A really exciting development in the retail 3D print world is a Lowes project called Bespoke Designs. It is a proof of concept kind of test run coming out of the Lowe’s Innovation Labs which is right at their Charlotte offices and a partnership between a bunch of 3D printing companies, 3DShook, Voodoo Manufacturing, and then also Digital Forming which we couldn’t get them in time for this show but we are going to do a whole separate show because they need it. It is cool 3D visualization software that is within the website called Bespoke Designs. It is coming to you from Lowe’s and its Chelsea, New York installation of 3D printed services, products, and everything, but you can also buy it on the website
This is a six month test, a six month program that Lowe’s is doing. They have all custom designs exclusive to them created by 3DShook. Voodoo Manufacturing is the company that is doing the 3D print on demand manufacturing and shipping to customers that order them on the website. It also involves a program in the Lowe’s store where people can come in with an out of production part that they need made or something they need duplicated. They scan it and they can have it produced for you for something you couldn’t just get otherwise.
It is quite an interesting program and there is a lot to it. We are going to interview Jasmine Griffin (now Jasmine Evans) from Lowe’s first. She is from Lowe’s Innovation Labs. That is the coolest concept. We will hear from her first then we will hear from Hector Berrebi of 3DShook and then from Patrick Deem of Voodoo Manufacturing.
Listen to the podcast here:
Retail 3D Print on Demand is Here! – Interview with Jasmine Griffin (now Jasmine Evans) from Lowe’s
Jasmine, thank you so much for coming on the show today. We are so excited to talk about this Lowe’s project for retail 3D print on demand.
Yes, thank you guys for having me. We are super excited to be able to talk about it and all the awesome services that we have in our Chelsea location.
How did this come about? Give us some background.
Yes, that is a great question. It would probably be better if I started with Lowe’s Innovation Lab standpoint first and then I can talk about how it is evolved over the past year or so. The labs is actually the destructive hub within Lowe’s home improvement that our tasks as the executives and everyone else around the building; they call us the smart people that think about the future. Basically what that means is what we work with small start-ups and other corporations like Google, Lenovo, and a lot of uncommon partners, people that you would not think that Lowe’s would ever be working with them.
In working with uncommon partners, we partner together to figure out how we can bring disruptive technology into our stores. The cool thing about this process is that we gather information from all across our large campus here in the outskirts of Charlotte and we work with the consumer insights team and we get marketing and trend data. We give that information to licensed science fiction writers. Part of that process, they help us reimagine what the future can look like in 5, 10, and 20 year increments.
Part of that process is that we get live comic books that we can pass out to our executives that really helps us think about what is the story. That story for this project has been being able to think about how people can use 3D printing and 3D scanning as a part of their everyday life. One of the narratives that really came to life for us was with a family that the wife was pregnant. They are thinking about building up their nursery. Their grandmother comes over to their home and she suggests the wife’s baby mobile as something that maybe they can add into their future baby’s room.
And so, the wife was extremely excited about the baby mobile and when her mom brought it over to the house, they are looking at it. One of the key pieces to the mobile was broken. Just reimagining how can there be a way that we can recreate that broken mobile piece. This is something that the wife had when she was a baby. So of course, it is not as easy as going online and trying to just get a replacement part or trying to get a mobile that looks exactly like that, but still bringing in some of those nostalgic memories. The idea and the concept was being able to come to Lowe’s and we had a fix and repair shop inside the store. We were able to scan the broken parts and had it reprinted, they are able to add it to the baby mobile. At the end of the story, the baby mobile is an integral part to the future baby’s room.
That story just kind of goes through a general life changing event that happens with a lot of our customers and being able to leverage the great technology of 3D printing and scanning to the everyday consumer that would not necessarily think about that use. In coming out of that comic book, that shaped what our services are going to look like. We launched our phase one of our project Lung. I probably shouldn’t be telling you about this. Our Lung project is our internal code name for this effort. It is cool. We named it Lung back at April of last year because you can 3D print lungs now and using it in the medical field. That was our codename. Even now, everyone’s like, “Why do you call it lung?”
It’s got to have a cryptic codename or it is just not fun.
Exactly, for sure. Now we need to create a new codename for it, but the first version launched out in Mountain View in partnership with our Orchard Supply Hardware partners. That reigned for 6 months inside the store. We got a lot of great use cases that came out of that, from people driving all the way from Nevada to get out of production parts duplicated. We had an artist that brought in a wooden Chinese dragon puzzle and he needed that duplicated so that his kids can play with it without fear of scratching it and messing up his super expensive puzzle.
Coming out of that, we had so many uses for scanning, so many uses for printing and people wanting to print their own files or things that they got scanned in a multitude of different materials, which lended itself for us to be able to partner with our city center team which is our New York team with Lowe’s. We are able to launch our current offering which is branded Bespoke Designs into our Chelsea location in New York. We launched that in June of this year.
The whole evolution that, funny enough, started off as a comic book and talking about a baby mobile has lended itself to tons of great partnerships that have been able to offer similar services inside of Chelsea and a new market inside of a Lowe’s store.
How cool is that? It is such a great path on it. I am really interested in the aspect of how that is going to translate into transforming the Lowe’s organization from a sales perspective. That interests us the most because for us, that is the story of replacement parts and all that stuff. From a future thinking standpoint, that is old. The new model is a change in retail, which is what is very exciting about what you are doing. But we have worked with mass retail for twenty plus years, almost twenty five years. We have been doing that on and off for twenty five years and we have worked with every major retailer.
The idea of a retailer shifting the way their buying process works, the way their inventory process works, and your organization will have to undergo a complete transformation in the 3D print future. That is the part that we don’t see happening in early stages until you guys have done this in your Bespoke Designs location in Chelsea. So for us, this is super exciting because it is now the first time that we see an organization that is going to have to recognize all the ways they have to change.
How is Lowe’s in general integrating that into a global view with their management structure and their team? How are they integrating what you are working on here and what it means to their future in terms of systems and processing?
