Friday, December 21, 2012

Implementation is the Key!

CAD/CAM has great potential in the next couple of decades. Various segments are now experimenting & implementing CAD/CAM much more confidently. When i started marketing CAD/CAM products ( and thats not too long ago which is about 10 years back) the only segment using CAD/CAM & RE/RP were automotive oems, its suppliers and the consumer industry. Products were expensive with 3D softwares costing tens of thousands of dollars and the only companies who could afford it were those who were in dire need of it or those who were asked by their customers to implement it. However a lot has happened over the past decade. Industry segments like dental, medical, fashion, shoe, marine, jewelry, furniture, films and set design are adopting CAD/CAM in a big way. There are many companies now competing with each other which has eventually led to better products, reduced prices and reduced monopoly. I still know how AutoCad dominated the 2D market when they had no competition but now they have to compete with products such as Intellicad, 2D softwares from 3D modeling companies which has been a challenge for them. Same is the case with other companies & brands. They are now in a position where they have to be on their feet for new entrants & plan their pricing/sales strategy accordingly.

But the good news is that the market has grown - and grown multi-folds. So eventually companies in spite of facing competition are growing at a steady pace and will continue to grow in spite of new competition. The customer has many options in every segment of CAD/CAM. A novice user is bound to get confused on choosing the right product coz every day something new is coming up. You may end up buying a product which may not be the right choice or may get obsolete tomorrow. With so many products and brands - differences in prices and sales people looking to push products - the only key would be implementation.  Today there are many companies who focus on selling products but don't understand the true meaning of implementation. Implementation can only happen when the seller is aware of the industry he is selling to - not just box selling. Trust me - in my experience most of the companies who have invested in technology do not utilize it due to lack of knowledge and not due to lack of features in the product. If you want to just make contact lists, why do you need Microsoft Excel, you may just as well use Open Office which is free. Most of the customers try to get a price bargain when they buy a technological product rather than worrying about the implementation part. I mean even if you save a couple of hundred dollars in buying a product, what good is that if you dont use the product to its fullest potential - its a sheer waste of money. I would rather pay the extra hundred dollars and have a complete implementation plan so that i actually am able to get what i want.

The future is bright for CAD/CAM companies & vendors but the key here would be looking at industry verticals and segments and offer a complete implementation of a solution rather than just pushing a product. It doesn't matter which product you buy, but it does matter that you use the product in its fullest potential and not use a smart phone only to receive and make calls.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

And then there were more...

The 3D Printing Industry has seen a lot of activity over the past few years with many new technologies entering the market ( many of which are clones of existing technologies due to expiry of patents ) leading to a great amount of confusion in the minds of a potential buyer. However, the emergence of low cost printers has given the average engineer to experience 3D printing in real time but it is high time, the products have to be consolidated to give the customer some clarity on which products to buy. Mergers & acquisitions have been in the limelight with 3D Systems & Stratasys going on a buying spree with 3D Systems acquiring ZCorp, RapMan, Cube etc & Stratasys acquiring Solidscape & Objet ( although with Objet its more of a stock swap & merger). However, my point is that these acquisitions have created somewhat of a redundancy in the product lines of these companies which has to be consolidated. For eg : A customer who wants to print average quality models would think ten times to go for an expensive printer given the choice of low cost printers like rapman by the same company. Also, a prototype need not be of a specific material ( most of the times ), hence the confusion increases further since there has been a plethora of multi material low cost printers in the market. I would recommend a market specific approach where products such as rapman, botmill etc are consolidated first with limited options catering to specific markets. Also, i see a lot of redudancy in development projects where technologies which are available in the market ( For eg : Digital Light Projection (DLP), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)) are re-engineered thus leading to products which are redundant & also back to their initial phases. The best they can do is provide an inferior version of the printer at a lower cost thereby creating a threat to the existing business who have perfected their technology.

The entire manufacturing industry needs solutions for making direct parts from additive manufacturing. This requires  companies spending resources on research to perfect the existing technologies rather than offering products with inferior quality & cheaper price. These require significant amount of core research since most of the printers available now cannot produce direct parts & if they can they can't do it economically.

Having said that, I feel the day is not far where we start producing end products directly from CAD models economically & quickly by using additive manufacturing.