Ikea is using 3D Renders as it is faster and cheaper than photographing an object in different settings, it also means they can prepare the catalogue artwork before the product is in production. Ikea as a brand is reliable enough that we understand the basic quality of product we will receive if we purchase from the catalogue.
Kickstarter is moving away from 3D renders so backers can better understand the quality of the product they will receive. The projects on Kickstarter are not (often) from a reliable brand, so people are taking a risk that they can actually deliver the product they promise, to an acceptable quality, in a timely manner.
Shapeways renders your 3D model as soon as you upload it so you can preview your design before you 3D Print it for yourself. We recommend that you do 3D Print and photograph any product you would like to sell so that your customers can see exactly what they will get. Like Ikea, uploading photorealistic renders is often faster and cheaper than taking photographs but like Kickstarter potential buyers of your designs are relying on these images to determine the look, feel and scale of the design as proof that your design will work. This is the reason we only promote products that have photographs, not renders to ensure that your customers have a better understanding of what they will receive.
We would love to get your thoughts, are there any scenarios where you think a render is suitable?
I remember an Apple event I went to at Architecture School and he was saying that some architects were getting sued because the rendering was not accurate and building was not identical to the render, i.e. a shade of colour was off....Also the rendering office Hayes Davidson http://www.hayesdavidson.com/ that charge up to several thousand for a render offer an 'exact render' for planning permission that is checked to be all perfect measurements.
A tactic used by property developers (bad one's) places furniture that is 85% the size of real furniture in an apartment that you view. When you buy the thing, you realise that what you thought could fit, doesn't.
Also check out sayduck.com that are doing some cool stuff with furniture augmented reality.
I actually had a product idea recently that looked great in render... and I was sure was going to be perfect. But after the initial print it was clear I was going to have to improve it quite a bit, but more importantly... I would have to make it so much bigger that it would be in a completely different price range... The wrong range for the product... so I decided not to go through with it for now (maybe I should do a blog post about the concept and test).
Using renders is a bit dangerous. Sadly... not many of us have the budget for doing lots of test prints. I think the only case where you can do only a render is... when you are certain it's printable, and it's a product with only artistic value... not practical use that requires testing.
That said, I believe strongly in the concept that 3D printing can allow us to make every single print unique... in which case a rendering is the only possible way to show what the end result will be like... but that requires a lot of testing as well (and test prints).
My personal opinion with regards to renders on Shapeways is that each store owner can use renders to show his/her models, since, as has been mentioned, we can't all afford to get every single model we design actually printed - AND in different materials; the stipulation being that the image should be clearly marked as a render (I think I've done this with all mine!). However, under NO circumstances should Shapeways be using rendered images to actively promote or showcase a model that is for sale. If that were the case then we could all throw lovely renders of our models to be promoted without ever having anything printed, and in the end we would have a lot of disappointed customers.