the quality that Barbara’s been able to achieve, you go, “No. It could be better. You all have been just been complacent about it.” She’s really taking it to the level that is required to be a great consumer shoppable product. Let’s go to the interview and then I’d like to talk some more about it on the other side.
Listen to the podcast here:
High Quality 3D Scanning and Computer Modeling with Barbara Wood
Barbara, thank you so much for joining us.
I’m so excited because I saw some of the scans and prints that you have done. I’ve seen them in person and I was really impressed. We’ve seen a lot of these figurines over the time and yours were very lifelike. The quality, just even looking at your website and the photos and all the different information there is to see, I’m really impressed with it. What I have seen of most others is a lower quality final result, which I think has something to do with the printer you’re using, but I think it also has a lot to do with how you are creating the model and capturing the 3D image.
I’m very interested to hear about how you do that. Before we get into all those technical details, which we’re dying to get to, we want to get some background on how 3DTransformations came about. Tell us a little bit about how you got started doing this.
I have been designing for the last two decades. I’m a Mechanical Design Engineer and I recently was let go. We were designing fire trucks for Chinese government. When I found myself at home raising two boys, you think it would be grand but seriously I got bored. Designing is my passion. I started getting into looking 3D prints to help the blind. I thought maybe if I could print faces for the blind to feel of the loved ones they cannot see every day, that would bring them comfort and some closure.
In doing that, I realized a couple things. One, their funding is very limited. Two, that there’s a whole another avenue there that’s open up to everybody where they can hold a print of somebody that anybody loves or has lost or wants to remember of a moment. That’s where 3DTransformations began. The design work and the networking really took off from there.
We’ve done a lot of these scans over time. We’ve checked them out. We’ve been to trade shows. Yours is obviously doing something interesting in terms of how it’s processing because you’re not charging a ton more than everyone else. Tell us a little bit about what you’ve managed to do from your perspective and really refining it and making it such good quality.
Thank you for that. It’s really about the process. We don’t use any secret scanner. The secret sauce is the process from the 3D scanning to the printing. The printing is definitely important. We only use the ProJet 660, as many of our competitors do. It goes in speed and the sanding and the finishing of the prints, but really the face quality and the design and the photos that we design from and the scans that we design from are what people want to see. They want to be able to recognize the print. The face quality is where we gear most of our efforts to work.
Are you going from a scanner type scan or you’re going from photo for most part?
Both actually. We do the handheld scanner and we can also design from photos or video.
When you’re using video or photos, or maybe it’s different for each, but when you’re using one of those processes, is it really a 3D computer artist interpreting that? Or you’re really doing some photogrammetry type of interpretation of the photos getting you part of the way there to create a 3D model?
You nailed it on both ends. If you have more than one photo, you can do a photogrammetry mesh where you’re creating the 3D object with the mini-photos that you have, which is the luxury you get with video because they’re going around the person and you’re getting more than one side. When you design from a single photo, there is interpolation that goes into it. However, the figurines at six inches to twelve inches, what you interpret is better suited for the figure than if it was a larger scale and you might see more imperfections.
It’s also the scale of it that’s making a big difference for you?
I remember we had our full bodies scanned pretty early on in the history of our show. We got the models. It was a pretty simple process. It was a scanner on an iPad type of thing. I was really struck by how many holes and problems there were, especially towards our feet or below the knee and our legs. Experimenting with the model, I could see how complicated it really is. When you don’t have a very detailed scan or when information is missing, how are you going to replace that information? You guys really must be experts in, I would think, doing those sorts of things. Is there a lot of clean up that has to happen when you start with the scan?
No, we have a certain way that we like to scan as well to get the best results. Generally, we don’t have holes when we scan. Our data comes back pretty clean. There’s not a lot of efforts after that to clean up. We also do some back up work. After our scans, we also take pictures of the subject to make sure that the textures match and the face quality is where we need it.
