Kodak has introduced something very interesting into their 3D printing ecosystem: 3D design and print services.
As we’ve previously seen with their Kodak Portait 3D printer, it’s more than just the device itself; they have a comprehensive cloud system, materials set and numerous features to ensure as much ease-of-use by operators as possible.
That’s a good strategy for any 3D printer company, although few seem to follow it. But regardless of that, Kodak has deployed a further level of ease-of-use that we haven’t really seen done by any other 3D printer manufacturer to date.
Their new Design to Print Service should fill a need that is present in many 3D printing situations, particularly in those operations with lesser experience. What is it? They explain:
“The Design to Print Service gives access to experts in their 3D printing team, who can help troubleshoot tasks that may take too much time or require specialized knowledge.”
We asked Kodak representative what this really is, and it turns out to be literally a team of 3D designers and 3D print operators that can help you through tricky or even introductory situations encountered when using the Kodak equipment. Specifically, they perform two different, but essential services.
3D Printing Design and Profiles
One service relates to the 3D models. In many cases, a 3D model is not able to be 3D printed for a variety of reasons. It might have overly thin walls, or be an invalid, non-watertight model. Their service will examine a given 3D model and fix it, if that’s possible. Not only that, they will optimize the 3D model, presumably by simplifying the mesh, so that it will be easier to process.
The second service involves determining the best 3D printing parameters for a given 3D model. This is often quite challenging for models with unusual geometry or materials, and sometimes may require multiple iterations of printing to achieve success. Unfortunately, many inexperienced 3D printer operators may “give up” before they figure it out. The Kodak Design to Print Service will ensure you have the right parameters for the job.
Currently the service is available for English and Spanish speakers, although I suspect they could add additional languages in the future. It’s not a free service, as they charge US$45 per hour for the work, with US$90 for “priority” access. I presume that’s the “drop everything and work on this” rate. While it is an hourly paid service, remember these are experts that can do the work far faster than you could.
This new service could be a notable selling feature when prospective buyers consider the Kodak machine, since it’s not a feature found on other options. This could also mean Kodak breaks into market segments that are not currently buying 3D printers due to their lack of knowledge; the Design to Print Service could give them the confidence to proceed. That’s a market that others cannot address.
Kodak Design Services Downside
One challenge I foresee with the Kodak Design to Print Service is scalability. Should the company’s sales pick up significantly, which I am sure is their goal, then the Design to Print Service bandwidth would have to be similarly expanded. This would require the addition of more skilled staff to their team, which I presume is possible. However, at a certain point it may become more difficult to recruit appropriately skilled people, and Kodak may have to establish new operational centers.
If this venture proves successful in terms of marketing and service, I’m wondering if other 3D printer manufacturers might pick up on the idea and implement their own equivalent of a “Design to Print” service? It is possible, as it requires recruiting appropriately skilled individuals and introducing them to the Kodak system.