A little bit of the labs and what we do; a lot of the things we bring to market is a part of our POC process. We look to make sure that the technology that we are bringing to the stores, making sure that it works and that customers want to use it. That is pretty much what we are testing. This is going to be inside of our stores for 6 months. We are not yet to the point to where we are looking to have a lot of these Bespoke Designs across our entire organization. We are looking to make sure that it is something that works and that we are able to bring this new technology and unlock it in brand new ways for our everyday DIY and pro customer.
That is kind of what our focus is really just understanding how our customers are using this. And then figuring out what the next steps would be after that point.
That is great. I think that a proof of conversation or concept is so critically important in terms of the whole process about whether or not you should do it as an organization. It could happen that it is a great idea and it may seriously transform retail at some point, but Lowe’s may not be the right place for it. To test those two things in combination, that is something we talked about here on the show all the time. That is so critically important and very progressive for you guys. I am so impressed by that.
Yes, that is great. Everything that comes out of the labs, we really our main goal is to get it out to the world and test it and see how it evolves after that point. The cool thing is that we have a lot of great sponsors and great support all across the organization, top down, to challenge us to get it out there and see what the response is. It doesn’t have to be something that we roll out to all the stores initially, and just see how the story evolves. How it all started with the baby mobile, that narrative, can transcend in a bunch of different ways just like what we saw when we are out in Mountain View and Orchard.
It is exciting to get this in front of customers and see how they will be able to take advantage of the technology.
I can’t wait. We will be heading to New York in November and we will definitely make a stop there.
Awesome that sounds great. Even if you are not able to go inside the store, we do have our website as well where customers are able to choose from over 30 items that they can customize and working with 3DShook our great partner. They actually designed all the products that we have on our website today. These are available exclusively for our Lowe’s customers. It ranges from home decor, urban garden, as well as office tools. You can go online and view those objects. And also in partnership with the Digital Forming Solutions, they provided our online customizer. Not only do you get to see a really slick 3D rendering of the item itself, but you can integrate text. We have custom wall hooks where you can build out if you want to say “Hazz” anything you can imagine, you can create custom wall hooks.
This customizer allows you to be able to also personalize it in a way that is never been done before. Even if you see this really cool vase but if it doesn’t fit the needs of your urban garden if you are in New York, but you have the option of being able to elongate the neck of the vase or widen the base. There are a lot of cool customization options that are unlocked for our customers on our website by way of Digital Forming.
That is a very cool system that you got there. They’ve done a fabulous job in making it streamlined.
Yes, they have been great partners.
The visualization of the objects being able to turn them around, that is different from what we have seen on other websites that are presenting products. I have a question about Bespoke Designs. Where does that name come from? Is that another company or is that just a brand within Lowe’s? Can you tell us about that?
Yes, it came out from us needing to make an identity for our 3D printing and scan inside of the Chelsea store. We wanted to really highlight that it is about making something unique for the customer. It is the play on Bespoke being custom. It is custom design. Whether it is creating your own customized product, adding your name, or creating these unique wall hooks, or whether it is coming into the store and being able to scan something you need replicated and be able to produce in a multitude of different materials and something that is uniquely yours.
That is the idea behind creating an identity for our solution with it being custom.
What are some of the measurements for success coming out of this for you guys?
Great question. Like I previously said with the labs, our base standard of success is, “Did it work inside the store?” Considering that every test that we do is inside of a Lowe’s store. We have a standard point of sale system, did we crash everything or did it work? Or what is the customer’s reception of it? Did we have customers? What are the customers saying about the services? Those types of things are baseline for the labs. In addition to that, we are really excited on what are the use cases for it?
We can imagine and think of all these types of uses that customers would have. But we have so many different types of customers that walk through those doors every single day and being able to like, unlocking this technology for their use and allowing them to use it in ways that are unimaginable; are the key learnings that we are trying to come out of this.
One of the things that I want to applaud you on is the value pricing. I don’t mean that it is cheap or anything like that. I think it is priced exactly right for the market for what it is, for the specialness that it is. Where too often that we’ve seen these tests come out Target did one with Shapeways a couple years ago for ornaments, and they were ridiculously expensive, $60 ornaments for these tiny plastic things. For you guys to have very nice designs at what is a very reasonable market base price was so smart. I really applaud that because you haven’t setup a perception and a mindset that 3D printing has to be more expensive. You also haven’t set it up so it fails, because it is either too cheap or too expensive.
Yes, we are really excited that we were able to offer the type of pricing that we have with the help of our great partners. We are partnering with Voodoo Manufacturing, they are local. They are able to print these files and get them shipped out from their lab within two days. We are also partnering with ExOne who is in Philadelphia and they also provided us competitive pricing for our metal prints. That is how we are able to do it.
We have some great partners that believed in the services that we want to offer to our customer. We are all coming to this together. We want to make this affordable and not cost priced to be a barrier to entry for our customers to be able to explore, play, and really unlock the possibilities of 3D printing. Thank you for saying that. We also heard the same exact sentiments from our customers coming in the store. They say that this is affordable and the quality really looks good. We are really excited about that.
Jasmine, tell us about the website though. Why have you guys made this on a special website or web URL that is not the Lowe’s main site? Can you help us understand that?
The main idea for that was because it is a six month test. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t have anything fully integrated with Lowe’s and for us to completely remove ourselves after six months for there to be that disappointment there. That was really why we just decided to keep it separate and apart. We are going to be running a series of tests to see at different points in times, being able to have an add on Lowe’s for a short period of time to see if we can leverage the Lowe’s brand and offering the service to our Lowe’s customer.
Okay. We have seen some other big box retailers do a test of customized 3D printed products, and because their normal customer can’t search in the normal search of their main website, the 3D printed ones don’t come up alongside other items that they are selling, so consumers don’t really know that the special section of the website is there. It then reflects poorly on the metrics of success because it doesn’t have the full power of the brand behind it.
I think that is a product success rather than an overall program view. Form a product success standpoint, if you are not comparing, “Would someone buy a 3D printed version of it with customizable features over another door hanger or a plant?” Anyone of those things when they are not comparing them against what is in your existing offering, you don’t necessarily have the viewpoint of, is it of market value? That is really why that question comes about.
