The Lifetime Value of 3D Models Across An Enterprise

Alan Smithson
11 min readSep 13, 2023


TL:DR — 3D Models have intrinsic and measurable value across an enterprise, from manufacturing to marketing, and sales to social media. By leveraging the 3D models you (probably) already have from product design, you can create immediate incremental value for your business. Overall, 3D can add ~6% to your bottom line using the assets in your organization’s portfolio.

  1. What is a 3D model?
  2. Design and Manufacturing
  3. Simulation and Training
  4. Sales and Marketing
  5. Product Photography
  6. Customer Service
  7. Social Media
  8. Value of 3D Models Across The Enterprise
  9. 3D Model Creation
3D models are valuable from Design to Retail — Midjourney 5.1

In the ever-shifting landscape of modern business, visionary CEOs are constantly seeking innovative solutions to gain a competitive edge. Among these game-changers is the untapped potential of 3D models and digital twins — transformative assets capable of revolutionizing every facet of an enterprise.

3D models are the basis for most product design and manufacturing. From cars to shoes, ships to buildings, businesses around the world are leveraging the power of design in three dimensions to quickly and efficiently design and create new products, while also reducing waste through a reduction in samples required to get products to market. In addition to creating new products, 3D models are also being used across the enterprise landscape for training, marketing, sales, entertainment, healthcare, and media. They allow for data-driven adjustments that eliminate bottlenecks, reduce costs, and boost efficiency.

This article explores the many different ways in which 3D models can be utilized within an enterprise organization, across a variety of industries and applications. Whether it’s improving design efficiency, enhancing product visualization, or creating immersive marketing experiences, 3D models are revolutionizing the way businesses operate and engage with their customers. This is part of a larger trend where 3D, AR, virtual reality (VR), and extended reality (XR) will have a substantial impact on the estimated $8 trillion Metaverse industry over the next two decades.

Organizations like IKEA have already made the jump from using ‘real’ photographs of their products to almost all computer-generated imagery (CGI). IKEA says that producing their catalog digitally is more efficient and eco-friendly, as they don’t have to build sets and transport furniture that would ultimately be discarded.

“The most expensive and complicated things we have to create and shoot are kitchens,” said Martin Enthed, Innovation Manager at IKEA. “From both an environmental and time point of view, we don’t want to have to ship in all those white-goods from everywhere, shoot them and then ship them all back again.”

IKEA revealed that 75% of the photos in its catalog are actually CGI — Midjourney 5.1

What is a 3D model?

A 3D model refers to a digital representation of a three-dimensional object or scene created using specialized computer software. Unlike traditional 2D images, 3D models possess depth, width, height. and volume, offering a more realistic and immersive depiction of real-world objects or imaginative concepts. These models are constructed using vertices, edges, and faces, forming a mesh that accurately defines the shape and surface characteristics of the object. Additionally, 3D models can incorporate textures, colours, animations, and lighting effects to enhance their visual fidelity and interactivity

Introduction to 3D — by the author.

3D for Design and Manufacturing

In modern manufacturing, 3D begins at the heart of most organizations — the design department. The adoption of 3D methodologies and tools is driving a paradigm shift in how products are conceptualized, developed, and ultimately brought to life. Software titles such as Revit, AutoCAD, 3DS Max, Maya, Blender, Sketchup, Solidworks ZBrush, Houdini, and Cinema4D empower creators to visualize concepts in a three-dimensional space, fostering a deeper understanding of intricate details and potential challenges. This minimizes errors early in the development cycle, saving both time and resources.

According to a survey by the Aberdeen Group, companies that use 3D x in their product design process have an average design cycle time 38% shorter than companies that do not use 3D modeling.

Moreover, 3D modeling for manufacturing expedites the design iteration process. Teams can swiftly adjust and refine designs, enhancing collaboration and reducing the time required to reach optimal outcomes. As designs mature, the seamless transition of 3D models into manufacturing further streamlines processes for additive manufacturing (i.e. 3D printing) and subtractive manufacturing (i.e. machining, lathing, etc.). Precise digital representations eliminate ambiguity in communication between design and manufacturing teams. This means fewer discrepancies, reduced rework, and ultimately quicker production timelines.

Similar to product design, buildings and construction projects use building information modeling (BIM, a subset of CAD) that allows for more detailed information including HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc.

