Blog / #industry

Engineers just want their Lego back!

Vention is officially 1 year old! Etienne Lacroix, co- founder & CEO, reflects on the past year and the year ahead.

Bre Hargreaves VP Product / Jul 13th, 2017

I joined Vention only a few short months ago, so I hadn’t yet the chance to really sit down with our founder, Etienne, and dig into his story about what democratizing mechanical engineering really means to him. With the first anniversary of Vention this week, I thought this was a perfect time.

Looking back at the past year, it is hard to believe how far Vention has come. We have surpassed all projections for growth, and our team has quadrupled.

“The response from clients has been absolutely amazing,” Etienne shared. “We are working with top industrial players, and the feedback is very positive. We know we are on to something here that is going to significantly change how equipment is designed and built.”

Since I joined, I have seen first-hand the enthusiasm of our initial users. Yes, this is something new and exciting but more than that: it is something that is about them and built for them by people just like them.

Reflections on founding Vention

Thinking back to when our founders first began to think about creating Vention, I wanted to understand how they came up with the idea. The founding team have all shared in the past that they see Vention very much as “industrial Legos” and this seems to come from their childhood memories of bringing their ideas to life with the toy building blocks.

Our founders moved on from LEGOs to become mechanical and electronic engineers, but as they began designing equipment themselves, they started to realize that things were not so simple. Countless hours were wasted on finding vendor parts, checking compatibility between parts, and shuffling design data back and forth in spreadsheets between supplier websites, CAD software, and procurement departments. This was not nearly as much fun as bringing together Lego parts and seeing your creation come together in just minutes.

“We got really excited when we realized that technology, most specifically WebGL, was getting to a point where you could create a single and fully-integrated environment to select vendor parts, 3D design, and order your equipment straight from a browser,” noted Etienne about when they first thought of the idea for Vention. “This opened up the door to significant design process automation, reducing the level of expertise required for every user to participate fully. We envisioned a world where ‘LEGOs for Adults’ could become accessible to users beyond just mechanical engineers.”

Being able to build this single digital thread can cut down on the time it takes to design and build equipment by up to 10x. This means significant cost savings for our users and much less hassle than the traditional way of doing things. We are already seeing our clients reap these rewards: From the small business owner who can design and build her own automation equipment (instead of spending thousands on bespoke machinery) to the manager of a large manufacturing organization who just needs that one jig, so that his guys can get working on their next project, we are seeing Vention’s founding vision come to life every day.

Democratizing mechanical engineering

Machine design in mechanical engineering has been a very challenging field for many years. Due to its complexity, this process has required many different skills and technologies that need to be mastered in order to deliver a single project. Historically, the learning curves for these skills have been so significant that not one person is able to master them all, which creates the need for large-scale projects with long lead times and the complicated coordination of multiple stakeholders—all just to deliver just one machine or piece of equipment.

If we think about the weeks of training and then years of practice it takes to become truly proficient at a full CAD software, we can start to see in just this one case how challenging this process can be.

Etienne’s favorite analogy for Vention is actually WordPress. “Back in 2008, IT used to be a HTML editor with lots of bugs, but it became extremely popular from the get-go, as it empowered marketers and business people to create their own web pages without being dependent on IT. Those new users were not necessarily creating the best webpages with the platform, but they were able to have the page the next day, breaking forever the monopoly of the ‘web developer.’ Of course, Vention is in a completely different industry, but I think the elements of democratization are the same.”

Looking forward at the years to come

The response from our clients this year has shown that they really want this product. They want to design projects themselves, they want to get their parts right away, and when the lifecycle of that product is over, they want to be able to quickly and easily iterate on it or make something entirely new.

“Vention enables someone who is not experienced with 3D design platforms to come to our platform and start putting together an assembly in literally minutes. This is something that has not been entirely possible with past CAD software. This is something entirely new,” said Etienne.

All the additional features that the founding technologies make possible, such as suggesting a next best part for a design or recycling their design inside the browser, will continue to amplify the ability of our users.

And we couldn’t have done it without…

We are so honored to have had such a robust group of supporters: from our initial clients who have always provided great feedback, to our hardware and logistics suppliers who have made it possible to serve our clients at record speed, to the local business and universities who have been so willing to help us improve and refine our product over the past year. All of these players have helped move us towards our goal of democratizing this industry.

Thank-you to everyone who has supported us in our journey so far! We can’t wait for the years ahead of us!

- Bre HGG

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