Blog Category: Visual Configuration

Why does Tacton use a fully integrated Visualization solution with CPQ? 

How are fully integrated visualization solutions with CPQ changing manufacturing?

Visualization (also known as Visual Configuration, or 3D product configuration) is the combined use of digital technologies (Augmented Reality, 2D and 3D visualization software) to be able to configure products directly in the three-dimensional visual representation. Visual Configuration software enables your sales team and customers to configure their 3D products quickly and accurately from anywhere. Enabling an integrated visualization solution with CPQ is a step many manufacturers are taking this year. 

What are some visualization benefits?  

  • Buyers see with their own eyes how a product they will receive looks like. 
  • Customers can understand how product customization decisions (choosing a specific product variant or product option) impact the final product. 
  • Companies can highlight unique selling points and special product functions. 
  • Further simplifying a complex configuration task by visualizing the different product options and functionalities instead of describing them with text-based descriptions. 
  • Companies create trust in their solutions because they use AR (Augmented Reality) to show the configured product in the actual usage environment and customers can immediately check spatial specifications. 

Visualization has been on the minds of manufacturers for the last few years as an addition to their eCommerce initiatives. Many have transformed their selling process by adding real-time visualization, in real environments for their prospects and customers. Visualization has been a major selling point to customers who now grapple with at-home demos and product configurations.  

Different approaches to visualization

Creating a great customer experience that fits seamlessly in your existing technical architecture sounds great doesn’t it? To me it does, but with so many options on the market, it’s important to find a visualization solution that is built to be agile, and maintainable with no surprises in the back end.  

With a push for more visualizations across the manufacturing industry, it can be a lot to learn about the industry. Many manufacturers have a lot of questions about the different options available to them. That’s why we’re here to help discuss two different approaches for adding visualization to your CPQ applicationusing a 3rd party game or rendering engines and their maintenance workflows or using visualization as an integrated part of the CPQ solution.  

What are game or rendering engines? 

A Game Engine is a software development environment/framework for creating video games or interactive applications. They provide multiple functionalities including a rendering engine (2D/3D), a physics engine, collision detection, an audio enginescripting/logic engine, animation, artificial intelligence, user input handling, user interface generation, and networking capabilitiesAdditionally, they typically provide an editortools, and content pipelines to drive and support the game creation process. 

Different Game Enginelike Unity or Unreal are focusing on different audiences and target platforms. Not everyone is best suited to create web-based experiences in a browser, while others are not providing the possibility to create native mobile experiences. 

The central part of a Game Engine is the Rendering Engine or Renderer which is responsible for generating the graphical output, turning 3D models, textures, and material descriptions in a visual image on the screen. Instead of using a Renderer as part of a Game Engine, it is possible to use a stand-alone Rendering EngineWidely used WebGL-Renderer are for example ThreeJS or BabylonJS. 

What are the benefits of using a widespread game or rendering engine? 

  • If it is a commercial one or driven by an active community, the development speed for new and improved functionality at a high quality will most likely be superior compared to building and maintaining your own engine with only a few resources. 
  • If it is used by many developers and users, good documentation, training, knowledge, and experience will be available in various ways. 

Tacton’s fully integrated visualization solution with CPQ

At Tacton we offer our visualization solution as part of our Configure, Price, Quote solution for a fully integrated creation and maintenance process. We see several benefits of using and maintaining the visualization as an integrated part of the CPQ system compared to a separate 3rd party game or rendering engine. 

A common strategy and aligned roadmap 

When it comes to the two different solutions, they serve the same end purpose, showing your product in a visually appealing, exciting way to sell to customersThe product roadmap is an important aspect of buying any solution, and visualization is no exception. After the purchase of any 3rd party software, like a game engine, buyers are at the mercy of the vendors strategy and roadmap. A game engine is mainly built with a focus on creating games. Bigger Games Engines are opening their target audience but creating and integrating dynamic visuals in a dedicated CPQ system is not among those target use cases 

So potential needs of a small customer base looking to use the visualization for their highly complex product configurators are typically not the highest-ranked priorities on the roadmap. With Tacton visualization we make sure to consider our customers unique needs when it comes to changes, improvements, or new functionality to support their workflows and use cases the best way 

Even if you only want to use a small part of a Game Engine, as the 3D Engine, you must use the complete tool pipeline and process designed by the vendor. Once you are in the solution, there is no way out. For example, it is not possible to only use the included 3D Engine but build your own tooling around it. Tactons visualization is already tailored to the needs and requirements around extending the configuration process with visualization. 

complimentary maintenance experience 

Mapping configuration to visualization is not as straightforward with an external maintenance workflow compared to an integrated one. For example, the wording is with no relation to the configuration at all, making you learn and map every domain and requirement. And only using the rendering functionalities of a game engine leads to excessive parts that users can’t get rid of, so they must navigate their way around it.  

Especially for the major Game Engines, learning the necessary essentials and mastering all the tools and processes is quite a challenge if 3D Game development is not your main occupationCreating tailored solutions specifically in the area of visualization can reduce ramp-up time and speed up the learning curve since the use case and the users are much narrower compared to a general Game Engine with multi-purposes.  

And if one of the goals and values of your solutions is that customers/manufacturers should be able to maintain and extend the visualization part on their own, it is not very convenient if the customers/manufacturers must buy and learn those 3rd party tools and processes as a mandatory component. This makes it much harder and complex to transfer the responsibility after the initial setup. 

Tactons integrated visualization solution is designed to perfectly align and match with the bigger goal of enhancing a configurator with visualization with the least necessary friction in the process. The visualization builds on top of existing knowledge and workflows in CPQ, minimizing ramp-up time, making it one integrated experience. 

