Blog Category: Visual Configuration

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. 

2D and 3D Visualization Software, What’s the Difference?

2D vs 3D Visualization Software

Visualization has many different topics, recently we’ve covered Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality for manufacturers. Today we’re going to take a deep dive into 2D vs 3D visualization product configurator software. When talking about visualization, different types and their advantages and disadvantages, you can, in general, differentiate between 2D and 3D visualizations  

2D Visualization  

When referring to visualization as 2D, you are typically stating that the result of the visualization is a static two-dimensional image (width and height). The “2D” reference is not saying anything about what that result image is displaying. It could be a simple line drawing, a computer-generated image (CGI) showing a product in a three-dimensional perspective or real photography made with a camera.  

Very common examples of line drawings are technical drawings derived from CAD providing relevant construction and manufacturing data like all necessary parts and dimensions. They typically show a product from pre-defined viewpoints looking straight to the front, side and top with an orthographic projection of the product, so all relevant information is extractable and non-ambiguous.  

CAD drawings are often generated after the actual configuration process and provided together with the proposal and potentially the corresponding CAD for further verification and usage in subsequent processes. 

 

(Image of a technical CAD drawing) 

CGI 3D visualizations are typically showing products in a photorealistic and real-life looking way mimicking real-world photography. Those images are generated with the virtual equivalent to a real-world photo studio and therefore often referred to as virtual photography. Like in the real-world the product, in the form of 3D data, is placed in a “virtual” photo studio, defining background, lighting, and cameras to produce a single and specifically designed shot of the product.  

It is a static setup for a picture from one precisely pre-defined angle and distance. For a different viewpoint, typically many parts of the studio are rearranged, like the background or the lights. Production of those photorealistic images can take up to several hours for one picture depending on the desired fidelity and resolution. The result is often an image that is hardly distinguishable from a real photo and therefore perfectly suitable for design and aesthetical oriented products and presentations. 

(Image of CGI 3D visualization) 

Since everything in an image is static, the background, the lights, the viewpoint and of course the product and its configuration, every variation needs to get their own image. Depending on the product and its configuration complexity this approach can very quickly lead to thousands of individual images necessary to cover everything wanted. Quality assurance gets very cumbersome and time-consuming and changes of a few settings can easily lead to re-producing many pictures all over again.  

There techniques available to reduce the number of individual pictures by not producing complete product visualization but only parts of the products and assembling those part images at runtime, but those techniques have their own restrictions and problems making the whole system and delivery setup much more complicated. The flexibility at runtime is typically paid with many more pictures to produce up-front and to manage over the lifetime. 

Mercedes Configurator

(Images generated with a real-time compositing technique) 

CGI is not very suited to visualize products with high configuration complexity and many parametric variants. Additionally, since a single image only covers a certain view on the product, interactivity needs to be bought with even more individual images.  

Best use cases are either for simple, well-known products where it is possible to cover/showcase the few variants of the product from a few different viewpoints or for special key shots of any kind of products to highlight certain features or to present the product in an attractive and real-world looking way.   

(Image of a simple product with focus on design) 

3D Visualization

In contrast to 2D visualization, 3D visualization is referring to real-time and interactive 3D visualization. At first glance, the results can look quite similar, but the main difference is that the resulting visualization is produced in real-time in the moment of viewing it and not up-front and that it is possible to freely explore and interact with the created 3D world. Therefore, all necessary data and information for the visualization need to be transferred to the device displaying the visualization.  

That device needs the capabilities and functionalities to process those and render the resulting image several times per second to produce a smooth running and highlight interactive real-time visualization. This technique brings certain advantages compared to a 2D visualization but constraints as well with it.  

Since everything is rendered right in the moment of usage, the visualization is highly reactive and flexible. It is possible to view everything from every possible viewpoint and angle. It is possible to rotate, move and zoom individually for every user. And it is also possible to interact with the visualization in a natural way like dragging and dropping objects around and adjusting them as an inherent functionality of 3D real-time visualization. 

(Image of dragging objects in the 3D visualization) 

It is also unnecessary to pre-calculate and generate all possible variants and combinations possible which enables showing the full complexity and parametric variance of a product without pre-producing them. This enables a much more flexible and adaptive creation and maintenance process supporting the most complex products and their updates and changes over their lifetime.  

(Image of parametric product visualized with 3D real-time visualization) 

Virtual Fidelity 

Visual fidelity is in most cases not an issue anymore since modern graphic cards and hardware capabilities allow high visual fidelity in real-time for most use cases. And it is also possible to render technical drawing style visualizations with 3D real-time visualization as well, which means it is possible to completely mimic a 2D visualization with a 3D visualization. 

