Kanthal contacted byBrick in 2017 before going to a trade show in Iceland. They wanted something new that would stand out from the crowd and present their electric heating systems in a more engaging and fun way. Since their products are bulky and difficult to bring to a trade show, there was good reason to go for a flexible digital solution based on interactive 3D technology.
Virtual Reality has become a popular way to raise interest on trade shows. But Kanthal wanted a more inclusive discussion with the visitors to their booth. So instead their choice fell on an Augmented Reality app. The main purpose was to pinpoint product benefits and present aspects impossible with the real product (for example transparent cross sections, exploded views, heat and flows).
Another important part of the project was to test a new type of technology and have a new proof of concept to try out both externally (with customers) and internally. There was extra value in having feedback from inside the organization to evaluate the solution.
byBrick Interface was assigned to create an AR app for use in Kanthal’s marketing and sales. The app was to be used by sales people as additional sales support. Our assignment was to develop the app according to Kanthal’s specification, and included product design, adaptation of 3D material to AR, development of AR and functionality, and publishing on App Store and Google Play.
The first version we developed was a trigger-based AR app, focusing on six selected products that the user could look at using a tablet, with specific hotspots to zoom in on.
We used CAD data from the actual products and included the CAD models into our AR production flow. There, we reduced the complexity of the models without reducing the visual quality. Next step was to add materials and textures to make the 3D models look realistic and to create a product experience as close to the real thing as possible.
Then it was time to add logic to the app. In this case, we used the gaming engine Unity, a development environment supporting 3D visualization, to add animations showing heat (using color) and motion (pace) through the production line. We used Vuforia as the framework for Augmented Reality. The 3D visualizations were made using Maya.
The user can see the products appearing transparent and in different modules, which helps to increase the understanding of how the product works. We also added a free 3D mode to make it easy to spin and zoom in on the products without using AR. There is also a section containing exploded views (parts folding/unfolding), video and sales materials.
As the app’s initial trigger, Kanthal used printed mouse mats. The trigger itself was a perfect giveaway on trade shows, encouraging visitors and customers to download the app and explore the AR content themselves.
The app received a lot of reclaim at the trade show, as Kanthal was one of few exhibitors using new visualization techniques to show their products. This was very attractive to visitors both during and after the trade show.
The app was so well-received that several sales people decided to borrow tablets to bring to their sales meetings, which proved highly appreciated by their customers. Soon the decision was made to further develop the app by adding more product categories and more functionality.
Today the app is used regularly on trade shows and in sales meetings. When Apple’s new AR platform ARKit was launched in 2017, byBrick made a few updates to the app and it is no longer necessary to use a trigger to activate the AR function.
Want to download the app? Follow these instructions:
Search for Kanthal in App Store or Google Play, then install the Kanthal Augmented Reality app on your tablet (recommended) or smartphone and follow the instructions on screen.
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Kanthal® is a world-leading brand for products and services in the area of industrial heating technology and resistance materials. Part of the Sandvik Group.