Check out our upcoming webinar on visualization!

Out-of-the-box integration to CPQ 

When using a 3rd party visualization for a CPQ + visualization project, it is not one standard product that is offered. It will always be two products (from two vendors) + an integration between what is offered. This integration needs to be maintained and adjusted as well over time since interfaces are likely going to change. 

With Tacton it’s one platform, everything out-of-the-box and everything developed and improved together ensuring a working solution all the time with no additional efforts. 

One approach for all use cases 

Depending on the use cases and related platforms you like to support with your Visualization solution, it is quite hard to find only one engine to support all of them in the best wayWeb-focused engines have a hard time utilizing the full power of native platforms and engines with a native-first approach struggle more when used in web-based scenarios.  

Supporting native mobile apps as best as possible on top makes it even more complex to find a proper engine. Most Game Engines and Rendering Engines with a focus on the web need supporting technologies to run natively on desktop or mobile devices, reducing the benefits of running natively. If you are not able to solve all use cases with one engine, the complexity of the tech stack and all workflows and tools around it is increasing quite drastically.  

With Tacton’s own visualization, we are able to support all our customers use cases out-of-the-box with the same approach and workflows. You do not need to add additional tools or processes to support web and mobile. 

An integrated visualization solution with CPQ can be your next big win

Visualization is a complex topic, with so many different options for success it can be difficult to pick one that is right for your business. If you’re in the manufacturing industry, it’s important to work with providers who have experience in the field. At Tacton we’ve got over 20 years of visualization experience, specifically for manufacturing. Learn more by scheduling your personalized visualization demo or get your complete guide to all things Visualization!  

Win More Channel Sales Deals Using Visual Configuration

Channel Sales is a well-understood strategy. When manufacturers lack the means to effectively commercialize and distribute their products and services they partner with specialized re-sellers. In doing so, the manufacturer gets to focus on the development of the product, while the channel partners focus on finding and signing new customers.

By helping your channel sales with a more simple, efficient, and effective sales process, you can win more deals. In other words, your job as a manufacturer is to make your products and solutions easy for your channel partner to sell.

If you are using channel sales you probably have dedicated teams ensuring that their channel partners are working from them. A couple of examples of companies working actively to make their channel sales successful are, Pelco – a Motorolla Company, and nVent talk about how they are working with channel sales to configure, price and quote their products.

Check out the videos below:

How can manufacturers ensure that their channel Sales delivers more sales?

Your responsibility towards your channel partner is to help them sell. If the channel partner is not only offering your products but also your competitors too,  you need to ensure that you are the go-to solution.

How can you ensure that channel sales offer your products above your competitor’s? Certainly not by being the cheapest, nor by offering higher commissions.

By competing on price, you might win the deal, but you will certainly end up losing the customer in the end. 

Instead, you should focus on making your offer easier to sell to the end customer. This way, both the seller and the buyer can perceive the value of the product more clearly, and thus paving the way to the signing table. One of the ways to do this effectively is using visual configuration.

Visual configuration is a feature of Configure, Price, Quote software (CPQ), that shows customers the product as it is being configured. It uses realistic 3D and AR technology that is not only visually impactful but also 100% accurate to the configured specs.

A closer look at Visual Configuration

Don’t Miss it! We are hosting 2 LIVE WEBINARS on visual configuration,

one for the US and one for Europe.

Tacton Visual Configuration webinar

For US & Canada – March 18, 2 pm EST/ 1 pm CT – Register HERE
For Europe – March 23, 15:00-15:30 CET – Register HERE

(back to the article)

The elevator industry is a great example for explaining the sales process using Visual Configuration. This industry typically relies on channel sales partners to sell their equipment worldwide. It is also a great example because elevators must not only meet stringent regulations to ensure safety, they must also be appealing in terms of design and finishing details.

Safety first: product configurator as a failsafe

How can we ensure that the designers, sales teams, and customers configuring the elevator do not neglect safety or operational feasibility? How can we avoid delays by having to review all details, ensuring that they are compliant with building codes and regulatory standards?

Visual Configuration without a robust CPQ behind the sales tool, manufacturers would require sales engineers to go through, in detail, the configurations that resulted from a customer meeting or a sales order. This was cost-ineffective and lead to delays in the sales process.

Visual configuration is based on the configurator (constraints-based, AI-powered algorithm) that ensures that each product selection is 100% compatible with technical requirements, and thus buildable. It also ensures that all regulatory, and design requirements are also accounted for.

Not all visualization tools are the same. Visualization must be supported by a powerful configurator working behind the scenes. 

The start of the Visual Configuration Process

Step 1: Capacity and Dimensions

First, you need to decide and define how big the room, or the elevator cabin should be. The elevator needs to fit in a pre-designed space or place and therefore defining and adjusting the width, height, and depth of the cabin and the resulting constraints like the possible load.

Different elevator cabin dimensions

(Images of different cabin dimensions)

Step 2: Materials and Finishings

After deciding on the dimensions, the next step is to design all surfaces in the room or in this case the cabin. From floor materials, over wall designs to ceiling colors. A wide range of materials and colors are available for different use cases that need to fit and work well together when combined.

On top of the design additional room or cabin accessories and products like bumper rails, hand roles, mirrors, different door types, entrance sides and glass walls are available to be placed at different positions and in different configurations.

Different elevator cabin designs and accessories

(Images of different cabin designs and accessories)

Step 3: Lighting

Lighting also plays an important role in the design of a room or an elevator interior. Different light types, forms, and alignments create different moods and illumination.