That’s where I see a lot of them fall apart. I think that’s very obvious that you’re working from the resolution of a photograph instead of the scan itself. When the color gets applied and you’re printing it with that color model, as you call it, it’s the texture map actually that goes on it, it looks so basic, almost pixelized. Yours has a lot of depth and shadow to it.
Thank you. That could be really difficult because not only are you dealing with colors on your monitor, which could differ from computer to computer, but you’re also dealing with the inherent imperfection of the printer itself and that their colors are not consistent.
Color matching is always a very difficult thing. We feel your pain on that one. I’m sure it really matters when you do those brides and grooms. They really care about their color, right?
One of the things that did really strike me looking through your product photos on your website, you have a lot of these figurines and they’re almost all standing on a disk, which I completely get. The surface area of the bottom of a foot in some people’s feet are not completely flat on the ground, it would be hard for it to stand up without a disk under it. What really impressed me is that, at least in this one shot on one of your web pages, there are five figurine models and they’re all standing there. None of their legs are completely together. There is a negative space between the legs on every model. On a couple of them, it’s a pretty thin space in there.
When I’ve talked with people about 3D scanning full bodies of models of people in the past, they always want you to stick your legs completely together with no gap in the middle because that was a problem area for them to get a good scan information. Is there something unique about how you’re doing it that makes this not a problem?
That’s a loaded question. I didn’t even know it was a problem because we thankfully have not ran into that. Being mechanically inclined myself that the CG, the way that the human subject is balanced, is something I thought of before. Perhaps we have negated that issue just by design thinking upfront.
That makes sense. Actually, I’m very impressed that that’s your answer, that you didn’t even know it was a problem. Because you’ve seem to have approached it from a different perspective. “Of course people are going to want models of a figure with their hands on their hips.” There’s this open triangular space between their body, their upper arm and their lower arm. You have to find a way to be able to meet that need and provide that product, so you did. I’ve experienced so many issues with scans. Granted, they’re probably trying to do less work than you guys are doing or have less experience than you do. It’s just not easy I guess when you make a simple scan for the software to interpret every negative space properly. That impressed me. This is a step up from anything else we’ve seen.
Because we met through CEO Space, I want to do a little bit of what we would do there, which is mentorship. How is your business going? Let’s talk a little bit about it. Are you having challenges getting this business growing? Clearly from our perspective, we see something special and unique and really great quality here. You’ve got a good product essentially.
The business is slow. It could be going a lot better and faster. Obstacles in my way is probably, I know you guys have talked about it before, but it’s being a woman in the technical space. Charleston, South Carolina is very big for women in tech in regards to programming and code writing and so forth. But outside of that tech interface, women in tech don’t exist. As rare as that is, the face value and the challenges that I receive is me.
Here’s the thing though, I think that that’s temporary. I know that’s hard when you’re building your business and you’re at the stage where you want it to grow faster and it should grow faster or you need it to grow faster. But I think it’s temporary. It is not a secret opinion because I say it pretty much all the time on the podcast here, that it is women that are going to make 3D printing become mainstream. It is because you get that when I want to have a figurine made of my daughter who’s getting married in two weeks, I want her to look exactly like she looks right now. I want her dress to look as beautiful as it is. I want her to stand in a position where she looks natural and normal.
You get that and because you’ve built that into your product, it’s going to make your product more compatible with the majority of shoppers in the US and in many parts of the world as well, but US is more magnified. We have 85% or more in various categories of female influenced or actual direct purchases. When that controls a shopping world, then where are 3D prints going to be bought? Where are scans and figurines going to be bought? They’re going to be bought by women.
Clearly, there’s a naturalness about what you’ve got here that I think is appealing. I don’t think that those women sit back and say, “I want a company that women run. I want a female engineer.” They’re not thinking about that. They are thinking through what they want and now what they’re seeing. What I’ve experienced in the world, being a woman designer in a very male dominated industry as well, is that has synergy, that match happens and sales are better. When I design a product that I know women like, it sells better.
