GrabCAD Print is Stratasys’ Software Solution to Unlocking 3D Printing’s Potential
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on May 23, 2016 |
Stratasys has been known for its 3D printers and its vast portfolio of materials, growing from a manufacturer of fused deposition modeling (FDM) systems to producing powerful PolyJet machines after merging with Objet. Two years ago, however, the company announced that it would acquire GrabCAD, a popular 3D modeling and engineering community now numbering around 3 million users. At RAPID 2016, Stratasys made clear exactly how the site, which is in no way limited to 3D printing aficionados, would fit into its larger vision with a soon-to-be-released app called GrabCAD Print.

GrabCAD Print is a cloud-based app meant to streamline and modernize the 3D printing process through a few key features. First of all, the software will be able to read native CAD files, meaning that users will no longer have to translate their models to the data-starved STL file format before printing. Instead, the colors, textures and other details will be preserved in the original CAD file as it heads to 3D printing. If a user wants to 3D print a rough, colorless prototype with a standard FDM 3D printer and then print the object in full-color on a PolyJet machine, he or she can do so with the same file.


GrabCAD Print will also serve as a 3D printing interface across Stratasys printers so that users don’t have to learn a new management tool for every machine. For those with a network of printers, the software will connect through the cloud with every system from the desktop or on mobile devices. Moreover, all of the data from these printers can be managed from GrabCAD Print, allowing users to access at no cost information about print history, completed jobs, failed jobs and material used.

The GrabCAD Print interface. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)

The GrabCAD Print interface. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)


To get the app off the ground, Stratasys has partnered with a few key partners, which will enable the direct translation of a digital file to a 3D-printed object. When GrabCAD Print is made available in North America this summer, the tool will be able to read CAD files from the following software:

As GrabCAD Print is an open platform, businesses will also be able to develop their own apps for GrabCAD Print. Furthermore, other manufacturers of 3D printers will have the ability to develop drivers for the machines to operate with the software as well.

In an interview with ENGINEERING.com, Paul Giaconia, vice president of Software Products & Strategy at Stratasys, explained that software is crucial to tying together the company’s larger strategy. “Historically, we sell hardware and materials and offer 3D printing services, but the conclusion we came to was that we need to tie that all together with software,” he said.“GrabCAD Print is a key component of our software strategy, a major investment in software to round outour software solutions portfolio.”

Giaconia adds that manufacturing is currently undergoing a major transformation due to technological disruption related to realism, connectivity and accessibility. “Digital product definition has evolved pretty well over the past 30 years with CAD,” he explained. “You can capture color, texture and geometry very well in CAD. The first thing we do to get ready in 3D printing is we output to an STL file and we lose all of that information. So, if we can figure out realism in 3D printing, there’s a real opportunity to create high-quality, custom parts.” In this way, the software may be an obvious fit for Stratasys’ recently-released J750 3D printer, which brings a new level of color and material possibilities to its PolyJet platform.

A unique model train displaying the J750 3D printer’s material and color range at RAPID 2016. (Image courtesy of the author.)

A unique model train displaying the J750 3D printer’s material and color range at RAPID 2016. (Image courtesy of the author.)

“The second disruption is connectivity,” Giaconia continued. “Everything nowadays is connected, hardware-wise. 3D printing and factory devices shouldn't be any different. If connectivity is unlimited, CPU is unlimited, the disk is unlimited, then the theory is that we can provide a whole new level of business intelligence to customers about what’s going on in a printer network that we don’t have today.”

Giaconia concluded, “The third disruption is around accessibility. There are over three million people who use CAD today. It’s just too hard to get to 3D printing technology. There are too many tools and translations, and the workflow just isn't very efficient.”

Billing GrabCAD Print as the “digital backbone for design and manufacturing,” Giaconia and Stratasys believe that the software could provide an answer to issues of realism, connectivity, and accessibility. Though Stratasys is a member of the 3MF Consortium, which is seeking to create a universal file format for 3D printing, Giaconia describes Stratasys’ new software as, in some ways, addressing problems that 3MF cannot. By reading CAD files directly, there’s no need to go through a file translation process and, therefore, there should, ideally, be no loss of data.

When GrabCAD Print is released worldwide later this year, we'll have a better idea of whether or not the software truly lives up to the company's promises.

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