After retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps, Costain decided he wanted to run his own business.
He chose Denver as the place to retire, started looking for a company to buy, and found Archetype3D. "I started looking for a place where I could run the business that had a team in place," Costain says. "I kept coming back to this place. The owners were definitely ready to retire."
Costain, who bought the company in 2017, says he was attracted to the business because of the creative aspect of producing something that's unique. "Lots of kids grow up making models," he notes. "I don't have a design background."
Over the years, the company has handled large-scale projects for developers such as East West Partners, which has a big model of the city of Denver on a table in its offices in the Central Platte Valley. It also created the models for residential projects the Coloradan and Lakehouse.
Most customers can usually provide enough information for Archetype3D to put together a cost estimate, but they can't envision the end result. "I've never had anybody come to me who knows exactly what they want to do," Costain says.
For example, when the U.S. Coast Guard wanted a training model that was better than the rudimentary one it had in Connecticut, it commissioned Archetype3D to create one that had a nice harbor and port scene to illustrate safety and security measures that their original model lacked.
"They know the elements that need to be there, but they don't know what the thing is going to look like in the end -- what kind of ships, what kind of cranes, what kind of warehouses," Costain says. "Once we agree to a contract, it's still a work in progress. We come up with a drawing or a rendering and then it's a step-by-step process with a lot of client interaction, computer work, and design work."
After a design has been agreed on, Archetype3D starts in on the laser cutting and etching, 3D printing, and light woodworking to create a general vision and concept for its client. The last piece of the puzzle is the actual, old-school model-making, including hand-painting the model.
Challenges: Archetype3D's challenges are twofold: It's difficult for the company to find employees with the right skillset, and it's products fall into a niche that makes it hard to find new clients. "The challenge is finding people who have the marketing budget to pay for a model," Costain says. "With the virtual world, do people think it's a viable tool to have a model for themselves? It's a one-time deal. What if your project changes?"
Opportunities: Costain doesn't anticipate large-scale developments such as Denver's Central Park master-planned community (formerly Stapleton) to stop purchasing models to market their communities, but he's still searching for new opportunities. "We're getting more and more from museums, which is great," he says. "We're building educational models -- geological-type things."
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers also contacted Archetype3D about possibly building a model to illustrate where its dams are located.
The company also has been active in the trade show realm, though it hasn't had any business from that sector since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. "A company may have an industrial piece of equipment, and they want to show how their machinery works on a small scale," Costain says. "That's definitely an opportunity when we get trade shows back."
Needs: Costain says he needs for companies to continue to want architectural models in an age when nearly anything can be displayed or demonstrated on a video screen. "I'm having faith in the fact that people still want to feel and touch something," Costain says. "It's like you can see a picture of a painting, but seeing it in person on a wall is a whole different experience."