I hope that comes. It’s not here yet. The other side of it is the lack of knowing what 3D printing is and the age gaps. There’s not a big awareness of why they need it, why it’s beneficial, who cares if it’s 3D printed and what does it actually mean?
I agree about the “Who cares?” I think that when 3D printing really becomes more mainstream, it’s really going to be seamless. People won’t necessarily even understand that it’s 3D printed, but they’ll know, “I want a custom trophy of my kid. I just don’t want the common cheesy gold-plated looking trophy of a generic figure with my kid’s name put on it. No, I want a trophy that is the likeness of my kid in their hockey uniform or soccer, baseball, whatever.” I think as merchants in the 3D printing space, we have to communicate with the consumers in a language they already understand. If we’re trying to teach them that this is something new and because the technology is cool, I think that that’s ultimately a losing proposition.
It’s the language of business and marketing any which way you look at it. That’s really where I see a lot of people have not been as successful in the 3D print world because they stay in the 3D print industry world. They don’t step out and they don’t move into where their customers are. They stick with the early adopters or they stick with those that are already in the know. Don’t get me wrong, it’s harder to be targeting consumers who have no understanding of how the processing works when you’re asking them to do something like, “Wait for it to come.” When you’re not in the Amazon two-day Prime model, then trying to explain that is difficult.
Going into a world like on Etsy for instance, it’s very common for many of the women shoppers there to wait a week or more or two weeks or expecting to get customs because that is a custom world there. That doesn’t negate that you have to do a really good job of marketing. You still have to do that. You still have to attract everyone. But you’re now in the right place of shoppers with the right mindset that it’s okay to wait a week. That’s really where we see a lot of fit.
The businesses that don’t succeed over time, the ones that I’ve studied and did a compilation of many studies done by Forbes and Inc. and Harvard Business Review and other things, the product market fit is the biggest failure point. That can be up to 56% of the failures that happen in any industry really. When a business fails or a product fails, a launch fails, it fails because there’s a mismatch between the market and the product. It can go either way. Either you have a great product, but you just don’t have access to the right market or you’re not speaking to the right people, and/or you can have a great market but you didn’t give them the product that they wanted. It can fall on both sides.
Being able to get that market access matched to your product is essential in making it less costly and faster growth. That’s really where I think we could sit back and brainstorm on your business and say, “Where am I going to access the people who want this the most?” Maybe it’s straight out marketing to wedding planners because they have direct access to all the brides. Maybe it’s a PR campaign to all of the wedding publications, things like that.
I actually think on your website, obviously you’re appealing to all different types of markets you think might be interested in the product. I would think the wedding area, which you are already catering to, that whole wedding market price becomes much less of a barrier with that type of market when you can actually have whether it’s a cake topper or something else for centerpiece on a table. You have the likeness of the bride and groom. Yours looks so much more like the real thing than any I’ve really seen before.
You can get really creative here. You can get really creative with a joint venture model and thinking about adding value to the event planner or adding value to the bridal shop, the photographer. Photographers always need a good reason for you to choose them. You can do a lot of preview photos of the wedding dress. They do them ahead of time. You can have them already educated and understanding exactly the photos that you need or the scans that you need and they’re educated in your system and you make them a partner with you. They’re the ones actually providing the final figurine at the end, but it’s of course bought and manufactured by you. At the end of the day, you’re adding a lot of value but you’re already mixed into the process.
I mentioned before our daughter’s getting married. When LoraLee showed me your figurines, I was like, “Oh my gosh, Alex would look so beautiful in that. I would love to see that of her.” The reality was we had already got the dress home from the dress shop. So now it would be, “Where do we set her up in that with good lighting to be able to take the photos so that they could be right? Do a scan or a video? Where would we be able to do that prior to the wedding?” Now, we missed our opportunity even though I thought it was a great idea. If you can capture them at the time at which not only is it a great idea, but they have all the emotion going on of being beautiful in the dress and wanting to capture that moment. Now, you’re really in a place at which you can grow more and sell more.