3D for Simulation and Training

Beyond the design team and manufacturing floor, the impact of 3D models reaches far and wide. In training, immersive simulations empower employees with hands-on experiences, accelerating their learning curve and improving skill retention. This can be particularly useful for complex or hazardous tasks, as it allows for training to be carried out in a safe and controlled environment. XR technologies have been proven to decrease training costs and times while dramatically increasing competency and overall comprehension of the information presented. Research by the University of Phoenix found that the use of virtual simulations in training can lead to a 75% reduction in training time, and a 70% improvement in performance on the job.

Some companies are reluctant to use XR due to the cost and management of rolling out new devices. They’re choosing to use 3D on 2D screens for interactive learning, achieving robust results with >40% savings and garnering global recognition.

Organizations like Siemens Healthineers, GM, Samsung, Sprint, HP, Microsoft, Lockheed Martin and many others have already begun rolling out 3D & XR training for everything from operations to customer service.

Virtual Training Experience

The MetaVRse Engine makes it easy to share and distribute 3D content on all platforms.

3D For Sales and Marketing

Sales and marketing teams are leveraging 3D assets and digital twins to showcase products in captivating detail, granting customers a virtual experience that drives confidence and sales. This empowers sales teams to present products with an unprecedented level of detail and interactivity, fostering customer engagement and ultimately boosting sales. Shopify noted a 40% increase in their order conversion rate when customers were using 3D and augmented reality (AR). Brands are using virtual try-on (VTO) technology for wearable items like glasses, hats, jewelry, and clothing as part of their omnichannel efforts to win business.

In addition to simple 3D configurators and customizers, brands are experimenting with immersing their customers in entire virtual worlds. There’s Walmart Land in Roblox; Fortnite has partnered with many brands to bring their customers into a virtual world; and candy mogul Mars-Wrigley has introduced the Starburst Juicyverse in TheMall, a 100-million-square-foot virtual retail experience.

Using these game-like mechanics, sales teams can engage with their clients virtually from anywhere on any device by creating a simple avatar and walking their customers through a virtual store or interactive display with images, videos, and of course, 3D models. This hands-on experience builds confidence in the product’s usability and quality, addressing potential concerns and uncertainties early on. Consequently, this fosters trust between the enterprise and the customer, leading to increased sales conversions.

3D Animation showing inside parts of a phone — Samsung Note 20

3D assets in marketing provide a more immersive and engaging experience for customers, helping to differentiate a product or brand from competitors. By using standardized 3D models, marketers can ensure that the models are consistent and can be used across different marketing materials and campaigns.

3D for Product Photography

While 3D modeling services can be pricey, they’re still less much expensive than hiring professional photographers and staging sets. Photography requires physical locations, lighting, staff, and product. Virtual or 3D product images can be created instantly by one or more people geographically distributed online. Products like Keyshot and Cinema4D are often used for product photography.

Adoption of 3D — VNTANA 3D Content Management System (CMS)

3D for Customer Service

Customer service also undergoes a transformation with the integration of 3D assets. Support teams can remotely troubleshoot issues using digital twins, expediting problem-solving and enhancing customer satisfaction. The ability to visualize complex problems facilitates faster resolutions and a seamless support experience. Solutions like remote troubleshooting use 3D assets to enable support teams to remotely diagnose and troubleshoot customer issues. Instead of relying solely on verbal descriptions, support agents can visualize the product in question and its components, leading to more accurate diagnoses and effective solutions.

Products like XBox are already using 3D and AR delivered through a QR Code to allow customers to solve their own support issues visually. This has resulted in a 49% ROI and dramatically fewer support calls. In the very near future, AI avatars will be ready 24 hours a day to answer any customer inquiry. The current iterations are 2D, but quickly these will move into the spatial realm with products like

3D for Social Media

In the dynamic realm of social media, the integration of 3D assets has emerged as a game-changer, reshaping the way content is presented and consumed. Most social media platforms have already built and deployed 3D creation platforms, such as Snap’s SnapAR, Meta’s Spark, and TikTok’s Effect House.

Meta Spark AR Tutorial

By combining 3D models and AR immersive visuals, brands and individuals are elevating their social media presence, captivating audiences, and fostering deeper engagement. Audiencescan rotate, zoom in, and explore products or scenes from different angles, creating a sense of engagement and involvement that traditional static images and videos cannot match. Brands can create animated sequences, showcase product evolution, or visually narrate complex processes. This storytelling approach resonates with audiences on a deeper level, driving brand loyalty and affinity. There’s also a good potential for experiences and videos of experiences to go viral.

How to Value 3D Models Across The Enterprise

In order to build a financial model to show the investment and return, it’s important to understand the potential use cases for 3D models.

