Material Explorer

Formlabs is a 3D printing technology developer and manufacturer based in Boston, Massachusetts. They design and manufacture stereolithography (SLA) and selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printers for professionals.

As part of their marketing efforts, they participate in several 3D printing and additive manufacturing conferences throughout the year to showcase their product and resin technologies.

Formlabs’ trade show booth receives high volume of traffic which can be overwhelming to the booth representatives. The panoply of resins and their unique properties often raise questions relating to their differences.

We created an interactive tool, hosted on iPad stands around the booth, to help mitigate this problem at tradeshows. People are thus able to interact with our Material Explorer which lets them learn about our different products and request one of our free samples.

Various mediums of delivering the content were researched, such as interactive videos and slide decks. The building of a web app was appealing because it allowed for greater customization and local hosting. The limited access to wifi during tradeshows required the use of a light-weight, easy to set up, and totally independent application.

Early concepts and testing confirmed the importance of having a single-screen, flat-hierarchy application preventing users from getting lost and increasing the simplicity of the app. It allows users to start using the app and pick up where the last user left off at any time without having their experience affected. Since this is an interactive kiosk, it is important that the solution be self-maintained without the need to be reset by the staff.

The final design offered a way to show all the relevant information on a single screen, allowing passersby to start interacting with the app from any screen without taking away context and intuitivity.

Through testing, we moved the materials list to the side instead of the top because it was a more familiar and intuitive gesture. We added an expandable table of the materials’ properties and made it the focal point of the page, placing the gallery below it, as it was revealed the former was more useful and wanted by users. People at the booth have the very pieces featured in the gallery in their hands so seeing them again in pictures was not as important.

Another crucial feature was the screensaver being automatically triggered when left idle in order to catch people’s attention. Testing at tradeshows with previous prototypes concluded that people were not immediately aware that the kiosk was interactive, and/or were simply not drawn to it when it had a static screen. Therefore, the screensaver has not only increased attractiveness but was also a chance to play a promo video of the company on loop.

A primary call to action in the navigation bar prompts people to “request a free sample”. To shorten the completion time, the form only asks for an email address at which we can later follow up for further shipping information as well as resins of interest. This allows Formlabs to quickly gather leads in a more contextual and fun way at the trade shows. To accommodate for the lack of wifi at events, all leads are recorded locally on the device and easily retrievable later.

Finally, the entire app was coded in HTML, CSS and Javascript almost entirely from scratch to have greater control over its total size and features. A light-weight and simple CMS was integrated to allow the Marketing team to easily add or modify the content. The Material Explorer is loaded on iPad Pros and put up on kiosk stands for easier interactivity at the booths. 

Due to a non-disclosure agreement, some elements are not covered here to protect the intellectual property of the company I work for.