That’s definitely been the line of thinking. There’s a website overhaul being done in the background. We have partnered with many different people here in Charleston in the wedding industry. Charleston is number one wedding destination in the world right now. That sounds very exciting but to photographers unfortunately, the main vibe has been on the competitor. I’m trying to debunk that and be able to establish this.
You could add so much value to them. We’ve heard that before, that wedding photographers are very territorial and they are slow to adapt new technology. We heard this with other kinds of photographers who embrace putting photos up in a photo library on Facebook right away when the wedding happens versus those that are like, “No, that’s my territory. You can’t put anything up on Facebook. You have to sign a release. I own all the rights.” Those things I have seen changing. I think the wedding planners are honestly where to go.
We hired a wedding planner for our daughter to coordinate. It was the best decision ever. Shoutout to DB Creativity and Laura Hazzard, who is our sister-in-law as well as our wedding planner, she saved us money from the first negotiation that we could’ve spent on something fun and exciting. She had this in her repertoire. I’m sure in the future, she will. If she had this as a product that they would offer, they’re always looking for new products, other ways to add products and services they can provide value add to their customers.
Had she thought about it, she would’ve planned it and either had a video or photographer or whatever at the time, you had one of those dress fittings. It would have been in time and it could have been on the cake or whatever you want to do with it. She would have coordinated that, which is important, timing-wise. Maybe this isn’t the case in Charleston but I find around here that videographers are very eager to attract new customers and it’s very competitive for them. They are actually a lot more open-minded than the photographers are.
Perhaps, I hadn’t approached too many videographers. They also have the Southern mentality here of, “It’s all within who you know.”
That may be true, but maybe it’s who you know in the wedding planners. I think that’s where I would spend my marketing dollars if I could, taking a bunch of those people out to lunch and convincing them how this will help their business. Anyway, there are lots of ways you could do it. Also, this is the thing that Lora has told us many, many times, is that this is a social media and an internet research intensive industry right now. If you are not well-placed as a wedding planner or as a photographer in the wedding industry in general, if you’re not well-placed on social media and on the internet, you’re not going to attract the attention of the young brides coming in today.
Especially we’re outside of the LA area and our daughter’s getting married in Pasadena, you’re talking about the competitiveness up there. We had dozens of photographers to choose from in our price point. It was a lot more competitive from that standpoint. We did the majority of the research online first because you don’t have time to go meet all those people. That’s really one of the ways that because what your product is, is so easily photographed, you can make cute little Instagrams and all kinds of social media of where these figurines appear throughout a wedding or different fun things that you can do with it.
You have the opportunity to really capture attention of these brides thinking, “Wow, that’s so new,” or these grooms thinking, “That’s too cool. I got to have one of those.” You get in their head early on. I do think that you have a great business model that can both come in from the customer side and also come in from the service provider side. When you make those two things connect and they’re like, “I saw that on Instagram. Wow, you do that.” Now, you have a great connection and you start to grow your sales faster.
I see. Thank you.
You’re welcome. We get into this. We see opportunity, we see somebody who’s doing some great quality and providing a viable product. We naturally tread into, “How can we really be of help and value here?” I know you may not have expected that but I hope that it’s all right. In the spirit of giving of CEO Space and how wonderfully giving LoraLee is, I just wanted to make sure that we at least touch on that. Now, I want to ask you, if I wanted to do this for my daughter, how do you go about taking those photos? What are your guidelines and your recommendations for the best way to capture it, especially if they’re not physically near you so you can’t do it for us? What is the best way that we can do it?