Different Elevator lighting configurations
(Images of different lighting configurations)

Step 4: Buttons Panels and Controls

One very important product and part of a cabin configuration is the operation panel to use the elevator. Configuring a complete operation panel is a complex task as well with a wide range of different buttons, displays, information plates, communication devices and other components that can be selected and that need to be placed and arranged on the panel surface.

Elevator operation panel configuration

(Images of operation panel configuration)

Spatial configuration is a complex task that is best solved by human interaction, reflecting individual preferences and needs. Dragging and dropping the individual elements on the panel, rearranging them in real-time and getting instant feedback about possible geometrical constraints and resulting conflicts is an essential function in any configuration process.

Elevator spatial placements and conflicts

(Images of spatial placements and conflicts)

Conclusion: Visual Configuration delivers more Channel Partner Sales

As we have discussed, visual configuration carries two primary advantages for Channel Partner Sales. First, it makes the sales process easy, and effective for the salesperson. A sales rep can trust the configuration is 100% correct, and therefore can assure the buyer every step of the way.

Second, accurate and real-time visualizations can transform an ordinary sales meeting. Customers can see renderings of their options in 3D as well as in Alternative Reality.  

If you are depending on Channel Partners to sell your configurable products, Visual Configuration is a safe bet to drive more sales.

Ready to learn more? Check out our visualization page, or download our ultimate guide to visualization

Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality for Manufacturers

Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality:

Virtual reality vs augmented reality are two terms that get compared a lot in modern manufacturing. But what are they? What’s the difference between the two? These are just a few questions that many ask about the current state of visualization, luckily for you, we’ve got the answers you need!  

Immersive experiences are becoming more and more common in modern visualization. It is possible to cluster the different technologies and approaches depending on the amount of virtual/digital content that is used for the visualization. 

 

(Image of all Extended Reality technologies) 

Extended Reality (XR) refers to all real and virtual world combinations and is used as an umbrella term for AR, MR, and VR.   

Virtual Reality for Manufacturers 

Virtual reality has quite a long history and describes a type of visualization that is completely digital and does not include anything directly captured from the real world anymore. On top of the content, the other important characteristic of this approach is that it is experienced by using special head-mounted devices (HMD or Headset) to look at the visualization.   

These headsets provide the true impressiveness of this approach. By completely changing reality and fully diving into 360° virtual reality. Users experience the digital world as “real”. It is possible to navigate and move in that digital world and experience everything as if it would real. 

(Image of a Virtual Reality installation) 

Virtual Reality itself is a spectrum of different variants  

From simple WebVR providing simple VR experiences in a web browser to fully immersive experiences including more senses than just vision, for example, audio.  

Several vendors and technologies are available and in development making the VR landscape a bit unclear. A wide range of stationary and mobile systems in different price segments are available.   

Stationary systems provide higher performance and more sensors to increase immersion but need cables to connect the headset with a computer and for power. Mobile devices are handier since the computer and the power source are integrated but are not suited for every purpose.  

The focus for Virtual Reality is the consumer market and especially the gaming industry. Besides this main area of focus, VR is mainly used in designing and engineering phases in manufacturing, for training and education, planning, and simulation purposes.  

VR is also highlighted at tradeshows, and as digital showrooms for experiencing architectures and interiors where this technology enables users to experience their designed spaces. Especially in a sales discussion, VR can be a problem because of its occlusion of the user from everyone else it is likely to “lose” the customer in the actual experience, making the actual sales process minor matter.  

Virtual Reality is not an ad-hoc visualization. Special and relatively expensive hardware (VR headsets) are necessary, the environment in which the experience is used needs to be prepared and users need experience with the technology itself to use it properly and to enjoy it. Especially the isolation factor when using VR glasses is something to get used to and to consider when using virtual reality. In many situations it is crucial to directly communicate with others not part of the experience, have eye contact, and interpret reactions and emotions.                             

Augmented Reality for Manufacturers 

In contrast to Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality is not completely digital, it is extending the real world with virtual content. By overlaying virtual objects on top of the image captured with a camera, the real world becomes extended.  

Every modern smartphone or tablet can execute augmented reality applications which make the technology much more accessible than virtual reality which always requires additional and specific hardware and training. 


(Image of a principal tablet setup) 

On the other side, since the augmented reality visualization only takes place on the smartphone or tablet screen, the immersive effect is much less compared to wearing a full occluding VR headset.  

AR can be differentiated into Marker-based and Markerless 

Using a marker to define the spot where the virtual object will be placed has been the first AR variant and is therefore supported by older mobile devices. If the marker is captured by the camera, the virtual object is located at this position.   

Markerless AR is possible with modern mobile devices and automatically detect surfaces like the floor or tables and positions the virtual objects on these surfaces. It does not require any prior preparations (like providing and placing markers) and the virtual objects stay in their position even if the camera is not looking at this spot.   

Besides the impressive marketing aspects, operations and services like repair guidance are very common use cases for Augmented Reality. Additionally, due to is easy and fast accessibility, Augmented Reality is best to use for simple and straightforward product presentations and experiences for a broad audience.   

Another important benefit of Augmented Reality is the fact that the virtual object can be visualized in its desired destination. Design and aesthetic questions can be answered directly, and it is also possible to verify real-life dimensions. General spacing and layout questions can be answered immediately without providing any physical and costly product examples. 