(Image of a real-time 3D visualization software with focus on high visual fidelity) 

Depending on where the 3D real-time visualization is running, on the client/user side or on a server as a streaming solution, specific requirements on hardware and internet connection of the displaying device need to be met to enable and support a smooth and adequate visual experience. This also adds additional constraints and requirements on the data being produced and later used for the 3D visualization software in contrast to a pre-rendered 2D visualization only sending over individual pre-rendered images to the displaying device.  

But the gotten flexibility and agility of the 3D real-time visualization compared to the static 2D visualization allows supporting high complex variant products, parametric configurations, and more engaging and immersive experience.  

What is CPQ? and How does 3D Visualization help CPQ?

Configure Price Quote (CPQ) software platforms help manufacturers use self-service, guided (and remoteselling to accurately configure complex products and services for prospective customers. CPQ solutions help manufacturers ensure correct pricing, deliver personalized and highly customized quotes, and massively accelerate the time it takes a salesperson to create a proposal using spreadsheets. Time-consuming back and forth approval sessions between the customer, the engineering team and the sales team are also minimized. 

Utilizing 3D visualization software enables your buyers to see the real-time virtual image of their products. Enabling them to see their products creates an emotional connection while also eliminating costly design errors, down to the smallest detail. Customers can also use Self-Service to build the products on their own time, adding to a multichannel approach for your manufacturing operation.

How can I use visualization remotely?

With the outbreak of COVID-19 sales teams across industries have been thrown into uncharted territories, manufacturing is no exception. Selling in-person is out of the question for the foreseeable future. Like many other businesses, your company must find new ways to succeed in the market while working from home.

The smallest details count when it comes to selling manufacturing products. It can be difficult during a demo to explain just how one small part can affect the entire setup of any particular product. That being said it is possible to provide the optimal solution and an accurate visual representation of the product using visual configuration.
With 3D visualization, it’s easier than ever to create photo-realistic visuals of customized products in realtime. Lack of product knowledge, misunderstandings, and different expectations cut into revenue, margin and customer experience.

Now that you’ve got a quick lesson on 2D and 3D visualization:

it’s time to learn more about how visualizations can change how you sell your manufacturing products. Check out some of our resources for a deeper look: 

Check out more of our topics in visualization:

Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality for Manufacturers

Tacton Visualization Product Sheet 

[Expert Series] The Current State of 3D Product Configuration

Seeing is Believing: Envisioning the Future of Manufacturing Sales 

Or check out our video on visual configuration!

HOW TO DEMO MANUFACTURING PRODUCTS REMOTELY

How to Demo Manufacturing products remotely

How to DEMO Manufacturing products remotely using 3D and AR (Augmented reality).

The coronavirus is transforming how we “get to work” – in all senses of the word. With many people being asked to work from home (#WFH), it’s hard to go online and not read tips on designing your home workspace, or even the top 5 tips to host a remote sales meeting.

Few professionals,however, seem to understand the challenges of B2B sales. Particularly, the challenges of selling complex manufacturing products. It’s not as if their sales process wasn’t already complicated enough, now with everyone working from home, it’s next to impossible to make progress on their sales process. Or maybe… you just don’t have the right tools.

Just because you can’t meet your customers in person, does not mean that you can’t demo your products. Here’s how.

Imagine sending your prospects a customized product quote, along with a bar code.
For this example, let’s pretend you sell elevators (watch the video below):

It’s important to note that this was not just a 3D/AR visualization of a STANDARD product. Rather, this is a virtual demo of a CONFIGURED product – customized to the exact specifications of the client.

AR demos are becoming more commonplace and they are being used in a wider range of products. On average, 65% of people are visual learners, and they can retain 4 times more information if it’s accompanied by visual aids.   

It looks simple, doesn’t it? Well, for our customers that have implemented Tacton Visual Configuration, the process is as easy as it looks. Let’s take a closer look.

It all starts with CPQ (Configure Price Quote). This is the underlying technology that guides the user through the configuration process with ease, ensuring that all components selected are compatible and viable. For configurable products (especially those with many variables that are highly complex), a CPQ is vital for ensuring the product meets the customer’s needs and that the configuration itself is error-free.

In this slightly longer version of the video, you can see what would happen if the customer is not satisfied with the product quoted. CPQ simplifies the configuration process to such an extent that even a customer can do it.