Okay that is definitely fair. For our first test, we had items for sale, and those same exact items were in the store. It was hard for customers to really say, “Okay, I am willing to get it 3D printed,” even if it is customized versus going it in the shelf and picking it up and walking it on the store with the purchase in hand.
For this time around, we made sure that there were items that were not currently available in the store. That was also the thought that were not looking to compare to see, okay, we have these coasters. Are we selling more of the Lowe’s traditional manufactured coasters versus the customizable 3D printed ones? So it is more around the overall learning that we are trying to get versus comparing it against what we have on .com.
So it is a very early research and testing. I get it. Just a final question, what do you think in this, it doesn’t have to be Lowe’s view but it can be your personal view, what do you think really is holding back or it is going to take in the 3D printing world to really help it become part of our mainstream culture?
What we have learned in our focus groups and different neuroscience and research studies is that when they hear 3D printing, they think it’s cool. But they are not able to think about it in functional and tactical ways. If they are able to see it in a way where it takes out technology, it is more solution agnostic, but it is meeting their needs in a new way. If it is faster and it is meeting their needs exactly versus just picking up something and saying, “Okay, this will do,” versus, “This is exactly what I needed.” I think that is a way for it to really take off.
Some of the feedback that we got and heard recently about 3D printing is they are concerned about the durability of it. That is going to have to shift. That will really take off when they are able to get in the idea around the different types of materials that can come out of a 3D printer. It is still a concept that people find hard to grasp. Speaking about it across the campus here when we were trying to kick it off and get it launched inside Lowe’s, there were several people that honestly were saying, “Is it printing on a piece of paper and then you cut it out and paste it together?” So it is still a hard concept for people to grasp.
When we break down some of those knowledge barriers and get past the tactical things and something where 3D printing unlocks your ability to create something custom and unique just for you, I think that that is where it can take off.
Thoughts on Retail 3D Print on Demand is Here! – Interview with Jasmine Evans from Lowe’s
I really love that interview. I love hearing about how progressive that are about retail 3D print on demand but also how smart they are in doing their proof of concept in phases and really checking it out, when you are talking about something so advanced and future thinking. As she really pointed out, the market is not neurologically ready to receive it completely yet. You have to really start testing things out in phases if you are going to be ready for that big of a disruptive change.
It really is educational for me especially. We have dealt with mass market retail for many years. There is rarely been an opportunity to do and to try something so radically different from what their systems are all built around. It really shows you how hard it is and how slowly mass market retail has to move in terms of bringing in this new technology somehow to be relevant for their customers.
This is the thing, we talk to people all the time and we say tipping into mass retail ten years out, people are like, “Oh no, 3D printers are being sold and all of this.” The reason is how slow the system is going to move and how many things have to happen and have to change and have to flux and have to learn what to do to accommodate. It is just too many things to expect to happen that quickly.
There maybe are ways retail 3D print on demand could happen more quickly. You couldn’t involve customized things where the consumer can make it their way. You need to do things that are more on the shelf, and does that make sense? You have to fit it with their normal systems. I love what they are doing there and I am really excited about how they are doing retail 3D print on demand. I am just as excited to hear about Hector Berrebi about how 3DShook went about designing these items, and all the challenges that they face. You and I know how challenging it is to design for mass retail. I am interested to know how much time they spend on these designs and some of that process. Let’s go and hear from Hector next.
Retail 3D Print on Demand is Here! – Interview with Hector Berrebi from 3DShook
Hector, it is great to have you on the show again. We are really excited to learn about this new program going on at Lowe’s, with I think – Have all the products that have been designed are by 3DShook?
Yes, thanks for having me again. It is great to be on your show. I loved the last time, it was great. I listened to that episode like three times. It was my first time on a podcast. It is exciting.
A lot of people don’t want to listen to themselves.
I got comments from people who commented on the 3DShook website that they heard the podcast. It was really cool.
That is great. A lot of our guests don’t want to listen to themselves. They get weirded out by it. I ask them if they listened to their episode and heard what we said about them. They said that they didn’t listen.
I was so weirded out by it, but I still listened.
The designs are great. You should be really proud of them. There’s a lot of designs on there. How many designs total?
It fluctuated. I am not sure if I remember, but let’s see. There are two sets of letter hangers that are full sets. So a full letter set plus numbers plus all the grammatical signs, and a few icons that are popular which you can get as a wall hanger or just as a letter set. There is two sets of that and each set has 40 or 45 models.
Maybe a bit more. There is the collection that we did which is also something between 28 and 32 pieces. I need to go over the Lowe’s website and see all the pieces they decided to put out eventually. But it is about that. Then I think there is 6 or 5 products that have customization options that are not colors, which also is a topic. Initially Lowe’s – I think their first approach was that all the products can go through their customizing engine where people can just write text and put textures and play around. We disagreed. We weren’t willing to do that because we told them that it goes against design in many aspects.
If somebody works hard, if you took us as the content partner on the project and you trust our design judgement, and if we design something in a certain way and we give it a certain texture and we work on it, we don’t want someone to play around and throw what ever he wants on it, even if it limits freedom. So we offered them to add to the collection about 5 or 6 items that are meant to be customized where it’s fun to customize, and it makes sense to customize. They didn’t argue. It wasn’t an argument. They agreed with our call on that.
So glad to hear that. The Digital Forming power viewer that they have on the site really shows that off well and highlights it. It would be a shame not to have some pieces like that. It is a good call on both that parts. I definitely think that was the right call, you can’t let the consumer have the ability to redesign everything. There is a place for customization.
I think that in the past, there were a few examples of companies that went down that path, both in food and in clothing. There was a company where you could customize your jeans and they had these crazy stores where you can add all that stuff to your jeans. They didn’t survive. I don’t think people when they purchase something are interested in messing with it too much. It is not the point. For most people, for most general population of consumers.
Yes. Boy, I tell you, some of these designs are beautiful. I really like the nest plant hanger. That is a really beautiful design. I like how it is combining a couple of parts. It is just an elegant form. I would hate to have that altered by a texture. That is such a beautiful pure form there.