 

(Images of different AR visualizations via Tructon) 

Now, AR is only reliably possible via dedicated mobile Apps. Another alternative is currently in development, enabling AR right from the Browser, called WebXR, without any specific app. This will make AR content standard, very similar to regular 3D content which is getting more popular lately by Google integrating and including 3D real-time visualization right in their search results and displaying it directly in the browser.  

Mixed Reality for Manufacturers 

Mixed Reality is the latest technology and extends Augmented Reality so that virtual content can recognize real-world objects allowing physical objects to interact with virtual ones. Changing or adjusting objects in the real world will have an influence on virtual objects as well. For example, moving an object will automatically move attached virtual objects as well or real-world objects are able to overly and occlude virtual ones to increase impressiveness and plausibility.   

MR is enabled by using a transparent headset that overlays the virtual objects over the real world. The most prominent representative for Mixed Reality is Microsoft’s HoloLens technology. Using a headset has the advantage compared to AR that the hands are free which makes MR especially attractive for use cases like training and service. Since it is a quite new technology, available hardware (like Microsoft HoloLens or MagicLeap) is still expensive and lacks expectations regarding performance. Nevertheless, this technology has great potential, especially for service when performance, power, and Field-of-view problems are solved, and the standard has been established.  

Now that you’ve got a quick lesson on Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality with a bonus of Mixed Reality, it’s time to learn more about how visualizations can change how you sell your manufacturing products. Check out our ultimate visualization guide for a deeper look, click for your direct download:   

Kickin’ the Tires with 3D Product Visualization

Have you ever heard the phrase kickin’ tires before? Maybe not? Basically, it comes from early drivers who would kick tires to ensure they weren’t made of cheap, poor quality rubber. Believe it or not, some would find one kick could deflate a whole tire. Those shoppers aren’t as lucky as we are to be able to visualize products before they’d step on a lot as we do with 3D product visualization. 

Potential buyers are still doing this when they’re on car lots across the world. But given the current circumstance, it’s a little hard to step on a lot and kick tires. Finding a viable option to deal with the lack of in-person customer now can also have benefits when we return to a more normal routine. 3D product visualization is something many sellers are using to stem the tide between in-person and online shopping. So how can you give the kickin’ tires experience online? Let’s find out.  

Change your first impression for the better with 3D product visualization  

Consider your last big purchase, did you search online before? Most likely you did, imagine your customer wants to buy a new truck for their construction operation. Would they want to see pictures of any old truck, or are they looking for a custom set-up? The answer is yes, everything about your customer’s business is unique from what they haul to where they haul it. Now they’d love to see how it’ll look with a myriad of options. 3D product visualization has you covered to impress your customer.  

3d Product visualization

Start with their 3D product needs  

Your group of customers does everything differently, so you need to be able to create a way for each unique one to create a product to their custom needs. With such a wide array of trucks, they can pick which one is the one that fits their needs. Volume restricted goods or a tipper? Your customer can choose quickly in this online product configuration.  

3d product visualization

Maybe your customer isn’t sure which application they’d like because they are so similar but look how quickly you can change the trailer on the truck with 3D product visualization. The quick visualization gives an accurate expectation to your customer of how certain items will look. This can be done with or without your sales team in the same room as the customer. That may sound like bad news for your team, but it’s actually a great and unique way to keep customers engaged online with your products. Building on their own time will enable them to see the differences in products while creating an emotional attachment to your truck. 

Visualization doesn’t have to stop at trailers, your customers can see tires change in real-time. How many do they want? 4×2 or 6×4? The selection of tires can become an essential part of the function of the truck, so picking tires using guided selling can show if a configuration is possible or what would need to change to make it possible.

Kick the tires with photorealistic interactive images

With no showroom to go to quickly be able to show how features change remotely can give your customers a realistic feel for different product features. These tires are changed in an instant to show different product options.

3d product visualization

Customers are visual buyers

Your customer wants to see every different feature they’d like. Using 3D visualization is a great option for your sales team to help create a mutual understanding of products online or in person. Creating this type of personalization can go beyond tires and trailers, but extend into other areas of the truck with colors, cabs, and even lights quickly configurable.

Where to next?

We know kickin’ the tires in-person will come back someday, but for now, we’re doing out best to keep in touch with customers and create that in-person feeling. Using 3D visualization can help keep the ball rolling in any industry. The connection you create now with customers will continue in person when you create engaging relationships based on 100% accurate product visuals both you and your customer will enjoy.

Want to learn more? Check out our ultimate guide to visualization here (direct download)!

Check out how remote 3D visualization and CPQ are keeping our manufacturing customers in touch with customers with these helpful guides and infographics: 

Guide: The Future of B2B Manufacturing Sales Starts with Visualization

Optimizing Remote Sales: The New Manufacturing Challenge

Heavy Vehicle Manufacturers Guide to CPQ 

Book your demo!

Enhance Your eCommerce Experience with Visualization

Creating an eCommerce Experience with Visualization is the next frontier of manufacturing

2020 taught us a lot of lessons, the main one for manufacturers is that it’s a necessity to enable an eCommerce journey for customers. We’ve learned a lot and so have manufacturers who have started creating an exciting sales journey for their customers. regardless of where they are locatedMany of our manufacturing customers have found ways to shift to an online journey, and they all share one secret, visual configurationLet’s look at just how much the market has shifted in the past year and why visualization is important for long-term eCommerce success for manufacturers.  

New to visualization for manufacturing? A quick definition: 

Visual product configuration (also known as Visual Configuration, or 3D product configuration) is the combined use of digital technologies (Augmented Reality, 2D and 3D visualization software) in order to be able to configure products directly in the three-dimensional visual representation. Visual Configuration software enables your sales team and customers to configure their 3D products quickly and accurately from anywhere.   