 

 

Tacton uses an AI-powered configuration engine, allowing configuration (including accurate price and realistic visualizations) to be carried out in real-time. This makes it possible for you to put together a complete quote during a sales meeting, or right after speaking to the customer. Once configured, you can send images and augmented reality (AR) demos of that exact product. This gives the customer an accurate preview of the product they are looking to buy.

The very same configuration quoted can be seamlessly transferred to the ERP systems or the PLM systems so that it is manufactured exactly as quoted. CPQ eliminated the back and forth between sales, production, and engineering.

So far, all this can be done remotely, without the need to travel or meet in person.

Do you think your organization can benefit from such solutions?

If you are interested in seeing a complete demo on how this quoting process would go, we recently hosted a 20min webinar that walks you through the entire visual configuration process in greater detail.

Would you like to try it for yourself?

We’ve created 2 fictional companies: Tructon, a Truck manufacturer; and Parker Lifts and elevator company. These are free for anyone to try out. It’s important to remember that these are “demos” and tacton provides the underlying technology. The looks and feel (UX) can be completely customized by the customer.

How to start using our AR app:

 1) Download the app here: AR app available only on IOS, if you have Android, you can still test the demos on the desktop and view the 3D versions, check out steps 2 and 3).

2) Go into one of our 2 demo environments at tructon.com or www.parkerlifts.com

3) Configure your product and imagine how the products your company makes could be configured this way.

You can also see how some of our customers are using Visual Configurations here: https://www.tacton.com/resources/?resource_type=m207-live-examples

Tacton, the Only Choice for Manufacturing Visual Configuration

visual configuration

Visual Configuration may be new to many manufacturers, but at Tacton we’ve learned a lot from our experience working across industries. This industry expertise has placed us at the forefront of manufacturing visual configuration landscape for manufacturers. But like most buyers, you need a little convincing, here are just a few reasons why Tacton should be your only choice for Visual Configuration.  

Manufacturing Visualization Expertise 

Setting up and maintaining visual configurators has been a challenging proposition for many manufacturers. At Tacton we’ve changed how we interact with our customers by learning more about how they work and sell their products.  

For more than 20 years we’ve delivered impeccable value with visualization for manufacturing customersOver the last 15 years, we’ve created solutions for Visual Configuration. As pioneers in visualization, we have long created value for our customers when other companies weren’t thinking about visually representing their product portfolio.   

In our long history in the Visual Configuration domain, we’ve supported customers in many different industries. From Heavy Vehicles, to Medtech devices, just to name a few. Therefore, we develop a deep understanding of many industries, their needs, their constraints and visualization requirements. Our customers and success stories indicate this very well. 

In all those projects with different customers and different products, we’ve gained strong experiences in creating Visual Assets and combining those with a configuration system by creating a Visual Logic working as a translation between the two different worlds. We also have experience with numerous industry-standard 3D and 2D software helping us to provide expected results and consult and support on many different topics in the domain of visualization. 

The Smartest Solution 

Tacton’s Visual Configuration provides 3D real-time visualization and interactive configuration functionalities enabling selling the most complex products faster, more accurate and with confidence. 

Therefore, we developed a solid and smart way of creating and maintaining all that is necessary for a successful solution over time. 

We developed and still enhance and extend a tailored Creation & Maintenance Environment around the tasks of creating Visual Assets and connecting them with the configuration logic via a dedicated Visual Logic. This C&M Environment is specifically tailored to be used in the domain of configuration providing a unique and useful workspace for fast and reliable results. 

The clear separation of the configuration logic, the visualization logic and the Asset Creation allow separate responsibilities and independent workflows and preferences. This helps in achieving better and faster results. 

No 3rd party software necessary  

On the other side, everything is integrated into one offering without the need for integrating a 3rd party software from different vendors. Providing a seamless experience, with one common language and mindset and dedicated connection points to share information and data. 

The connection and communication between the configurator and the visualization are working bi-directional. In addition to sending configuration changes from the configurator to the visualization to be displayed, the visualization can send information back to the configurator as well. With this, it is possible to change options or positions in the visualization and send these changes back to the configurator for evaluation and final approval. 

Besides the Creation & Maintenance Environment, we also provide our own 3D real-time Rendering Engine providing all that is necessary to create exceptional experiences and allowing real visual configuration by utilizing concepts like Drag & Drop, displaying live measurements and annotations. 