I agree. This whole collection was the design team worked on it, but it was headed by Tal Mor our head designer. This nest planter is very much in his spirit of treating design and understanding design. Tal likes simple lines, stuff that blends together well, and is very basic but with a twist that is complex. This parts that hangs, the printing direction makes it very strong. It’s deceiving, it looks weak, but it is very strong and will hold a plant.
We actually tested all of the items with our limited abilities. We are not a testing facility, but we did our best to test them as much as we could. We put plants in them; put them all over the office.
Let’s talk a little bit about that, the challenge of designing these. This is a comprehensive undertaking. Tom and I know from our design experience the amount of hours it takes and the intensity it takes to go through this including some of the testing that you referred to. How was it for your team and for you?
Harder than usual, because we usually make things that people will print at home and not buy printed. If they buy it printed from someone, then it is their call. It wasn’t our intention. We test everything; we have pictures of everything on our website. But it is after all made for 3D printing, for home consumption. The whole idea is if it breaks then you print it again. My wife uses one of the hangers that we have for jewelry and once in a while it breaks. So I just print a new one. That is the whole cool part of 3D printing. We can’t ignore it, that is why we went into this business.
Suddenly, you have to design stuff that is going to be 3D printed in FDM where we don’t have the control over the printing process. I understand you already talked to Patrick, but that is their thing to do. You guys have enough hours of 3D printing to know that so many things can go wrong in a 3D print that is beyond the model and how it was designed – the positioning on the plate, if it lifted a little bit, maybe some support failed but you kept printing it and then it is weaker at some point, and then maybe it is the filament that is so old so it is more brittle. There are so many different conditions; the infill, the slicer that you use, the printers and how they are taken care of, what is their condition? Beyond all that, these products have to be pretty and attractive and desirable.
They had to be to Lowe’s standards because it is not that they told us to just go design. They picked stuff from our website as a reference. They said we would like to have a collection with this kind of products. So they picked 60 products from the website and that was the first direction that the designers got as a guide.
That seems really common. That is how it works for the regular product development industry. That is the process by which they work by which they reference something that they have already done and seen before, and then you go to the next level with it.
We started by suggesting, and I am still really sad that it didn’t pull through. We started by suggesting them a lighting project, not where the only product that we are going to sell is 3D printed lamp shades for our very big lamp shade collection. So we thought we would make an optimized lamp shade that prints very fast and is very strong and has 50 or 40 different patterns and designs. That they will find some light fixture with a LED light inside and basically sell them in the lighting department. I still think that something about lamp shades is kind of cool.
We have a collection we have done, so we know what you are talking about.
I like the collection, and I love the collection we did for Lowe’s. It is really cool. But it does shoot in many directions. It is not very focused, which is also something good. New York is not a focused city. Chelsea store is a very diverse place with very diverse clients. It does hit on many different tastes and styles, which is probably a good thing. The lamp shade thing ran into too many problems with getting the right approval from the different departments, the lighting departments, the electric departments, what pieces it’s all going to have. It all became this corporate issue and I can understand. This is how it works.
So once the lamp shades didn’t go through, it became this collection that became what we are going to offer, the wall hangers, the letter hangers which are cool by themselves. Did you see the little gizmo that Digital Forming did where you can type?
Yes, absolutely. We loved that.
Did you talk to them? They did a great job.
Not yet. No, but we have them scheduled to come on
I think it is amazing that I didn’t get to write them since this website was on. They did such a great job.
Yeah, we noticed that too. It is very impressive way to really visualize the entire object before you would buy it. We thought the same thing that we should talk with the guys and interview them on the show at some point. Back to the products themselves, the collections are very nice and I think there are a lot of great pieces there. Personally, I like the little stash item for your keys, phone, and change, or whatever you might have. I think that is great.
Oh that one. Yes, it is great. This one went through like five generations for the Lowe’s collection. I am happy it did because all the other four are going to the 3D show collection. They are the half brothers that weren’t good enough.
Sure. I probably need two of these. I’d like to mount them on the wall, and I like the different parts of it with a hint of other color. They are great items. I think Lowe’s missed an opportunity with the lamp shades. I understand, I do. Believe me. We understand all too well the bureaucracies at these stores. It is interesting, I hope that this program is very successful and I think there is every reason to think that it will be. I think that for the reality of 3D printing to get out to regular consumers, and for them to understand how it can benefit them, I think that programs like that lamp shade program you are talking about have to happen.
The retailers are going to have to change their paradigms and think differently about how to bring products to market. It is unfortunate to hear that tale because what it really is, is old school thinking in what is decidedly a new school world here.
I agree. I can tell you that the Innovation Lab was really for it. The people we were working with were all for it. The people that made it complicated, I guess were just doing their jobs. I mean, I don’t think that it was a malevolent thing and not even a bad taste thing, it was more of a…
It is a paradigm shift problem is what we see.
They are not just used to working that way. They don’t have metrics for this. They don’t understand how to re-price and re-measure and rethink about a zero inventory world. They haven’t grasped that yet, that is going to come from the top down.
That is what we call it, VI, the virtual inventory.
Yes, virtual inventory, I love that. It is going to take the different parts and categories at Lowe’s realizing, “Wait a second.” Or maybe it is higher up financial people to say, “Wait a second, I don’t have to tie up all these dollars in inventory in every store in order to deliver product to my consumers?”
They are offering this in 20 colors. There is about 2,000 different SKUs added to the store without one box of inventory; without shelves, without big trucks shipping it, and storage houses storing it and a lot of cardboard being wasted, boats, the green house effect.
We cannot agree more. That is the future.
When we were talking to Lowe’s and I don’t know how it ended up being, but the people in the Innovation Lab, and Jasmine that we worked with are great and they are visionaries. We are talking about that even the shipping or the drop shipping can be done by bicycle. It would turn these products to the product with the lowest carbon footprint possible because it is made locally in Brooklyn from PLA which is biodegradable and it is shipped by bicycle to your house. It is made on demand or says thank you.
