It isn’t an exaggeration to say that what 3D CAD (computer-aided design) modeling does for design and manufacturing is almost as revolutionary as what the internet has done so far for information technology. Although 3D modeling has been around for decades, its adoption was quite slow until recent years. Originally developed for automotive industry in the 1960s, CAD has transformed into the most popular method of prototyping in almost every sector of manufacturing, from architecture to miniatures, from aerospace to toys, and everything else in between.
It only makes sense that 3D CAD modeling has become a lucrative business in which a huge crowd of determined and skillful people are trying to rule the market. With design skills and creativity, you too can start your own venture. To be competitive, however, you’ll need much more than the bare minimum requirements. Here are some easy tips to remember to help you climb your way to the top.
1. Make the Most of Trade Shows
You can of course keep yourself updated with the latest trends and innovations in 3D CAD modeling simply by reading the news on your smartphone, but it won’t give you the same experience as attending industry trade shows in person. Being present at the events gives you the chance to talk with fellow professionals, keep an eye on what your competition is doing, and of course promote your business to potential clients. Even better, be a participant and showcase your abilities to everyone attending the event. Trade shows are excellent platforms not only for learning but also for marketing and expanding your client base.
2. Master the Software
The good software packages offer all the functionality you need. The more comfortable you are using it the more features of the software you can take advantage of. Unfortunately the software you know best may not always be the one needed for the projects your clients need help with. Professionals understand that there is no perfect software, so they learn to master a variety of popular computer programs to compensate for the shortcomings of any particular one.
If you consider your company a startup, there is nothing wrong with using open-source tools to save some money during the early months of business. Blender, Sweet Home 3D, OpenSCAD, and Makers Empire 3D are a few examples of freeware with 3D rendering support, so you can develop and hone your skills on multiple design approaches. Have at least one or two commercial programs to make up for possible limitations in the free versions.
3. Dare to Experiment
You may not have a lot of projects coming in during the first few months you’re in business, but this isn’t always bad for business. Use the time you have to experiment with various techniques and tools and become familiar with all the options and features available in the different software packages. Sometimes it’s easier to learn new lessons when you don’t have tight deadlines or a particular goal in mind. You can afford to make mistakes, which means you aren’t afraid of trying something completely new.
Keep in mind that 3D CAD modeling services are only good for those with creative minds, so experimenting isn’t a waste of time or resources. A lot of people, especially beginners, tend to see themselves as experts who do not need to learn anything new, despite the fact that they are just starting out. You may find it hard to believe, but even the best 3D modelers still invest in tutorials every now and then. Everybody needs a little bit of guidance and refreshers. There’s no shame in admitting that. Tutorials that come with software can be great to help familiarize yourself with basic and advanced functions or multiple techniques to achieve the desired model. Although no one will blame you for watching tutorials, don’t grow dependent on them. Only take a look when you get stuck on a part in the process, but make sure to eventually master every skill.
4. Dispel the Myths
If you sell 3D CAD modeling services, you are categorized as a professional. If you’re still thinking about starting a venture in the industry, you’ll need to be aware of some popular myths often associated with 3D CAD that your consumers might have in mind.
• Myth #1: It’s expensive. In reality, 3D CAD services are a great investment. It saves money and time to have a 3D prototype or animated computer model before starting the actual production of the product or installing new machinery to improve the manufacturing process (for example an animated model of a refinery, distillation, engine, or anything else where a physical 3D model isn’t possible). The prototype should be exactly the same as the object it’s trying to represent. It’s better to do the trial and error part in the computer model than during production.
• Myth #2: Anybody can hand draw (or worse, imagine) the product. This is the mindset that carries the potential for a disastrous production. A 2D model, either by hand drawing or computer-generated imaging, offers a glimpse of the actual object but with a lot of limitations. There is no clear visualization of dimensions, volume, weight, or user experience. 3D CAD modeling, on the other hand, exists to give answers to all those shortcomings. A 3D model delivers a much better representation of an object or product. The only limitation (if any) is functionality, but only because it’s meant to be a prototype. A 3D model gives you a better idea of how a product will look and feel when used; a 3D animation lets you see and observe even the most complex engineering designs in action without creating the real object beforehand, such as a skyscraper.
• Myth #3: It takes too much time to create a 3D model. In the hands of professionals, 3D CAD software can do wonders in a matter of days or even hours depending on the object. For a complex design, modelers may need more time to get all the details accurate, but it is still quicker than building a clay model, for example. Assuming all 3D CAD modeling services have a handful of in-house skillful modelers, they’re most likely able to create a simple design within 24 hours.
Professionals have dispelled the myths and doubts about what they do, but many clients still cling to these old beliefs. Utilize your website and social channels to educate potential customers about the process, the advantages, and the truths about your services.
5. Do Simple Modeling First
You have a better chance of building a track record filled with satisfied clients if you handle simple modeling projects first. Armed with the right software and a 3D printer, it shouldn’t be difficult to create simple models with surgical precision. Avoid being overly ambitious by taking complex projects when you’re still new to the market. Remember that this isn’t a school assignment that you’ll get a bad score on for doing something incorrectly. This is a real-life business where your reputation with clients matters. Build relatively simple shapes such as water bottles, computer mouse, or car exteriors at first. Keep the rocket launch pad and DNA structures for later when you have mastered the necessary skills, equipment, and confidence.
6. Hire Professionals
There are many ways to save money in business, but cutting corners in quality is not one of them. Rent smaller spaces, utilize social websites for marketing, or buy a used office desk, but never hire apathetic modelers. Hiring a skillful experienced employee, which can be expensive, should be considered an important part of your business investments. You need to have the confidence that your employee can handle responsibilities and deliver quality work every single time. In the long run, this investment brings great returns because you’ll have just the right person to help you cope with the increasingly complex demands from customers.
7. Know What You’re Modeling
Before you take or start any project, make sure you understand what the client is asking for. Some may require purely aesthetic models, while others demand functionality in the prototype. It’s even impossible that a client will ask you to create an object in parts to assemble later. For example, if you are designing only the cosmetic aspect of an object, there is no need to spend time on testing the functionality. While your customers may appreciate the extra effort, doing unnecessary works consumes resources and you can’t guarantee that the client will pay for anything more than what they asked for. Ask for detailed written instructions and a contract to avoid problems with clients’ demands.
There really isn’t any shortcut to success in 3D CAD modeling services. In addition to skills and reliable hardware and software, you also need the persistence and determination to keep on learning, so you can have a long-lasting career in this business. Becoming an industry leader is a lengthy process. 3D modeling is currently a sought-after profession and will most likely remain a profitable business for decades to come. As the technology grows, 3D models are not only used for commercial purposes so there are plenty of opportunities for you to market the services to end consumers and educational institutions, as well.
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