Number one will be a close-up of the face smiling or the way that you want it printed. Then you want the full body stance of how you want the bride. If she wants to be holding her groom in a certain way or she wants her hand to be out holding the groom or her bouquet, if she could be in that position, that would be helpful, however we can articulate it afterwards. Full body, front, both sides and back and one close-up of the face, and then the same for the groom.
That seems fairly simple, not that complicated. If you’re doing video or photos, does the background really matter? Even if you’re in the dress shop and there’s a whole lot of other dresses in the background on hangers or whatever, is that going to be a problem, you can focus on what you need to?
We can definitely focus on anything that we need to. The foreground and the background does not matter to us.
That certainly makes it easy for people. Are there any tips on good lighting or anything else that can make your job easier and make the result better?
Definitely natural lighting. I’ve even considered putting on the website now when the updates come out, choosing skin tone themselves so we don’t have to guess if we get a bad quality photo.
Choosing the skin tone, you mean from a drop list of shades?
That makes a lot of sense because it is also hard to tell sometimes when you have a lot of makeup on, what is the real skin tone here? You can have really overexposed shots or underexposed shots and that’s going to change the skin tone significantly.
It helps because we do the other aspect of loved ones that have passed away. In that aspect, it could be a very old photo. Skin color is important at that point as well.
That’s a great detail point. I had this problem. We did a preview of what the table decorations were going to look like. I took a photo of the flowers that were on the table and sent them to one of my aunts who was working on a special gift for Alex. I get back a message from my mom saying, “When did yellow become one of Alex’s colors?” I went, “Oh no, they thought it looked yellow in the shot.” I looked back at the photo and that looked pretty good on my camera, but I didn’t really think about what if her phone that she received it on or the computer she received it on isn’t as good. I should have been clear that it was really ivory and gray and green, what the colors were. I really wasn’t. I just took a photo and thought, “It looks good.” You don’t really think about what it is on the receiving end as well not just the end where you take it.
Any of you, especially guys out there who think color is pretty simple, “I don’t have to worry about the color. I’ll deal with the color at the end.” I’m a guy so I could say this. We don’t pay, in general, that level of detail to color. The reality is when you get into something like the details of a wedding or some other project you’re might be on, you learn that color is not that simple. Yellow is not just yellow. White is not just white. There are thousands of shades of colors and it makes a big difference. Skin I think is a prime example of that. No two skin tones are the same.
Barbara, that’s really what I was really impressed when I saw the figurines and we were impressed by what you’ve done here, is that attention to detail, that quality of color, that richness that happens, which is extremely hard with a lot of the printers. The ProJet is better than others as you mentioned, but for a lot of the printing results end up like, “It’s not as good as I expected it to be.” It’s usually the color quality that is where it falls apart or the fact that it looks like yellowed or just off and that skin tone. The fact that you’ve paid such careful attention here does you a credit because when somebody now holds that in their hand, it was everything they expected it to be.
That’s true, color and I would agree with the speed and the finish of the product itself as well. One thing that we do not want is for you to see every single build up line from the printer itself.
Thank you. Of course, that’s true. It drives me crazy that there are so many in the industry who are like, “That’s just the reality of it.” No, it’s not. It doesn’t have to be like that. It’s not acceptable. The other thing I wanted to mention and point out is the speed. How long does it take for you to do these?
Actually, we got smart. I have partnered with two warehouses so I don’t even do them in house. The partnership, it takes eight hours for them to do a bed of prints and they get six or seven prints on that bed.
Are you scheduling prints such that you’re always filling that bed?
No, because they have partnerships with other people, like Shapeways. Shapeways has multiple partnerships with other people. We don’t even have to worry about that either, of how many we’re sending in to the production site.
They’re pretty much always running so you’re always going to catch an eight-hour print. How long does it take from the time that if I’ve sent you the photos to the time at which I might receive the result?
Ten to fifteen days. It depends on the design need of the photo and then the production schedule.