The hardest parts in the testing, first of all there are a lot of products that are not here because of the testing. The hardest part in the testing was testing the letter hooks and the wall hangers because these are meant to be used by people and not just light usage but heavy usage. If you put your pens in something it is one thing, but if you hang your coat on something, it is a totally different story. You can come in and put your coat on it or put it lightly or pull it down a little bit. It changes everything because this is layers, and it is 3D printing after all. It has a different kind of fatigue and different kind of tolerance on the plastic and how long it takes before it starts wiggling inside.
We ended up, like, having countless versions of the hook system which is a two part system. It doesn’t print in one piece because it is impossible to print these hooks in one piece. It is a two part system where they click the hook in and the little hooks that the little pins that gets pushed in are meant to be printed at 70% in fill or something very high like that. The whole structure and inner structure of the leather is designed to support that little pin.
It ended up that the simple letters that are based on fonts that are actually like public domain free fonts, were the most complicated part in the collection. They ended up being the part that we worked the longest hours on and did the highest amount of testing. We had like rows of them on the wall with heavy stuff hung on them for days to see when they would break and what the limit to put on it is.
That is great. I think that not enough people think that way. As you are doing products that are sold at retail to regular consumers, you absolutely have to make sure the products are going to be safe. Testing is a critical thing. I think that is one area that among products on Etsy and in other with just downloadable free files that people are printing.
If you are going to sell something or give it away, it is a wild west out there in terms of liability and concerns over integrity of how the product is sliced, the infill percentage. So many things come in to play. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is probably having nightmares as more and more…
Thinking about 3D printing.
Yes, it is very hard to verify and control. I am really pleased.
It is, I will tell you another anecdote. One of the biggest issues in this whole testing and safety and liability thing was that we didn’t want to take liability because we didn’t print it.
That makes sense.
Initially we told them that we will open the printing centers and we will take it on our selves, but then we pulled back because it wasn’t the lamp shades. We wanted to do something that was specifically meant for the lamp shades. We were already talking to different printer manufacturers to find the printer that can print the lamp shade in the fastest possible way with the best results and running tests in different countries and getting back results.
As soon as it became multiple products it made so much more sense to have a big company like Voodoo to take care of it. From that point on, it didn’t make sense for us to be liable for these products because we made a file. As much as we tested that file, there are still so many factors that we have absolutely no control over. No insurance company wanted to insure us. They require us to have insurance for this project, like they required with probably every supplier that works with them. No insurance company – international or Israeli – was willing to even understand what we were talking about.
They were like, “What? So wait, explain it again. You are selling them a file and we are supposed to insure the file?”
We have the same problem.
We told them that we are willing to be liable that the file doesn’t infringe someone’s copyright and it doesn’t have viruses.
Right, that is a tough situation. We went through the same problem with an insurance company, actually many insurance companies. They just blanket refused anything in 3D printing. That is kind of how it went. They said, “We are not insuring anything in the 3D printing world unless you are a manufacturing facility, and we can inspect your facility.” We were like, “Well that defeats the purpose. Why would you want one?” That is one of the reasons why we don’t sell designs right now. It is a liability and a big problem. We just decided we weren’t at that stage so we weren’t going to go into it deep.
We believe in a revolution. We are going to shake things up.. We are talking right now with other retailers that are very big in Europe to do a similar project, not as a pilot but in multiple stores. Europeans may be a bit more lenient with everything that has to do with liabilities, and lawsuits, and insurance. This is a very American thing to go through.
I know it is. It is sad really. We know that so well because we come from the product design world so we came from knowing that first. Before we started 3D printing, in our minds, the testing kept adding up. The insurance industry has to catch up with technology. That is always the way. If there isn’t a box they can check on their form that, “Oh this is your type of business, you fit in my model and I can give you insurance,” then it is very hard. We actually found that there are insurance companies out there that will take the risk and understand that it is limited.
Send me the link! We would love to know who. We were like desperate at some points. We thought that this was not going to go through because of that, and it is another point where I can say Lowe’s was really cool. They said, “We understand and we get it. Let’s move on, let’s move forward.”
We would be happy to share with you information on what we found on insurance. It has probably changed a bit because when we looked at it, literally was at least a year and a half ago. But anyway, what do you think will be the measure of success for this program six months down the road? What will you be happy with?
I am already happy. I am, because this happened. It is a big store of a big chain. It is a very big chain. They took on the challenge of doing this and not in a small store somewhere, and not for a few weeks, and not with two products, but with full line products with a big printing facility and they put up a website, and they did it in a big city. The fact that it happened is by itself so awesome. In ten years, so many stores will have a local manufacturing facility that will make on demand products for them. This is going to be everywhere. It started here. This is huge There is a door in this long corridor that leads to a brave new world, we just need to find it and open it.
Thoughts on Retail 3D Print on Demand is Here! – Interview with Hector Berrebi of 3DShook
Wow that was challenging for them. That was a big undertaking in a short period of time. That was a lot of work. I think they did admirably in terms of the design. I think the pricing was great. I do think the pricing is good for sure and better than what we have seen on some other programs in the last year that have been another launch or test of some sort. I think that Hector says he is already satisfied with, we asked him “What the measure is for success?” He is already satisfied and I am glad. But I really hope to see that after six months, that it has really been a success not just form a marketing perspective and pushing the edge of the envelope and all of that, but in a real sense that there are actually consumers that find value and purchase these things, whether it’s one of the products that 3DShook has designed or using the scanning services for an out of production part.
I think the culmination between receptions of what customers think about something but also whether or not they actually use, it is one thing to be a looky-loo and check this stuff out, and maybe buy a 3D printed product to take it home feel it and put it on a shelf. If you have people coming back and doing it again or they buy something again, that is really cool, they take it home and start using it a little more.They start thinking about it and then they come back and decide to do something custom next time.
When you have repeats like that, that to me, would be the measure of success, even if it is just a very small set of customers. If they not only try it, but then convert to using it, now you have really something that can take off. Or if they try one out, bought something for themselves and then they come back and buy something as a gift for someone, or rave review it out there to get other people to do this.There is a bunch of different ways that can happen, what would be considered conversion. I want to use conversion, and not a sale conversion, but a conversion of someone believing in 3D printing type of conversion.