Customer Focused 

The basis of our Visual Configuration engine has always been built on the success of our customers. With so many manufacturers turning to B2B methods of selling it’s important to visualize your product portfolio. From the biggest detail to the smallest your customers are more likely to purchase your product if they can visualize it. Not to mention, configuring on their own time with customer self-service can create an emotional connection that many manufacturers are missing.  

While all of this seems too good to be true, it’s not. We’ve got a proven track record of helping the world’s leading manufacturers visualize their products for an enhanced customer experience.  

The competition is fierce, but with manufacturing Visual Configuration, you can bring your product portfolio to life, right in front of your customer. It’s no longer enough to give product sheets. 

Are you ready to take your manufacturing operation to the next level? Get our Guide to visualization today: Seeing is Believing: Envisioning the Future of Manufacturing Sales. Start today by scheduling your demo with our product experts.  Or even try out one of our demos to Vertical Transportation Systems

Check out our visual configuration videos for an in-depth look!

Make Product Customization Simple with Visual Configuration

product customization

Buyers are more demanding than ever before, they want their products fast, correct and customized at the drop of a hat. For most businesses, they’ve found a way to provide a custom version of their productsShoe giant Nike lets you configure your personalized shoes in minutes, exclusive to each buyer.  

Product customization has taken off in the past decade for nearly every industry, but manufacturing has lagged. This can all change when your business tries out visual configuration for product customization. Enabling your customers to interact with their custom products can go a long way in closing the deal. Manufacturers who take advantage by giving the customer custom products can take their business to the next level and stand out in a crowded field.  

A simple definition of product customization   

Simply put, product customization is making is customizing a product for a unique buyer. We’ll use a truck to paint a picture for you. Say you need a refrigerated truck; you need certain items exclusive to that type of truck. You wouldn’t need truck parts that belong to a concrete mixer.  

Are there drawbacks with manufacturing product customization?  

The more custom the product, the more likely your sales and engineering teams can encounter problems. These errors often frustrate your customer, leaving them no options such as going to your competition. 

How can these drawbacks be eliminated with visualization?   

Every one of your customers is different, so making their experience as custom as you can go a long way to impress them. For example, product customization allows you to go that extra mile by customizing the smallest detail of their product with visualization.  

Your customer can personalize any detail, from color, design and add-on features with 100% accuracyFrom the tires on heavy vehicles to switches on MedTech devices it’s important to get these details right and show customers how it’ll work. This will help your sales team sell faster by having customers create their products and feel a personal attachment.   

Imagine going where your competition can’t go by making a product that fits the exact dimensions, colors and features your customer is asking for and enabling them to build it themselves 

In addition to your sales team increasing profit by upselling products through visualization, your customer journey can continue even without your sales team in the room. With customer self-service, it’s easier than ever for your buyer to configure their product on their own time.   

Ready to learn more?

Check out our latest eBook: Seeing is Believing: Visualize the Future of Manufacturing

Want to see a live demo of visual configuration with your product? Schedule your demo with our product experts today! 

[Expert Series] The Current State of 3D Product Configuration

The Current State of Visual Configuration

The current state of visual configuration and Augmented Reality (AR) are some of the top trends changing how manufacturers do businessBut how does visualization change how you sell to your customers, or how does it save time for your engineers? These are important questions to ask before you dive into 3D product configuration. 

Luckily for you, we sought the expert opinion of Tacton’s Senior Visualization Product Manager, Marco Lang. Marco brings more than a decade of experience working with Lumo Graphics and Tacton.

Let’s start out with an easy one: What is 3D Product configuration/visual configuration 

Visual Configuration is a tool that empowers sales representatives as well as the end customers to sell or buy a product on their own by making use of different visualization technologies. This ranges from simple and static “2D” images simply displaying the current configuration, over 3D real-time visualizations allowing to intact with the product and configure it more naturally, to AR/VR use cases making the whole sales experience more immersive and tangible for all participants by displaying it in real-life environments. 

What is the problem without having a visual configurator in your sales toolbox?  

Without visuals, products are left to the imagination of customers, so their expectations may not be met when the final product rolls off your assembly line. Now more than ever it’s critical to showcase your products in better ways than just a text description. The new B2B buyer won’t wait for you to make a product with errors, they will move on to another business who can fill their needs.  

Most manufacturing sales cycles are long, how can visualization shorten this journey?  

