A seamless handoff between CAD and 3D printing interfaces is a new idea in industry. While 2D printing has been established for decades, the challenge of adding additional dimensions and the physical limitations of material and print process creates hurdles for the user and developer. With no standards in place, we decided to give the concept a try (we're big on trying new things).
For our first partnership, we worked with industry-leading conceptualization software ZBrush. As the industry leader for digital sculpting and concept development, ZBrush has built a reputation for packing enormous functionality into a flexible UI. Digital artists familiar with the software don't CAD as much as flow, and ZBrush users have formed a solid backbone of our 3D printing community.
After working across two teams to create the plugin, there are three takeaways I suggest you consider when defining a solid crossbrand partnership:
CONSIDER USERS: Our partnership brought digital designers (concept artists) closer to a tool that can breathes life into triangular meshes. As one of our earliest and most ardent support audiences, it made strategic sense to help these power users go from designing to printing faster.
IS IT A USEFUL FEATURE: After the marketing announcement has passed and you have to build the damn thing, will you still be happy about sorting out bugs and building what you promised? In our case, we helped condense a long, (mostly) irrelevant and confusing menu dialog into a single button, while driving awareness of our own software and hardware.
IS THERE ROOM FOR GROWTH: Looking into the future, there are plenty of areas that can mature between Pixologic and Formlabs - from marketing projects like live events and sculpt-offs, to honing our digital features together to continue to streamline and add flexibility to concept artists, designers, and users.
CREDITS: The Pixologic / Formlabs partnership was the result of hard work on both teams. The Formlabs and Pixologic software teams both worked to insure seamless transitions, our legal counsel turned around documents on a dime, and the marketing team went into overdrive to launch this announcement at CES. It remains a pleasure to work with such agile groups.