Now let’s talk about the delivery of these items. You and I know that is a challenge. 3D printing is not as fast from a manufacturing stand point, it is certainly not as quick as being on a shelf. We know because we have used Patrick Deem and Voodoo Manufacturing for our own purposes. They did a great job there. I am interested what they have to say about the challenges that they faced.
Retail 3D Print on Demand is Here! – Interview with Patrick Deem of Voodoo Manufacturing
Patrick, thank you so much for joining us today on WTFFF, we are really excited to talk to you about this new program we have heard about at Lowe’s.
Thanks so much. I appreciate it. We are very excited about the program and excited to talk to you about it.
Help our audience understand this is this a test program right now or just one store at Manhattan?
Yes, basically Lowe’s Innovation Labs launched a trial at their store in Chelsea on 19th Street and 6th Avenue in New York. Their customers have the ability to bring in physical objects and get scanned and working either with us, or their other partner ExOne, get them 3D printed. You can bring in an antique, get it scanned and reproduced, or a part that you are looking for, anything. That is one half of it.
The other half is Lowe’s is launching the Custom Collection. There are a number of different items that can be purchased through their website that can be customized whether to add text, or change the size, or anything like that. We are producing all of those. They are made with PLA. We do the manufacturing here in Brooklyn.
Great, that is cool. Tell us about how this came about. This is a partnership between many companies for retail 3D print on demand.
It was really fortuitous actually, Jasmine Griffin Evans at Lowe’s Innovation Labs reached out to us originally with an interest in this, maybe earlier this year, March or April. We talked about our interests in doing this and one of the things that we really believe in at Voodoo Manufacturing is the future of digital manufacturing. This is what we built our company around and this played into that. We were super excited and Lowe’s is really the first company that we’ve come across that really wanted to put a lot of marketing muscle behind it and really kind of create a market place for 3D printed products.
The initial collection in the website is a variety of different things for home and office. It fits with a lot of the things that Lowe’s generally sells. It seemed like a perfect first wave of 3D printed products that is available for purchase at retail 3D print on demand. We were just excited to be part of it and to be the fulfillment partner.
While this is a physical store test in Manhattan, anybody can go on to the website, look at these products and order something.
Yes, the website is LowesBespokeDesign.com. Through that you have the ability to shop the collection, so if you aren’t in Manhattan, if you don’t have the ability to get to the store and see the physical display and get something scanned,you can also purchase anything from the collection anywhere in the country. We fulfill it and ship it to you.
When did this program launch where people could go into the store and scan the old parts and have it made for them?
It began three weeks ago. It was a soft launch kind of a trial and then it really, about two or three weeks ago the store that Lowe’s was waiting to reset the store, make the area to where it is happening to look more open. It was completed last week. It will be up for six months. The trial is slated to last for six months.
So it is a six month trial. It is good. They are giving it enough time. Retailers, in our experience, are very impatient about test results. This one requires more time than their usual. Normally, literally, when we design a product in mass market retail, if it doesn’t do well in two weeks. It is done. Glad to hear you guys get six months on it. You need it.
Yes, we think so too. We think there is a market here but people are used to the idea of paying for 3D print products getting used to being aware of the offering by Lowe’s. It is kind of what needs to be accomplished and it takes a little bit of time. We have that opportunity.
We were really surprised as we were flipping through a couple of the designs like the garden stakes. It is really low cost. The cost are really good for most things. What do you think about that?
I’m glad that you think they are a good cost. We think that FDM printing using PLA can be a viable manufacturing option for a number of different things. Hopefully this test will help illustrate that. We are comfortable with the pricing here. Lowe’s is comfortable with it. I am glad that you as a consumer find that it is definitely affordable and that it is workable. There is a fear that things are going to be too expensive. But I definitely believe that it is fair pricing especially for customized objects.
That is what I was talking about, those personalized ones. It is really the case of Lowe’s has to rethink their pricing structure. That has actually been harder than the consumer’s structure. From a consumer standpoint we want it the way we want it. If we are interested in something that is personalized, we are willing to pay for it. Etsy is an example of that. You go on Etsy and you are paying twice as much as you would pay on Amazon or someplace like that for an object that is a generic version of that thing.
In this case, you guys have got some pricing on here that is very competitive from an overall market. You are still coming up with personalized choices. I think that is fantastic.
Oh thanks, I really appreciate it. I am glad with the positive feedback on the price. Obviously, at the end of the day, that is an issue because it is a business. Trying to figure out what people are willing to pay is always an effort. I’m glad that in your mind it is a good price. We hope that other consumers will feel the same way. The idea of having a customized object at your door is pretty fascinating.
It is a product and a story. Right? It is like a coffee table book where the reason it is there is because there is a story to it. It is the same thing with the objects right now. One day it will be just common practice. You won’t know what is 3D printed and what is not. Right now it is still a story involved in having purchased that.
Yes, we hope so. I think ultimately, and 3DShook has designed these items, and we are doing the production. I think they create fascinating objects that hopefully the people will find it easily. For example, the two penguins in an igloo that are keychain holders, a couple of people have already ordered those. I think it’s a really neat, cute design that definitely has a story around it and is a conversation piece if you pull it out.
I think this is an early version of digital manufacturing, it is what Voodoo is build around, you look at the way the world is going with H&M, Zara, Fast Fashion – shortening design times and getting it to the consumer faster. We think that that is only going to increase. This is the front end of it, and this kind of manufacturing technology, 3D printing improved, you know the number of things that are going to be available to the consumer will increase. I am super exited to be part of the early end of that, and bringing 3D printing products to the consumer.
We share the same exact mind share on that. In this particular case though and in your business in general, you are so reliant on your retail partner to making this successful for you whether it is marketing program, their advertising, and how they are getting the message out there. There are a lot of challenges to being successful and it is not just the supply side which you guys do really well. How are you feeling about this test going? What do you need to make it successful?