Seeing is much faster than reading (human brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than they do text, University of Minnesota) or giving a verbal explanation of the product. What You See Is What You Get. Miscommunication is significantly reduced, and the agreement is achieved much quicker. With visuals, your customers will be able to truly engage with their product. They can build something that is branded specifically for the different facets of their industry. Emotions are a powerful motivator, the look and feel of a product in a customer’s environment will help them realize how they will use it. You are able to reduce the need for physical examples in the field as well if speeding up the long sales cycle. 

Visualization helps my sales team, but how does it help my engineering team?  

Visualization creates a mutual understanding between your sales team and your customers. Once a product has been visually configured, even the smallest details aren’t missed. Now that your sales team and customer agree upon the design your engineers will get a product that doesn’t miss any detail, big or small. Engineering can now concentrate on solving the more complex design questions and leave the “basic” product visualization task to the Visual Configurator. Simplifying the complex configuration process with visuals mitigates the risk of combination errors, saving you time and money. 

How does visual configuration and AR enhance my customers’ experience?  

Buyers are visual by nature, no one wants to purchase a product sight unseen, so why wouldn’t you offer them the visuals they deserve? 3D interaction is the natural way of experience products in real life, no more guessing games. AR immerses customers with your product by allowing them to see the design, look and feel of a product, something that plays a critical role in the sales pitch. And verifying the design and dimensions of a product in the real-life spot where it will be placed later on is making the buying and configuration process much more valuable. 

Lastly, how does Visual Configuration fit into Tacton CPQ?  

Tacton Visual Configuration is fully integrated with Tacton’s advanced CPQ software. This integration helps accelerate the entire product configuration process through visually supported communication. The first step to selling your product is with visuals that capture the imagination of the buyers. We did it for example with MAN Truck & Bus and we can do it with your business. 

Bonus question: A lot of people are interested in digital twin technology, so what is it?  

A Digital Twin is a virtual representation of a physical product. It is typically used across the entire lifecycle of a product from engineering/design all way through training and maintenance. Therefore, it can be used for different purposes from testing, validation, prediction, simulation, analysis. For our visual configuration solution, we are using a Digital Twin as well. It is called a 3D real-time Digital Twin. A visual representation of the real-world product tailored to be used for supporting the configuration of a high variant product in real-time. 

That’s it for the latest Expert Series Chat, we’d like to thank Marco for his time and expertise about the current state of visual configuration. If you’re interested in learning more schedule your demo today or check out our Guide to Visualization: Seeing is Believing: Envision the Future of Manufacturing Sales 

Outsell Your Competition with Visual Configuration and AR

3D visual configuration

Today customers expect more when they are buying from manufacturers. With so many options how can your company capitalize on new technology to win deals and enhance the customer experience? Now your company must go beyond traditional B2B sales and use technology that allows for an omnichannel, self-service experience while empowering your sales team to showcase products for their customers. In fact, Gartner’s research shows if your competitor is using visual configuration and AR, you are being outsold.  

So, what is 3D Visualization?  

Visual configuration is a series of technologies that include 2D/3D visualizations, augmented reality, and CAD automationIn simple terms, visualization allows your customers and internal teams to interact with the product in various contexts, including customers’ own environment. These different solutions usually integrate with other programs such as CPQ, CRM, and ERP.  

How can it help your team sell? 

With visualization your sales team can quickly configure the product for the customer in real-time, no more waiting for CAD drawings when the team can show a product in minutes. Next, your sales team can show how the product will fit in the environment it will be used in. Many deals hinge on being able to see a product quickly. With 3D visualization, it’s possible to show them in real-time. 

How else can I use visual configuration? 

These tools are perfect for your sales team when they are out in the field, but they can also be hosted on your company’s website for lead generation. With more than 57%, according to the Gartner Corporate Executive Board, of research being done before a customer reaches out to a supplier, it is a necessity to show how easy it is to configure your product through self-service functions. Using an interactive visualization tool that has features such as drag and drop allows for your customer to directly engage in the building of their product. 

How will this help me outsell my competition? 

Manufacturers continue to lose customers to cheaper, more nimble competition which makes implementing visualization even more important. Your sales team will be able to visualize the sale to your customers in minutes instead of weeks. Accelerating sales by showing them in real-time. This can even be done on mobile devices to enhance the customer experience 

Another unique way visualization helps outsell your competition is by having a visual configurator on your website for lead generation. By moving mass customization to online self-service, your customers see how fast they can configure products based on their needs.  

This will also add a WOW factor to your sales pitch, giving the customer something other than your word on how a product will fitAllowing an interactive buying experience will engage your customers, enhance their experience and keep them as long-time clients. Now your sales team can go beyond B2B sales by offering an omnichannel, self-service experience with visual configuration. 

