Autodesk Unveils Plans for 3D Printer
Kyle Maxey posted on May 15, 2014 |
3D printing, autodesk, spark, SLA, printerIn a move that helps cement its place in the world of digital manufacturing, Autodesk announced it will produce a branded 3D printer.

According to an announcement made by Autodesk CEO Carl Bass, Autodesk will make a strong push into the additive manufacturing landscape, creating an open source 3D printing platform that will simplify the printing process for everyone from materials engineers to hardware manufacturers and product designers. They are calling their new platform and printer Spark.

Built to be open source, Spark will apparently introduce a new protocol for streaming model data to printers and give users better visualization of their models before they hit print.

While a universal print terminal would be an excellent tool, Autodesk’s most interesting reveal was its 3D printer. Branded with the same Spark name, the machine will also be open source and create objects using a resin-curing SLA method. Unlike other SLA machines that use proprietary photo-resins, Bass and his company are hoping to entice users with the idea that its machine will accept any formulation of photo-reactive material. Given the fact that materials are likely to drive the future of AM technology that move could put quite a feather it Autodesk’s 3D printing hat. Beyond those details not much else is known about the Spark system. No build volumes, prices or layer resolutions have been released.

However, as part of the announcement Bass did write, “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.”

Though it is obvious that Autodesk is very interested in getting its platform and machine into the hands of creative users, no concrete dates for either Spark products have been announced, though Autodesk stated that both will be available later this year.

Given the amount of data already generated by Autodesk products like Inventor, Revit, and Autocad, I’m surprised it has taken Autodesk this long to get into the game. Moreover, while the company will be using reliable SLA technology, I wonder how they’ll attract a sizable market share. At this point people have grown accustomed to creating a file in modeling software, exporting it and finally importing it to the proprietary software that accompanies their printer. Will the Spark system provide users with a seamless enough workspace to incentivize a switch? Will its printer build models of such great quality that everyone will have to run out and buy one? I guess we’ll know more at the end of the year.

Until then, all I can say is that it’s good to see another heavy hitter in the digital manufacturing world swinging for the fences in AM game.

Image Courtesy of Autodesk

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