It is two things. The first, just to touch briefly on the supply side, we worked a lot with Lowe’s with 3DShook around the designs to make sure that everything was kind of optimized for printability. So that we can give a consistent result off the build plate or we are going to be able to send something to the consumer and they are going to be happy with it. It is going to be the minimum amount of effort on our end to clean it or anything like that. We have great products in the first place.
The second biggest feat is awareness. We are working with Lowe’s around that and trying things on our own to kind of increase awareness. I do think that the sort of thing is there are items on here that are very cheap, overall I think the entire collection is very affordably priced. But there is somethings that people can get their toe in the water with 3D printing and get a sense of what it is like. Really, we e are just trying to drive awareness. With the price, people will be more willing to experiment with it. That is our biggest stumbling block right now. We have a couple different things hoping to launch to help drive a little bit more awareness about the program.
Good, you are going to need to help it do yourself. Unfortunately, we can’t rely on our retailer that is the way that it is in the regular product world. Why would it be any different in here too?
Lowe’s is definitely been supportive about this. They are a great partner to work with. Who doesn’t know Lowe’s? We also have probably better connections within the 3D printing communities so we are going to try to really get the word out there with the thought leaders and just try to make some other people aware, that might be a little bit more inclined to take the look. Over time, it will spill over into a larger population.
I don’t think that is a bad method. It is probably the right way to go for you right now. These raving fans are the ones that touch the most people.
I personally really like that these products are made in FFF process because that is the process that touches so many people in this industry already. You don’t have to have a much more expensive commercial machine to think about making these things. The point here is to sell these products to people and not necessarily give them ideas to go and make their own.
But it really does demonstrate the practicality and the realities of using 3D printing for end use products. Personally, I really applaud that. I do think it’s got to go beyond the 3D converted already if it is going to be ultimately successful at retail. We got to get consumers who don’t understand 3D printing into this in order to make it work. What do you think?
Yes, I think that is definitely true. I think part of what Lowe’s and Lowe’s Innovation lab is trying to accomplish with this is to create common products for the home and office so that it is not just preaching the converted but there would be the average person who is like, “Oh you know what, I am looking for a pen holder or something that I can use to wrap up the headphones from my iPhone.” They are very accessible products for the average consumer. They can dip their toe in the water and get a sense of, “Oh this is a 3D printed product. It feels different from the normal sort of stuff I can buy. It is cool and I got a story about it and the product as well.”
There needs to be more options but I think it should be the right product. People do buy a lot of things for their home and offices that are a little bit cheaper and to sort of experiment with, and to make the products we have here works well with that. One of the things about 3D printing is that it is very finicky – as you guys and other people in the community well know. What we try to do at Voodoo, that is our job basically to make sure that they have constant qualities.
We are trying to – whatever comes out of the factory is having the level of quality so that people aren’t getting a mess in their hands. We work with Lowe’s and 3DShook to create products that print well and we try to create the best possible product so that the end consumer will be able to judge it, not just a 3D printed product, but a product that happens to be 3D printed but otherwise it is indistinguishable in their mind from something else that they may buy.
The interesting thing though, and this is where my hesitation on the success that you could achieve, I agree with you that these are products that fit right into what is standard offered out there. The problem is that this site is separated from the Lowe’s offering in general. Until you get into that integrated level where 3D printed products are sitting right next to the other products in the line, you don’t have a comparison. When you don’t have that comparison side by side to say, “Okay, I see this one. Yes, this one is plastic and this one is whatever.” It sounds like a drawback right now. The reality is 90% of the products we buy at retail is plastic anyway, is just a different type of plastic.
In comparison, I actually think that people will choose the 3D printed products because of the customizable options on a lot of them, the fact that they can have more colors than Lowe’s would carry in their standard line. There are a lot of reasons that makes them choose it. Until you integrate it and you don’t separate them, it makes it difficult for your average consumer to get views on that. I say average not because they are average people but because the general population of consumers.
I think that is a great point. You are right, this is a separate website. I think it is initially the focus was on Lowe’s Innovation Lab, what they are up to, and to really say this is an offering of that. Obviously the expectations are a little bit different than if Lowe’s decides to stock the products in it’s store like a hammer for example. They are looking at how many hammers they are looking to sell, but they are looking in a very different number of 3D print products. Part of their belief is that if it is like this, then it would be that people who are more inclined to buy 3D print products would know where to find them and buy in a way that is tailored to them. We all hope that this spills over the general population. I think, at least initially, part of the hook so to speak, would be that it is a section of 3D printed products. I think that yeah, I’d love to see it that someday where everything is on the website and like it is now, you have no idea where our products are coming from.
I think there is a lot of additional interest on 3D printing and it take a little bit more education on behalf of the producer of the consumer, so that that consumer understands why the product is 3D printed and what exactly that means. They try to accomplish that with the separate site. Hopefully, assuming that the trial expectations, in hopefully someday that is not the too distant future, these products will be rolled out to the Lowe’s website in general.
That would be the goal. We love to have you back Patrick, maybe in December and give us a wrap up of how things went, how things are going, and where it might be going next. Open invitation to let us know when you are ready to come back.
I really appreciate that. I love talking to you guys and love talking about 3D printing. I can talk until your eyes are rolling in the back of your head.
I think we do that here. Thanks Patrick, we appreciate your time on how this partnership for retail 3D print on demand came about.
Thank you for reaching out. If you love talking in the future, just let me know.
We will do. Thank you.
Thoughts on Retail 3D Print on Demand is Here! – Interview with Patrick Deem of Voodoo Manufacturing
That was great of Patrick to spend some time with us on the record of everything that they are doing. I have been a big fan of theirs for a while, before we have used them to make some of our own stuff. They do a very good quality job, as good a job as I would so myself on a print. They are using Makerbot Replicator 2’s, these are FFF production.
We unfortunately didn’t talk to ExOne, who Jasmine mentioned as being the metal provider. But we also both know that the metal production is so dialed in and that’s very common use of it. It is not difficult in any way or any more challenging. We didn’t seek out their interview either. But I think we can do that in the future. I think it is time to do another metal printing episode.