A rapid shift to an eCommerce experience with visualization

In the last year, alone manufacturers have started looking for different solutions to work with a reduced workforce and an increasingly online customer. Just check out how much go-to-market models have changed since April 2020. 

(Source) 

With so many companies changing their go-to-market strategies it’s important to consider how internal initiatives are affecting your own manufacturing business. With so many companies finally shifting to online sales it’s time to go beyond just a normal eCommerce journey, with simple product photos, technical drawings, or even text-based descriptions. Customers want to see their product, interact with every change and see how it will fit in their real-life workspace or environment. 

B2C companies like Nike have been doing this for years. Other companies are using visualizations to place furniture, medical equipment and more in the real-life environment of a perspective buyer. Creating custom products intrigues buyers, keeps them online longer, and will ultimately get them to spend more this isn’t just a trend, but something that can transform a manufacturing customer experience.  

A custom journey for every customer 

Think about those shoes again for a moment. Everyone who goes to the Nike ID store wants something a little different. Their favorite colors, materials and more are picked out with exact detail for the shoes. They are quickly shown the product they want in a fun 3D interactive way and can quickly check out. That’s where manufacturing and the typical B2C journey split.  

Manufacturers often sell highly configurable products that can only work with certain product features. A pair of shoes has its limits on what you can change, a Nike Swoosh color won’t make the sole of the shoes do not workIf you create a truck, for example, the bed of the truck may need six tries to support one product feature but need 8 to support a different one.  

Without accurate quotes and visuals, it’s more likely to create products that have design errors, costing money and time for your business and upsetting your customers. That’s why it’s important to visually create the custom products your customer wants. Giving them visuals will cut down on errors, lead to upsell opportunities and create that wow factor you’ve been looking for.  

Think bigger for your eCommerce process 

Once a prospect identifies their needs, it’s time for industrial manufacturers to reinvent their buying experience using Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) with Visualization– all integrated into their website and internal systems. This enables a seamless buying experience across channels that connects customers directly to your brand. Powered by CPQ integrated into your web experience, anyone has the power to configure highly customized industrial manufacturing products based on their defined needs.  

Guided selling asks questions based on customer requirements, building an optimized solution in real-time. When paired with 3D visual configuration, the customer can see every change they make on their screen in real-time.  

Additionally, leading visualization capabilities include augmented reality (AR) for an even more immersive B2C-like experience. A powerful CPQ paired with 3D Visualization all but guarantees you are generating high quality leads with low touch- all through your website. After all, when is the last time anyone comfortably made an eCommerce purchase without visuals? 

Go beyond standard eCommerce visualization with Tacton

Creating clothing, shoes, furniture, luggage, and more is a classic use case for many visualization companies, but if you’re in the manufacturing industry it’s time to go beyond with a combination of CPQ and visual configuration. Here are just a few reasons Tacton goes beyond the typical visualization for manufacturers:

Visual Asset Creation 

Manufacturing products are bigger and more complex than ever. This makes input data much larger, taking time to prepare especially to ensure acceptable performance quality. Fitting together these parts with geometrical constraints and parametric components adds just another layer of complexity. This is all that goes into just one product, not doing that with an entire product portfolio may be challenging. Many 3rd party visualizations simply can’t handle the complexity.

Learn more about visual asset creation in our Tech with Tacton Blog: The Visual Asset Creation Process

Visual Logic

With so many moving parts in manufacturing products it’s important to be able to define what is changing, when, and how. Imagine visually configuring a truck and changing the bed of the truck, the wheels may need to change, typical visualizations would make you restart the process, Tacton visual configuration enables you to see the changes in real-time. This also helps with updating configuration and constraints which are constantly changing. If a product is updated in CPQ those changes will be reflected in the visualization.

Self-Service and visual configuration 

Embedding a visual product configurator directly on your website can be part of a self-service customer experience that will make you the envy of the industry. After all, customers are more likely to spend more time, and more money on a product they’ve built themselves. Check out the amount of money customers are willing to spend if they have a self-service experience: 

With fewer human interactions buyers are still willing to pay top dollar for their custom products. It all starts with a visually appealing product. Visual configuration remains an essential part of the buying journey for customers. The more excited they are about the product, the more likely they are to buy the product and come back for more. Real-time visualizations can make all the difference in empowering your online customer journey. Reinventing how you sell products sounds intimidating, but the benefits will keep your operation running fast, with leads and sales being more interested than ever in your products. 

Want to learn more? Schedule your demo or read more about visualization in our Ultimate Guide to Visual Configuration

Optimize the Operating Room with Visualization for Medtech

Visualization of an OR

Visualization for Medtech is the next frontier

Decorating your house is almost as important as buying it. After bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens your living room is the spot you’ll spend a lot of your time. Your style is different, based on subjective criteria so furnishing is important. Do you want a tv, need somewhere for the kids to play, or a dog bed, for example, Your taste defines how the living room will look while also taking into account the space needed between items such as your couch and tv? In the end, the room is intended to work for you and your family mostly, but also how it works with others who come into your home.  

A living room is an important part of your daily life, so getting it right is essential to a comfortable and functional home. Much like furnishing your living room your work environment also has to be comfortable, safe, and functional. Especially in the medical field. Furnishing an operating room or surgical theater is similar to furnishing your living room, but can become a bit more complex without some help from visual configuration 

Visualization of an OR

(Image of an exemplary operation room with different equipment) 

Where to start?  