Visual configuration is just one of the many solutions included with Tacton Smart Commerce that brings the seller and buyer closer together. Check out our Smart Commerce eBook to find out how to take your sales pitch to the next level. 

Interview: Using AR for Selling at Manufacturing Tradeshows

Josef and Milan from Piab

They say “Seeing is believing” and nowhere is this more true than at Hannover Messe, the world’s largest Manufacturing trade show held every year in Northern Germany. This is the setting Piab chose to test Tacton’s CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) with AR (Augmented Reality). Piab, a Swedish manufacturer of vacuum conveyors and other assembly technology, have been at Hannover’s tradeshow several times with this year being the first to share a booth with Tacton. We sat down with Piab’s Josef Karbassi, Vice President of Vacuum Automation Division, and Milan Bratt, Global Product Manager, to learn more about their experience using AR.

 

Piab- Piflow AR demoAbout Tacton CPQ with AR: Tacton has created an App (for mobile and tablets) that allows companies to showcase their products virtually within its surroundings. Unlike traditional visual configurators that only display the configured product on screen, the app gives the user the additional option to place a virtual 3D image within the camera view as if they were in front of them. This 3D rendering of the product further adds value to the sales process as the buyer can see the items size, shape, and even walk around it to get a 360-degree view. To learn more about it, watch this short demo video. To try it out for yourself, see instructions at the bottom of the page.

Giving your visitors the ability to explore your latest products with an AR experience is always a good way of breaking through the noise at crowded tradeshows. It is also a great advantage to be able to have all your products (no matter how large or small) in your pocket, with the ability to turn every space into an impromptu showroom.

Piab, an early adopter of technology, understands this very well. They were more than glad to share their experience of using AR at the 2019 Hannover Messe (HM19).

How would you describe the weeks leading to HM19?

Milan: We started preparing for Hannover Messe months in advance. We, of course, wanted to make the most of it and we wanted to display our entire product range. However, this would be highly impractical, so we decided to bring one of our latest products, the ergonomic tube lifter. It was assembled and displayed in collaboration with other manufacturers, so we were happy how it turned out.

Josef: The scope and reach of HM19 is so large that we needed to be very strategic about it. We were lucky to have two displays booths set up in different parts of the fair. One in the Swedish Pavillion, where we collaborated with Tacton. In this booth, we chose to display and demo one of our complex products, a vacuum conveyor. Our other booth was our primary booth located in the robotics area where we displayed our ergonomic tube lifter.

How was your first experience using AR at HM19? 

Josef: It was great fun! Once I downloaded the app on my phone, I was able to pull it out at any time and show visitors what this tool was capable of. I would even hand over the phone so that visitors can experience it on their own. It was great to see people using the tool where they would walk around with it and view the item from multiple angles at the same time.

Milan: It was great to be able to place the objects in the room and have them see what the size and look of our products are. It was much easier for visitors to understand what we were offering by configuring it and displaying it as if they had it in front of them.

Do you think AR made a difference? 

Both: Absolutely.

Josef: It was great to have the capability of using our smartphone and table to “bring to life” the product directly on the showroom floor. I normally use the tool on the laptop during a face-to-face meeting, but the app took it to the next level. All we needed was our smartphone or tablet and instantly we can talk about our products and display them with a high-quality image that people can walk around and see it from all angles. It’s just so different than seeing a CAD image which was what the industry was used to.

Milan: The images were even more visually appealing. The big benefit [for me] is to place the product out on the floor. To show the customer that it is indeed possible to fit the components in the space. It’s a huge advantage.

AR: a tool that builds client Relationships

Overall, the Piab’s experience showed that AR really helped to start conversations around the products and technology. In other words, once the original “wow” of the AR experience settled, people started to ask more questions about the product itself. Visitors were interested in the various ways it can be configured, and how those different set-ups changed the way the product looked and performed.

This experience also showed just how easy it was for manufacturers to adopt AR within their B2B sales process. This is because the tool is not just a visual aide, it truly deepens the conversation about the product and all its features. The engagement and discussion around the product helped to develop and strengthen relationships, which is crucial for B2B sales.

ARdemo

If you would like to try out Piab’s AR visualizer for yourself, follow these instructions:

1) Download the Tacton CPQ AR App from the Apple App Store.

2) Scan the QR code (see below) with the app

3) Visualize the product in the environment around you

QRcode for Piab Demo