I actually think that’s very reasonable. This is a custom product. By the way, I love your name, 3DTransformations as a company name. I think it’s a great name. I think that the whole reality of how these are customized, it may seem obvious to you. But I think that that’s a marketing message that is not emphasized enough for consumers, that this is custom. When you order something from Etsy, it’s going to get made to order usually. It’s not sitting in stock. Two weeks from the time you send an order to get delivery, I think is very reasonable.
I know we live in a more instant society where people expect things in two days from Amazon or whatever all the time, but this is not something that you do that. You plan this, you think about this. It’s something you’re doing special. You want to put effort into it, especially if you’re going to give that as a gift. As you pointed out, if this a memorial gift in some way, shape or form, you’re thinking about that. It’s not something you want to do last minute. You’ve thought about it, it’s important to you, you want to memorialize that. Or the weddings, waiting two weeks for something is nothing. We’ve waited a lot longer to do some other things. We wait six months for a dress sometimes.
With that, we add on five days. For weddings, it’s 15 to 20 days because of the inherent back and forth that goes with the process.
You want to make it perfect. That makes sense, totally understandable. I can see people being quite particular in that situation. I’m so glad we got a chance to chat and really see your work and hear how this came about. We want to make sure that you keep in touch with us and let us know how you’re doing and how your business is growing. If there’s anything we can do to help, please let us know.
I appreciate it so much, guys.
High Quality 3D Scanning and Computer Modeling – Final Thoughts
There are a lot of things to be impressed with about Barbara Wood and Inc. columns. The thing that impressed me the most is that, and I don’t know if it’s because she’s a woman, I don’t know if it’s because she’s an engineer who’s very detail oriented, it doesn’t really matter, but she has not considered making any excuses because of the technology. She is using the technology available to her from the capturing of images or using video, photos or 3D scanning and then model making to make the best possible product. She doesn’t have to apologize for it and say, “It’s 3D printing.” She’s using 3D printing as a tool to provide a new viable product. I’m really impressed because every other time that we have encountered somebody doing something similar, there’s usually at some point say, “This is really great considering this or for where the technology is today.” She’s not doing that.
I think that it really is the idea that it’s a means to an end, it’s not the end. The end is not 3D printing. The end is something that I want to care about and hold for the rest of my life. It’s a figurine, it’s a memorial, it’s all of those things. It’s about what it does for you and what it is, not how it’s made. I think that too often, the businesses get caught up in the cool tech of how we’re doing it and over complicate things. That’s what I really like here. You can go from photos, you can go from video, you could go from scan. It doesn’t matter.
I think if you’re anywhere in the Charleston, South Carolina area, maybe as far as Savanna down into Georgia or even up further to Myrtle Beach, and you could go there to be scanned, I probably would. I think it would be fun and I also think that you want it to be as lifelike as possible. If they think they need to take some photos of you, they’re going to take some photos when you’re right there. Maybe it would be just as good result either way, but I certainly think it would be more efficient.
What she’s done here, she’s just made it easy. It’s not about the process of doing it or the technical side or how complicated it might be for them to fix it and do it or making you stand in a particular way so it turns out well so they do less work. No, she’s doing it in what’s the most customer-friendly way. What makes me, at the end of the day, go, “That’s me or that’s my daughter or that’s my pet.” It doesn’t matter what it is.
I do want to touch a little bit more on color because I do think there is a reality of all the 3D printing machines: consumer, commercial, all of them have color limitations. I think that that’s important for us all in this industry to realize. There are color limitations. Some of them are more CMYK printers. Everybody is trying to do color better and well and that’s great. The tech side of the industry needs to keep doing that. But at some point, I think we all, when producing a product, have to make a decision of what’s the end result going to be and is that color acceptable? It’s not about, “Here’s the color in the photograph,” reading that in Photoshop, finding the Pantone color or the HEX color that represents and then making sure that that’s being maintained through the print. I don’t think you can do that. Somebody has to make a visual interpretation from the best quality color, or like she talked about, having a color selector for the skin tone of the model and then trying to achieve that. It’s not about color matching to a certain Pantone throughout. It’s about the visual result and getting as close as you can.