Probably is, but I think three interview guests in one episode is enough. I think this is such a cool fun thing to bring out to you guys; it is an interesting thing to see someone doing such a global collaborative test which is really impressive. That is a lot of companies to collaborate together to work towards trying something they all basically took margin hits here and there to make the pricing right which is really smart from a marketing standpoint because if this doesn’t work then it doesn’t go into mainstream. This is something we talk about with our entrepreneurs that we educate all the time, that you must look at these early tests and not hamper them with “Oh my gosh, they have to be 5X or they have to be this kind of profitability margins.”
You cannot look at them this way. When you are doing a proof of concept, you need to go in and give it market pricing and do that as a test because otherwise you muddy your test and you make it highly likely for failure. But at the same time, I think that you have to have a way to not just think about it in the future but to test now that is going to actually pay the company that creates the designs properly for creating those designs. You are not going to get good designs if you don’t pay for it. I worry that that is another problem.
Here is why that is. Think about it in the model of today. In the model of today’s world, they skip design in consumer products; they shop and buy the product. That product has a lot of cost built in to it for delivery, storage, transportation. There is a whole lot of cost built in there that will not be there on a retail 3D print on demand world. When you are in a retail 3D print on demand world, now you have money that you have just freed up that you can use for design. There has to be enough retail 3D print on demand to make that viable. You have to be taking enough volume out of your storage facility and out of your transportation line; you have to be at a world that you can do that. The only way you can do that is to test it today at the market price it needs to be.
I am glad they are doing it. I am worried that there are still chicken and egg reality of a situation here that I understand why Lowe’s is doing what they are doing and I am sure that the corporation as whole doesn’t want to integrate this program into their main website and then pull it out six months later, that would be a problem they have to deal with. I still think they are not going to get a real market test reality numbers back from the website portion of it.
I am sure from the store in New York; they will get good numbers for who comes in the store to purchase things or use the scanning or whatever that is there. That makes sense. You are not going to get a real world web test if you are not on their main website.
But I don’t think they are ready for a web test yet. That is not their stage they are at. They are still testing out the viability customer feedback in the use cases. “Where do we want to fit it in the store from a used case perspective? What are the people most interested in printing?” I think it is just too early talking about it that way. You also have to think of it that Lowe’s has invested heavily on its Innovation Lab. Hector and 3DShook has investors and they have invested in the model at which they better be prepared to not be making money for a while.
That is what it is going to take. Right now, if investors are not investing in the design in the designers, then they are making a huge mistake and they are going to delay their revenues much longer. If you don’t invest in that design pipeline, you will not be able to do much beyond making a nice splashy launch and hope you get bought out early on. No question. That is where the investment dollars that we are talking about with Motley Fool and Steve Heller, it is going to be required. You got to be on the idea of getting that investment in at a design level as well.
I just hope as Lowe’s evaluates the success of this as a test that proper consideration is given for, you are only going to have limited results with the marketing you can do and how you are giving it your full brand power behind it or your main website – are you are exposing normal consumers to it or is just the ones that happened to see the special promotions for the new website.
I think you are hampering it too much with expectations that might happen five years from now instead of what will happen right now, what you need to know to keep going, to keep getting more investments. Seed stage funding is what we look at here. You got to get your own corporation to buy into the facy that it is a viable idea for us to go forward with and not table it. We need to go to the next stage. You just have to get enough proof to get them to the next stage.
Just remembering what Jasmine said on how many people in their company didn’t understand 3D printing, it’s got to have special consideration for the test. That is all. That is no different than it is in the global market. Not enough people understand 3D printing. You can’t be selling to the whole global market that doesn’t understand it either and hampering your own website and bogging it down with all sorts of problems and issues complicating that at this stage.
Is there a time for it? Yes, there is a time for it. I think it is obvious. Look at Amazon pulling all of these 3D printed products over a year and a half ago, I think it was a year ago they pulled them all out. They pulled them all out and they have not integrated them into the main site. There is a reason for that. It is not ready yet. I think that it was too early and they knew it. Will they come back? I guarantee you that they are working on it behind the scenes and they are trying to test it out and figuring out and it will happen, but it is not time yet.
But anyways, that was a fascinating series of interviews on retail 3D print on demand. I can’t thank Jasmine, Hector, and Patrick enough for coming onto the show and doing all of that. Thanks for bearing with us on that longer than usual episode. We hope you enjoyed it.
- Bespoke Designs
- Lowes Innovation Labs
- Voodoo Manufacturing
- Digital Forming
Jasmine Evans is currently employed by the Lowe’s Innovation Labs Team as a Sr. Producer based in Mooresville, NC. This team is responsible for using rapidly accelerating technology to solve Consumer problems through Science Fiction Prototyping. Jasmine began her career in technology after graduating from Winston-Salem State University with a degree in Management Information Systems. Most of her career was in IT prior to joining the Labs. She enjoys the work she does for the lab because they create new experiences for customers.
Jasmine is married with three children ranging from 1 to 11. She enjoys spending time with her family, tennis, and staying active in the Community.
Hector is the found of 3DShook, a new platform for mass consumption of designs and objects to print at home. We offer a diverse collection, spanning over 40 categories, 1000 designs (growing 100+ every month) , strictly curated, all original, all exclusive designs and all tested to print on consumer grade desktop printers. we developed a proprietary and powerful print tool, viewer options and more.
And Best of all, its unlimited prints on a monthly subscription.
Patrick Deem is a co-founder of Voodoo Manufacturing where he serves as the CFO and Head of Business Development. Prior to co-founding Voodoo Manufacturing Patrick was the Head of M&A and Strategic Partnerships at MakerBot where he led the acquisition of two companies. Before MakerBot Patrick worked at two hedge funds where he was the lead analyst and worked closely with the portfolio manager on investment selection. Prior to business school Patrick worked for two investment banks in San Francisco principally servicing private equity firms. He was an integral part of several capital raising transactions raising hundreds of millions of dollars (equity and debt) and he worked on several multi billion dollar acquisitions.
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