Much like a living room, you must understand the space in the room. How would a couch fit in that corner or a medical device in the operating room? Defining the space for all the equipment will help give an idea of how things will fit. After figuring out the function of the space it’s easier than ever to configure the needed equipment with a wide range of technical devices and instillations with CPQ quickly and correctly.  

In addition to CPQ, visualization can help paint a better understanding of how products fit for your sales team and your customers. Visualization helps generate a clear understanding of all of the product variants and how they will fit into the unique space they will inhabit, much like how a couch would fit in your living room.  

 

(Image of different cart configurations) 

Optimize the Operating Room 

And all those individual configured devices and products need to work together in the best way to allow optimal processes and workflows while performing high precision tasks by several different doctors during the usage period. And of course, everything needs to fit in the available space of the desired room. 

Therefore, one very important functionality besides configuring the functionalities of the individual products is to measure if everything fits in the available space and is usable by different doctors with different physical appearances. 

Eliminate Time-Consuming Tasks with Visualization for Medtech

In the past, this was done in a time-consuming engineering task after the actual configuration process to generate drawings with different measurements corresponding to the actual configuration. Now it is possible to immediately create precise technical drawings (2D) on the base of the configured solution. 

Since time really matters in those medical equipment deals, losing a few hours or even days can easily lose the deal as well. 

With 3D real-time visualization in parallel to the actual configuration process, those measurements and drawings can be generated instantly, be verified while configuring and be attached to the proposal right away without any delay.

visualization for medtech

Visual configuration of a medical device
(Images of different configurations and their measurements) 

Creating a fully visually configurated space is a big sales advantage that increases a common understanding of the current configuration, its effects on spacingeliminating unnecessary and time-consuming feedback loops. With visualization support, its possible to shorten the quotation process to several hours instead of days. 

The process can be shortened even more when using new technologies like Augmented Reality to place the whole configuration or individual products in the real-world operation room and verify that everything fits. 

Utilizing the space of a room is difficult, from your living room to a doctor’s operating room. It’s never as easy as it seems to fit products into space. With visualization, it makes defining the space easier by offering real-time visuals of medical devices. This doesn’t only help your customer feel a part of your sales pitch, it also helps your sales team to give them realistic expectations of how products affect the space they live in.  

Check out how Tacton Smart Commerce is transforming the Medical device industry with visualization for medtech and much more in our CPQ Guide to Medical Device Manufacturing

Interested in learning more about visualization? Check out our eBook, Seeing is Believing: Visualize the Future of Manufacturing Sales

Lastly, check out our video on how needs-based guided selling can help you and your customers sell and purchase faster. 

Build Brand Quality and Credibility with Visualization

This week’s author is Tacton’s Chief Growth Officer, Mikkel Drucker! Mikkel has been with Tacton since August 2018 and has transformed marketing by doubling the team and utilizing pure digital tactics. Before Tacton, Mikkel worked with global leaders such as Nokia, Telenor, TrustPilot and Atea.  

According to Forrester purchases through sales reps declined from 46% to 42% since the start of the pandemic. These numbers indicate a move to an online sales journey, something manufacturers have struggled with. 

Differentiating your brand from your competition can be a tall task, believe me, I’ve spent the better part of my career working with business strategy, brand management, and business development. I’ve seen trends come and go but one thing remains the same, knocking off the competition isn’t easy, but can be done with quality products and a great customer experience.  

With my crash course in the manufacturing industry during my time with Tacton I’ve seen many manufacturers struggle to create the brand loyalty that companies in other industries have created. There is good news, breaking the status quo is part of the new normal. 

It starts with generating high-quality leads 

If customers are starting their buying process researching online, traditional digital marketing tactics won’t suffice. In order to generate high-quality leads in manufacturing, it’s necessary to drive breakthrough customer experiences starting in the configuration process. 

The customer experience starts with researching product information, features, benefits, and vendors online. We have all heard ‘content is king, but’ it’s becoming more difficult to stand out amongst a crowded competitive field without giving an immersive customer experience. 

Join us and other manufacturing leaders such as nVent, Atlas Copco and Intershop for a webinar discussing the challenges of becoming customer-centric in a time of great disruption 

Once a prospect identifies their needs, it’s time for industrial manufacturers to reinvent their buying experience using Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) with Visualization— all integrated into their website and internal systems. This enables a seamless buying experience across channels that connects customers directly to your brand. 

Powered by CPQ integrated into your web experience, anyone has the power to configure highly customized industrial manufacturing products based on their defined needs. Guided selling asks questions based on customer requirements, building an optimized solution in real-time. When paired with 3D visual configuration, the customer can see every change they make on their screen in real-time.  

Additionally, leading visualization capabilities include augmented reality (AR) for an even more immersive B2C-like experience. A powerful CPQ paired with 3D Visualization all but guarantees you are generating high quality leads with low touch- all through your website.  After all, when is the last time anyone comfortably made an eCommerce purchase without visuals? 

Pro Tip: Do not let a digital transformation happen without Visualization! 

It might seem tempting to hold off or move to phase two for cost purposes, but do not let digital transformation and your CPQ project exclude visualization. Reinventing B2B sales means creating an innovative B2C-like buying experience. To be successful, Visualization is a top requirement. 

The ultimate opportunity  

During the current crisis, manufacturers everywhere are searching for new ways to build a world-class B2C-like customer experience. That’s why it’s time for manufacturers to break free from the status quo and deploy new, and exciting ways to engage with customers in a way that builds brand quality and trust. If you’d like a little more info on how Marketing can lead the charge for digital transformation check out my piece: The Modern Manufacturing CMO

Tech with Tacton Part 3: Visual Asset Creation Pipeline

The Visual Asset Creation Pipeline defines the workflow to produce Visual Assets usable for 3D real-time visualization of highly configurable products. 