Cost + Benefit = Value

The cost to create 3D models can vary wildly from a few dollars to a few thousand. Here’s a nice breakdown on how to cost these valuable assets to your business (Note: in today’s market, the rates should be at least doubled if you’re outsourcing this work.)

Assumptions: Enterprise, 1000 employees, $1B annual revenue, 5% or $50M budget for each of the 6 categories (design and manufacturing, simulation and training, sales and marketing, product photography, customer service, and social media).

Put a different way, most global enterprises spend about 30% of their annual revenue on these areas.Based on industry case studies and our own experience, after cost the gains from 3D applications equate to ~20% or $10M for each of these areas. In other words, each area sees a 20% annual ROI, enhancing departmental as well as overall enterprise performance. Bubbling back up to a percentage of total enterprise revenue, we see $60M net new revenue (or 6% overall companywide improvement) from the deployment of 3D across the enterprise.

3D Model Creation

The landscape of 3D asset creation involves intricate processes like photogrammetry, 3D scanning, and modelling programs. However, these methods are often time consuming and potentially costly. Building a new 3D model for every element within a virtual environment isn’t a feasible approach.

Much like traditional graphic designers, creators of immersive content rely on libraries of assets to populate swiftly evolving virtual worlds. The array of available 3D content varies in quality and cost, akin to graphic design resources. Sites like Sketchfab, Turbosquid and CGTrader offer large repositories for everything from cars to clothes, avatars to aerospace.

Wireframe of 3D shoe showing geometry — MetaVRse

3D studios gradually amass comprehensive collections of refined digital assets. These studios can draw upon these resources to establish a robust foundation for new projects.


Universal Scene Description, or USD(Z), is a format created by Pixar and championed by NVIDIA and Apple as the next standard 3D format. Unlike GLTF, which has been adopted by most of the world of 3D and XR, USD is only being used by a few very key players, including full support from Epic Games. USD allows for complete scene compositions to be stored and shared, whereas GLTF is all about individual 3D assets. Both allow for complex geometries, advanced textures, transparencies, and rigid or skinned animations.

Somewhere between GLTF and USD is the sweet spot that will allow for universal interoperability between 3D worlds and platforms. The Metaverse Standards Forum, with over 3,000 members, is working diligently to create open, accessible standards from which the world can build.

3D Experience Building

In the realm of digital innovation, creation engines like Unity, Unreal Engine, and MetaVRse stand as pillars of transformative potential. These platforms are the orchestrators that bring the magic of 3D experience building to life, enabling creators to shape their visions with remarkable precision and impact, and deliver them to billions of people digitally.

Unity, a pioneer in the field of mobile apps, empowering creators to craft interactive experiences that span across gaming, architecture, education, digital twins, and beyond. Its user-friendly interface and versatile capabilities allow for the seamless creation of captivating 3D environments.

Unreal Engine, renowned for its photorealistic visuals and cinematic quality, is a powerhouse that propels storytelling to new heights. It fuels the creation of awe-inspiring virtual worlds, where every detail is meticulously brought to life. With its cutting-edge graphics and immersive features, Unreal Engine is the choice for AAA games and Hollywood movies.

MetaVRse — an emerging player that fuses creativity and technology to power the spatial web. Rooted in the philosophy of democratizing the creation process, MetaVRse brings intuitive tools to the hands of both professionals and enthusiasts. It paves the way for innovative storytelling, design prototyping, and immersive training, all within a unified ecosystem that nurtures collaborative growth.

MetaVRse Engine Tutorial

These creation engines aren’t just tools; they’re gateways to boundless creativity. They provide creators with a palette of possibilities, where worlds spring to life, and narratives resonate deeply. From the intuitive workflows of Unity, the cinematic prowess of Unreal Engine, to the inclusive spirit of MetaVRse, each platform caters to diverse needs and aspirations. Building on these creation engines, we’re not just crafting content — we’re shaping the future, one immersive experience at a time.


The lifetime value of 3D models across every enterprise can be calculated to an improvement of roughly 6% across design, manufacturing, training, marketing, customer service, photography, and social media. These versatile assets have the potential to revolutionize processes, enhance customer experiences, and boost the bottom line. With the advancements in 3D technologies and the availability of user-friendly creation engines like Unity, Unreal Engine, and MetaVRse, integrating 3D models into your business operations is more accessible than ever before.



Alan Smithson

Alan’s purpose in life is to inspire and educate future leaders to think and act in a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable way.