May 15, 2014

Autodesk, the leading 3D modelling software-maker, is going to join the lower-end 3D printer arena with its own 3D printer.

Autodesk announced its consumer 3D printer at the MakerCon conference in California, along with an open-software 3D printing platform called 'Spark'.

The price is not revealed, but Autodesk CEO Carl Bass said it would likely be in the $5,000 range. Both the printer and the platform will be available "later this year," said the company.

Autodesk's new printer uses Stereolithography (SLA) technology to create objects. SLA 3D printer hardens liquid plastic (photopolymer) with an ultraviolet (UV) layer by layer and converts liquid plastic into solid objects. The process can deliver smoother and more complex objects than desktop FDM 3D printers.

The new printer will serve as a reference implementation for Spark and will demonstrate the power of the Spark platform, said Mr Bass in a blog post.

Spark is an open 3D printing platform that makes it easier to visualize prints and optimize them without trial and error. It will make it more reliable yet simpler to print 3D models, and easier to control how that model is actually printed.

In an interview with BBC, Mr Bass said his inspiration was from Google's first Nexus smartphone, which meant to inspire other manufacturers to install Android on their handsets. One cannot help wondering if the company's goal is also to get its software to reach to as many users as possible, and to make new Spark an "operating system for 3D-printing".

Spark will be open and freely licensable to hardware manufacturers and others who are interested. Same for our 3D printer – the design of the printer will be made publicly available to allow for further development and experimentation.

The company said over the coming months they'll be working with hardware manufacturers to integrate the Spark platform with current and future 3D printers. They will make it simple to integrate new materials into their printer, and encourage everyone to iterate on and enhance its capabilities.

Autodesk highlights the smooth surface of objects created by its printer via BBC

Mr Bass told BBC, "One of the limitations right now is on the material sciences side - the kind of chemistry."

"We're making a printer that, rather than just being able to load in proprietary materials, you can load in any material you want. You can formulate your own polymers and experiment with those.

"That's an important next step because we think material science is a breakthrough that has to happen to make [the industry] go from low-volume 3D-printed stuff to where it really starts changing manufacturing."

Although both Spark and the printer's design will be open source, Autodesk believes it should still profit because the move would draw people to their other products.

"If 3D printing succeeds we succeed, because the only way you can print is if you have a 3D model, and our customers are the largest makers of 3D models in the world," he said.

"My feeling is that 3D printing has been over-hyped for home use but under-appreciated for its industrial possibilities.

"I think we're really at the beginning of a new way of making stuff and we're just trying to kickstart it."


Posted in 3D Printers

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Valter wrote at 5/15/2014 6:18:23 PM:


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