There’s an interesting company that I’ve written about before in one of Inc. columns, Spoon Flower, where you do textile printing. It’s like screen printing on a piece of textile. There are different material choices that you can make. The substrate makes a difference in terms of the quality of how the print comes. Even if you were to choose the same exact Pantone color from one piece to another, you go to print that on a different material and it’s faded or it’s more pastel. It’s not the same everywhere it gets printed.
That’s a reality that you understand if you’re in the industry of textiles. I’ve understood it from day one, the context and how the width that you’re putting on or the material that you’re putting on, the quality of that, the type of prints you make, how it’s printed, it matters to all of those things. You learn those technically. It doesn’t matter, they want the blue that they want. It just needs to come out that way at the end of the day. That’s really what we care about here is that at the end of the day, you’re not doing your customer or your client a service if at the end of the day, they’re going to go, “I asked for blue and this doesn’t look like blue. It looks like sky or green. It looks too yellowed out,” which happens a lot in 3D printing I’ve noticed. You get this yellow cast to it. If at the end of the day, they go, “That’s not really what I wanted,” then you haven’t done a service to them.
If the goal is to get them the color that they want, to get them the realism that they want, then you need to not make excuses for it. You need to say, either they are going to get what they want or they’re not and go make that happen. If that means you have to compensate for it, you have to artistically adjust for it then do that. Make it a manual part because the customer satisfaction at the end of the day will be greater, your sales will be higher and overall your business will be stronger.
It’s up to us in the industry to compensate, have our teams compensate and don’t make excuses for, “This is what the color is and this is the best the machine can do and you really need to just accept that.” As a business, you might want your customer to be happy with that. At the end of the day, your customer wants what they want. I have heard it, I’ve seen it, you get the scan back and I’m like, “What the heck? You didn’t even clean up between the legs. You didn’t do this.” They’re like, “We charge this much more for it.” When you hear that it sounds like, no, I think I hired you to do a scan of me. I expected to see my whole body and not have holes in my knees and missing spots under my legs or big connections under my legs. I expected to see a real scan of me. When you’re not meeting that expectation because the technology is not there and you don’t want to do that much work, then you’re just misleading.
I really think that came across very genuinely from Barbara. She’s approaching it from a customer expectation perspective and she doesn’t make any excuses. She doesn’t need to because she knows her team, once an order comes in, is going to make it what the customer would really naturally expect it to be, because that’s the expectation. It’s not about the technology. It’s about the result and the benefit to the customer. That’s why they’re coming in. That’s really I think such an important business lesson, but such an important tech lesson. We get so caught up in our tech that we build these almost constructs of our own limitations on them. It happens all the time. We believe it’s not better than this. It can’t be better than this. It doesn’t, it can be better than this because somebody has done it.
The tech is awesome. The fact that she’s using the ProJet 660 exclusively because that gets the results that she’s happy with, great. It’s not an FFF 3D printer, okay. That’s the way it is, so what? I imagine they could use one in-house if they’re trying to do a form study or a little test on something that was particularly unusual for what they might normally do, but then they’re going to send it out. Using a service bureau the way she was talking about where somebody else is always going to run a full bed every day, she doesn’t need to own a machine and worry about waiting to print until she has enough things to run. She seems to have dialed in this model of business quite well.
I’m so impressed with 3DTransformations. I think you all should go check them out. We’ll post out images on social media. You can always find us there@3DStartPoint. Thanks for listening, everybody. We’ll be back next time. This has been Tom and Tracy on the WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast.
About Barbara Wood
Barbara is trained in Aeronautical Engineering, with secondary degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics. She is the founder of 3DTransformations, a company that prints 3D pictures.
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