From an investor’s standpoint, Autodesk has provided a great way to invest indirectly into the 3D printing market. Although they haven’t produced 3D printers, they run the software which many designers and companies rely on, when creating 3D models to print out. Carl Bass, the CEO of Autodesk, has long been a bit skeptical about the consumer side of the 3D printing market, seemingly being more interested in the manufacturing and service based side of things. It looks as though he may have changed his mind though!
Today, Carl Bass made two major announcements ahead of his appearance at the Makercon conference in California, both pertaining to Autodesk’s involvement within the 3D printing space. In what Bass likens to Google’s drive to spread the use of their Android operating system, Autodesk is going a similar route, but with a brand new open source 3D printing platform. Called ‘Spark‘, the aim of this new platform is to simplify the 3D printing process for material scientists, hardware manufacturers, product designers, and software developers. Spark will make visualization of prints much easier, as it streamlines digital information to 3D printers in a unique, efficient way. Spark will basically be a universal operating system for 3D printers.
The second part of the annoucement, is an Autodesk branded 3D printer, based off of the Spark platform. The printer will use stereolithography technology to cure a resin via a laser. The printer too, will be open source, meaning that anyone can use the design and technology to create their own printers. Although the price of Autodesk’s 3D printer has not been revealed as of yet, industry insiders believe it will be offered at around $5000.
“By sharing its design we could see a second wave of small start-ups creating stereolithography machines just as the makers did when the early material extrusion patents expired,” said Pete Basiliere, research director at the Gartner tech agency.
Just like we saw a tidal wave of innovation and creativity around FDM based 3D printers, we may be about to see the same explosive growth with the stereolithography technology. Innovation will likely lead tocompetition, meaning cheaper prices all around for the consumer.
“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,” wrote CEO Carl Bass. “The printer will be able to use a broad range of materials, made by us and by others, and we look forward to lots of exploration into new materials.”
“The world is just beginning to realize the potential of additive manufacturing and with Spark, we hope to make it possible for many more people to incorporate 3D printing into their design and manufacturing process. Over the coming months we’ll be working with hardware manufacturers to integrate the Spark platform with current and future 3D printers. Both Spark and our 3D printer will be available later this year.”
Bass also compared their open source 3D printer to that of the Google Nexus smartphone, which was launched to drive initial adoption of Google’s Android operating system. We all know how that turned out. Could Spark, and Autodesk’s new printer do the same for the 3D printing market as Android has done for the smartphone market? We will soon find out. Although Autodesk will not charge for the use of their platform, or the technology behind their new 3D printer, Spark will clearly drive usage of their paid software applications. Discuss this breaking news at the Autodesk Spark platform forum thread at 3DPB.com.