The pipeline consists of different steps whose existence and scope highly depend on the input of the pipeline (quality and completenessand the desired output (intended use case and corresponding constraints and goals). 

(Image of a general Asset Creation Pipeline)

Input for the pipeline is typically the 3D CAD model/data of the desired product to be visualized, either in the native CAD file format or a general interchange format like STEP or JT. The challenge is to gather the right data and information to build suitable visual assets. 

CAD Data 

The first mandatory step is to prepare the data to be used in real-time visualization. This includes the actual tessellation of the CAD data as well as simplifying and repairing them if necessaryRemoving Intellectual property concerning parts is also part of that step. 

Depending on whether parts have been removed, are broken, have been missing in the initial input delivery or are just too complex for real-time visualization, new 3D models need to be created to complete the product visualization. This is typically done based on reference images of the specific parts. Part of this second step is it as well to make sure that the parametric features of the product are present and can be steered correctly afterward by the configurator. 

The third step deals with the visual appearance of the product. Materials and corresponding textures need to be created and assigned to the individual parts of the product or be prepared for later configuration changes. Additional input necessary to achieve correct results are reference images or samples of the materials and colors. Setting the presentation stage of the product (environment, lighting, interaction possibilities) is also part of this step. 

The last step deals with combining individual assets to assemble the final product and verify that the assets can visualize the different configuration possibilities correctly. 

Before using the visual assets in a live system, the individual files are automatically optimized depending on the channel, platforms and devices they are going to be used. 

Optimizing how visual assets are created is as important as it’s ever been for manufacturers. Creating top of the line visualizations for customers takes your sales pitch from good to great.  

Learn more about how Tacton can help your business by scheduling your demo or getting our eBook: Seeing is Believing: Visualize the Future of Manufacturing Sales 

Tech with Tacton: Optimizing Visual Asset Creation Part 2

Tessellations

In case you missed it check out the first installment of Tech with Tacton Visual Asset Creation here.

Optimizing visual asset creation a definition:  

Optimization refers to the process of finding a trade-off between Visual Fidelity, download speed and Rendering performance. 

CAD 

In modern engineering design, nearly all 3D geometries are created by computer-aided design (CAD) systems. And those geometries are the natural starting point or input for creating Visual Assets for a 3D real-time visualization.  

B-Reps and NURBS 

Boundary representations (B-Rep) are the primary method of representing modeled objects in those CAD systems. The mathematical description of curve and surface elements can vary but they are usually given in parametric forms represented by non-uniform rational B-splines (NURBS). 

(Image of teapot represented by a B-Rep)

The main advantage of this representation is the ability to compactly describe a surface of almost any shape and store it in an efficient way. Additionally, the underlying math calculates an accurate definition of the surface shape independent of the distance the surface is examined. They do not have any pre-defined “resolution”.  

The CNC machine tools that create the tooling for final products work from these accurate, smooth NURBS data. 

Tessellation 

Although NURBS are ubiquitous in the CAD industry, there is currently no built-in hardware support for displaying NURBS surfaces. To be displayed in a 3D application, NURBS surfaces need to be translated into meshes (polygons, edges, vertices), the native language of modern graphics cards. Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) pipelines are very efficient in processing triangles and they do not work properly with parametric surfaces. 

visual assets

(Image of a teapot represented by a triangle model)

A Mesh Surface  

A mesh is composed of multiple connected polygons, or triangles, forming a mesh surface that is understandable by a GPU, to be rendered in a 3D application. The number of triangles in the polygonal representation depends on accuracy used when approximating the original precise B-Rep representation. This process of taking the continuous, mathematical equation of a surface and approximating it with polygons is called meshing, triangulation or tessellation. 

Since the direct evaluation of NURBS surfaces on the GPU is a highly complex and computationally intensive task, they are usually converted in simpler surface descriptions and tessellated on the CPU (Central Processing Unit) as a preprocessing step. Afterward, the set of generated triangles is sent to the GPU. 

The resource demands (CPU, GPU, Memory) to execute a dynamic re-tessellation at every frame on top of all other relevant tasks necessary for an interactive real-time visualization are simply too much for an average consumer device. Therefore, tessellation is not done on the fly while the 3D real-time visualization is running, it is done as a pre-process upfront. 

Simplification 

It is important to know that when using triangles to approximate smooth edges and 3D it is not possible to achieve the perfect smoothness of an image initially created in NURBS. Unless a very high number of triangles is used, relating to performance issues on the other side. Removing, combining or simplifying non-visual elements from CAD files is crucial for generating high-performance and high-quality visual assets.  Optimizing visual asset creation is a key measure of success for any visual configuration project. 

Tessellations

(Images of a teapot with different tessellation versions)

Part 3: Visual Asset Creation Pipeline will be available tomorrow. In the meantime, why not check out our eBook: Seeing is Believing: Visualize the Future of Manufacturing Sales 

Tech with Tacton: The Visual Asset Creation Process Part 1

Visual Configuration of a heavy vehicles

A note about the author: This week’s author is Marco Lang, Tacton’s Senior Visualization Product Manager. Marco has more than 10 years’ experience working with visual asset creation, and configuration at Lumo Graphics, and now Tacton.  

Showcasing your manufacturing product to buyers is an important aspect of the sales pitch for your company. Many companies lose opportunities because they rely heavily on text-based descriptions of products. That’s why it’s as important as ever to add visual configuration to your sales pitch. (Read the basics of visual configuration)  

Visual representations of your products, services and brand are key drivers of online engagementDigital assets link your customers and company by giving a way to accurately interact with your products.  

