3D Printers & The Art of the Sample Part

by Joseph Flaherty on October 10, 2009

3D Printers are major investments. A low end professional machine will cost $20,000 and the high end is well into six figures. In order to demonstrate the capabilities of the machine sample parts are printed for the sales teams to help convince potential buyers. They tend to be fairly simple products, but a few companies like Objet Geometries (makers of the Alaris/Connex/Eden families of 3D printers have raised the bar in the quality of their demo products.

One of the problems in mass customization businesses is the pre-sale process and assuring customers that their products will look and work as advertised. If your product is fairly inexpensive it is a small risk, but for something costing hundreds or thousands of dollars It would be worth while for customizers to figure out how to provide samples to their customers to help calm. These sample objects aren’t cheap. CapEx machines are big ticket items that can bear the cost of expensive give aways, but there are still some interesting principles that could be applied to less expensive promotions.

Make it Work

The brain gear is a common demo item because it demonstrates the high level of precision possible with 3D printers. The teeth fit together perfectly and you get a cool mechanical movement that lets the technology speak for itself.

As a bonus it has a cool “Oh WOW!” factor when you tell people it was printed pre-assembled. You don’t print individual gears and put them together, it just comes out of the machine fully formed and ready to turn.


Demonstrate Quality

One of Objet’s claims to fame is the resolution of their technology. This business card sized object is 6mm thick and has excellent translucent optical properties. Most 3D printers can’t achieve this level of clarity and the ones that can require a great deal of sanding and finishing to achieve it.


Add a Second State

As an added bonus the sample part has a few points of articulation that let you enhance the 3D nature of the product.


Provide a Comparison

Most people have seen a bike chain at some point so this facsimile carries extra weight as a demo. This object also benefits from the fact that it was built as a functional device rather than a set of components to be assembled.


Give it a Narrative

This Monopoly man meets the “Island of Misfit Toys” doesn’t have a fully formed back story but it is a cute “Cube Grenade” that can help start conversations and make people smile while you try to sell them an $80,000 machine.

It also demonstrates the technical superiority of the device that manufactured it.  The Connex 3D printer family is the first that can print multiple materials in one job. For example, the head is a hard plastic while the top hat and nose are soft squeezable rubber. Unfortunately the squeezable nose is not accompanied by a “honking” sound effect.


  • http://notesfromhalfland.blogspot.com/ Shelley Noble

    Excellent point and report.

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