On Canada’s west coast, in Vancouver, British Columbia, a small but mighty Stratasys 3D printer is vigorously churning out finely detailed representations of a proposed condo project, a new car dealership, or a silver deposit in Mexico.
It’s happening at Carrotwerx Creative, which offers 3D design and printing services in a boutique-style operation. Focused mainly on mining, geology, and architecture, they are full of west coast flavour, creating everything from skateboard wheels to native art pieces, and working with the University of British Columbia science department.
Led by graphic designer Timm Williams and architect Jim Simpson, Carrotwerx seems to thrive in a never-been-done-before environment. The expanding universe of 3D printing is only a few years old and still a mystery to most, but when people see what can be done, they’re hooked.
“People react completely differently to 3D than they do to two-dimensional models,” Timm says. “I love to watch people turn a model in their hands and see how the parts intersect with each other. It’s exciting to see them hold something for the first time – something they’ve been working on, spinning on screen, for months. Does it fit? Does it work? They get real answers to problems they are trying to solve.”
“We’re called Carrotwerx because I feel that the 3D printed prototypes and initial models ‘dangle’ ideas, concepts, and samples, much like ‘dangling a carrot’ out there. It’s also a name that’s different enough to get people’s attention.”
From months to weeks
Those answers give Carrotwerx clients an early understanding that translates directly into savings – both in time and money. Models plainly demonstrate if they are on the right path with a design; if they need to modify that design and print another model, it happens in days, not weeks. One client reported that it now takes only a few weeks to reach the same stage that once took six months to achieve.
Timm notes that this is comforting to anyone concerned about protecting confidentiality over a long design process. “Nowadays, time is the critical factor, and that’s the biggest benefit clients describe – the ability to produce cost-effective physical models quickly.”
A business venture to address growing curiosity and demand
Carrotwerx came to be in the spring of 2012. It started when Timm’s friend went to work for 3D design specialist Javelin Technologies in 3D printer sales and support. He asked Timm to help him connect with people who might be interested in learning about the technology. As Timm watched people become more and more fascinated, always wondering aloud where they could get pieces printed, he saw a business opportunity that complemented his and Jim’s expertise. He flew to Toronto to learn all he could from Javelin about the hardware and software, and selected the Stratasys Objet30 Pro as his printer of choice.
It’s a printer that combines high-end rapid prototyping features with the small footprint of a desktop 3D printer. It’s quiet, clean, and easy to care for, uses PolyJet technology, and offers eight different materials. Timm chose it mainly because he wanted to work with transparent materials; it also delivers the smooth surfaces and intricate detail that Timm’s clients require, especially for architectural 3D printing models.
“I’m interested in the wow factor, presenting models to clients as little works of art,” he says. “We’re always thinking about how to display and light models.”
A striking display is a satisfying end result for those clients, who come to Carrotwerx with everything from just an idea to a nearly print-friendly design file. Prototyping is only one part of the business; many need models to clearly communicate their designs to boards of directors or prospective customers.
“Some projects have short lives because they are built for a certain task or presentation,” Timm explains. “Other projects evolve and it’s fun to be able to follow along and be part of that process.”
Javelin supports continuous improvement
Timm adds that “no two projects are remotely alike” and have to be tackled different ways. Combine that fact with rapidly evolving 3D printing technology, and it’s clear why learning and relearning is always part of the job.
“We understand that we are at the beginning of this technology,” Timm says. “That’s one of the reasons I like partnering with Javelin. They are on top of it, always telling us what’s new, getting us answers. We figure things out together. It’s nice to be part of a bigger team.”
“Javelin does far more than sell software and 3D printers. They provide team support and resources, and when there were technical challenges, Javelin’s people stepped up and made it right.”
“They work with us to understand what we do and how we can improve services. They are as much a partner as anyone else we work with. They believe if their customers see success, we’ll all be successful.”
- Carrotwerx has developed a reputation for creating physical models that are not only true to life, but beautiful. They now have a solid client base in niche markets in mining and architecture.
- High-resolution output on the Stratasys Object30 Pro allows Carrotwerx to impress clients with fine details and finishes. Clients receive spot on replicas of the final product.
- In order to add specialty services such as illustration, animation, and fine art to their offerings, Carrotwerx provides meaningful contract opportunities to partners in B.C.
- Carrotwerx clients benefit when they shift from traditional methods of model-making (CNC machining or hand modelling) to 3D printing. Models cost less to produce and can be done in days. Some Carrotwerx projects would never even have been modelled at all; designers would have moved forward with the best possible drawings and far less confidence.
Learn more about Architectural 3D Printing
Both Carrotwerx and Javelin are exhibiting at the Architectural Institute of British Columbia Annual Conference, October 28-30, 2015, at the Vancouver Convention Centre West. Visit booth #24 to see architectural models and a Stratasys 3D printer in action.
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