Creaform Inc.’s strategy is just as precise as the tools it builds. In the world of high-accuracy metrology, Creaform can credit its fast-growth to introducing products that were different, but more importantly, better than the technology that was available in 2005. That is when it began manufacturing high-accuracy 3-D optical and portable measurement technologies.
The company’s lines of truly portable and easy-to-use products injected a new option into the measuring world. Manufacturing companies who make everything from aircrafts to coffee makers use measurement tools to determine dimensions before making products and then check those dimensions once the product is made. The company’s marketing vice president, Stéphane Auclair, explains the company’s innovative product development strategy.
“We did something that was different from everybody else,” he says. “We came with a different approach to 3-D measurement. We use the object as the point of reference when we measure, as opposed to every other tool out there, where you can only use a stable environment [such as surface and temperature] to provide very accurate results. Our way is different; we call it TRUaccuracy.
“We are using the part as a reference point to measure it,” Auclair continues. “That allows us to develop technology that is very portable and user-friendly but also deliver the accurate measurement in a real work environment. Our philosophy is to take the measurement tool to the part and not the other way around.”
2005 was the year Creaform started its ascent onto the global stage with the Handyscan 3-D. The line of handheld portable laser scanners has been continuously updated and now comes in five models. In 2007, the company acquired ActiCM and consequently its portable CMM (coordinate measuring machine) technology that allows the three-dimensional control of manufactured parts using simple images of the object. This is a particularly useful tool for the automotive and aerospace industries, and was a key part of Creaform’s strategy to develop a new product line.
“We took the technology and improved upon it, and one year later we launched a new brand that evolved into the line of HandyPROBE, which is available in three models,” Auclair says. The company would go on to innovate new additions, such as its line of MetraSCAN 3-D, which allows the combination of a probe and scan to create a “total inspection solution and interchangeable measurement tool,” according to Auclair.
In 2011, the company launched the MaxSHOT 3-D optical coordinate measuring system. The product combines the accuracy and speed of photogrammetry with the wide range of applications already available with Creaform technologies. It combines the MaxSHOT 3-D photogrammetric video camera and the company’s VXshot processing software.
“The MaxSHOT 3-D system brings photogrammetry to a whole new level in terms of affordability, ease of use and accessibility,” President Charles Mony explains. “With the MaxSHOT 3-D, we will indisputably strengthen our position and grow our marketshare in metrology-grade technologies on the international basis.”
Mony’s prediction was spot-on. In fact, with each passing year and every new product, Creaform’s upward trajectory has not slowed down. As the 2002-founded company celebrates its 10th anniversary, the company announced in March its record-breaking revenue numbers for a second year in a row with $37.5 million in annual sales, a 37 percent increase compared to 2010.
Growing Through Knowledge
Auclair credits the year-over-year growth with the innovation and improvements Creaform’s products have been bringing to the market. The Quebec-based company has direct sales forces in North America, China, Germany, Japan, France and India, and partners with more than 100 distributors worldwide.
Before there were products, there were the engineers, and Creaform’s engineers provide scanning and measurement services to other manufacturing companies. “If you need computer-aided design, or quality-control service on your parts, we can provide those services,” Auclair explains. “It can be on a short-term mandate or a very long-term mandate. We have staff that have been working at a customer’s facility for over two years. They are basically an extension of their engineering and quality-control departments.”
Working so closely with its clients allows Creaform to gain intimate knowledge of their needs, wants and challenges. That knowledge served as the foundation for Creaform’s product division. “Creaform started as a service company, but we had a clear vision to develop 3-D scanning technology because there was nothing out there in the market that quite met our expectation,” Auclair explains.
“We knew the needs of our customers so well because our 3-D engineering services division provides us with feedback day-in and day-out directly from the end-users. That’s one thing that distinguishes us from our competitors.”