In this blog, we’re going to take a deep dive into the visual asset creation process and how putting in the time on the back end will ultimately benefit not only your sales team but most importantly, your customers.  

Digital Twin 

A Digital Twin is a digital model of a physical counterpart (product, system or process), describing its characteristics, attributes and behaviors. Or to be more precise, a Digital Twin is the link between a Digital Master (Master Data or Template) and a Digital Shadow representing a unique relationship to a specific real-world counterpart. 

This virtual representation dynamically collects and combines data from the field as the counterpart matures along the different life-cycle stages. Business systems such as data from engineering, manufacturing, marketing and sales sensor data from operation to service and maintenance. This connection allows new ways of analysis, simulation, optimization, prediction, monitoring, documentation and communication for increased operational efficiency. 

A Digital Thread 

Learning and growing by capturing data from the past and current behavior creates a Digital Thread representing the birth-to-retirement records of the product as it moves through its lifecycle. 

Depending on the use case or the goal of a Digital Twin (e.g. manufacturing, operation or service, …), different kinds of data is collected on a Digital Twin. 

Visual representations (3D Models), as part of a Digital Twin, enable the end-user to evaluate the product by looking at its shape, form or fit and analyzing and understanding its features, options and constraints. 

visual asset creation

(Image showing form, fit and function use cases of visual representations)

Configuration-compatible 3D real-time Models build the core of Tacton’s Visual Configuration solution. 

Visual Configuration of a heavy vehicles

(Image of some configuration possibilities of a truck)

Visual Assets 

All data and files that are necessary for a configuration-compatible 3D real-time visualization are referred to under the umbrella term “Visual Asset. 

Important Visual Assets are: 

  1. 3D Models
  2. 3D Scene with its environment
  3. Materials and Textures  

3D Model (Mesh/Geometry) 

polygon-based model representing the product’s shape and components in 3D.  

visual assets

(Image of a polygon-based model of a teapot)

3D Scene 

The virtual 3D scene defines the scenery in the 3-dimensional world the product is put inThis includes the environment/surrounding, lighting and cameras to look at the product. 

The environment can be a simple Background image or a complete 3D surrounding adding additional 3D models to the visualization. Check out how we do it with our Tructon or Parker Lift Demos.  

Lighting in a virtual 3D world is as essential as it is in real life. Without any lighting it is dark and the product is not visible at all. Therefore, Lighting is a crucial part in setting up a virtual 3D scene.  

There are two ways of lighting. Gathering the information from 360° high dynamic range image (HRDI) or by setting light with specific light types and their individual properties like in a real photo studio. 

Cameras define the different viewpoints on a product in the scene, often along with interaction possibilities and constraints like degrees of freedom and distance/zoom restrictions. 

(Image of different scene elements like light, camera and environment)

Material 

While 3D Models define the shape of an object, Materials define the surface properties and therefore the look and feel of the object in the scene. Depending on the underlying calculation models and their parameters the visualization can range from simple colors to real-world looking surfaces approximating real-life lighting behaviors, for example by using Physical Based Rendering 

(Image of a teapot with two different materials)

Texture 

Textures are images used by Materials to help create realistic materials. They help to add details and real-life variations of materials over a surface. Those images can be created from scratch in dedicated applications or retrieved from real-life photographs. 

In many cases, it can be helpful to simulate e.g. heights or small details on a surface via textures to keep the overall performance of the visualization as high as possible. 

(Image of materials using additional textures for diverse looks)

End-User Constraints to Consider: 

System capabilities 

Since 3D visualization is executed on the customers’ device, (think cell phone or tablet) the performance of the system is critical to the experience. 

Although there have been huge improvements in consumer hardware (graphics cards) and platform capabilities (native and browser applications) over the last few years, there is still a very disconnected technology landscape out there 

Less capable systems prevent the usage of optimized functionalities. And if a device doesn’t support the amount of data necessary for the visualization, the visualization will not be complete or not showing anything at all. Therefore, experiences are typically designed to work well on the lowest common denominator. 

Download speed 

Since all necessary visual assets need to be transferred to the users’ device to get displayed by the visualization, the amount of Visual Assets, the internet connection speed and stability is affecting the experience as well, especially the initial loading time till the visualization is visible for the first time. The bigger the visual assets are used or the slower the connection is, the longer it takes to download the content and to start the experience.  

Rendering Performance 

Depart from the capabilities of the underlying system, the rendering performance depends on other criteria as well, like Visual Asset Weight and the resulting Visual Fidelity (Realism). 

Visual Asset Weight refers to the “complexity” of the Asset. The important performance measurement for 3D Models are the number of polygons those models are composed of. The higher the number of polygons, the slower the performance of that 3D model. Lightweight assets are 3D models with a low polygon count. 

Besides the individual weight, the actual number of different objects in the scene can be a very crucial factor as wellMany different objects with different materials typically relate in a higher number of Draw Calls on the graphics cardimpacting the rendering performance since more work needs to be done. 

For Texture, the weight defines the dimensions and the texel variety within the texture. For Materials the weight defines the complexity of the underlying shader, referring to the number of textures combined and the complexity of the underlying algorithms. 

Optimizing your visual asset creation is essential to a good end-user experiencePart 2: Optimizing Visual Asset Creatiowill be available tomorrow. In the meantime, why not check out our eBook Seeing is Believing: Visualize the Future of Manufacturing Sales  or check out our latest 3D visualization software video.