A big upheaval happened at Autodesk in February when CEO Carl Bass announced his resignation, as did board members Scott Ferguson and Jeff Clarke. This week, Autodesk users need to brace themselves for more changes, this time of the hardware variety. The company has announced that they will be discontinuing the manufacture of their Ember 3D printer, which was first introduced in 2014 and released a little under a year later.
However, the fact that Autodesk is no longer manufacturing the Ember doesn’t mean the end for the open-source 3D printer. The firmware’s source files are still available online, as are the resin formulas for the SLA machine. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could, in theory, build your own new Ember if you should so desire, as Autodesk also released the mechanical design files in 2015, noting that the prototype was almost entirely 3D printed. The Ember, therefore, will live on in the open source ether, with the potential to be continually transformed into something new and better. The whole purpose of introducing the Ember in 2014, Autodesk says, was to experiment with open, collaborative development.
“In 2014, our goal in launching the Ember printer was to demonstrate the power of an open and connected system with software, hardware, and materials all developed together in hopes of advancing the industry in a significant way,” Ember Support Engineer Owen Smithyman states in an open letter to Ember users. “…We inspired new companies to develop materials for SLA printing that may not have been possible before. We worked beside several of you to develop new, efficient 3D printing network production processes. We demonstrated how print speed can be impacted with a connected system and how it is possible to achieve sub-pixel resolution. We hope that all of this research is valuable to you in continuing to innovate in the DLP printing space.”
Autodesk will continue to offer support to Ember users, and customers will be able to purchase consumables, including resins, print heads, and trays, through Colorado Photopolymer Solutions (CPS), which has worked with Autodesk on the development of new resins for several years. CPS, incidentally, is now also selling a new investment casting resin that was developed in partnership with Autodesk. According to Autodesk, the resin burns out cleanly and offers a high level of detail, and is formulated to be especially gentle on PDMS, meaning that trays will last longer than with other casting resins. CPS is also selling a few other new resins that they developed on their own.
Meanwhile, the Ember team will still be available through the Ember Research Hub; CPS will also be active on the forum. If you have a question that the forum cannot answer, you can submit it here. Development and support for Print Studio have stopped, but Netfabb is succeeding it, with the same capabilities plus more. Print Studio will continue to be available for download.
Autodesk hasn’t provided a reason for discontinuing the manufacture of the Ember, but it sounds as if the introduction of the 3D printer was mostly an experiment in open source development. Autodesk is, first and foremost, a software company, though the Ember team is quick to assure followers that they’re by no means turning away from 3D printing.
“In fact, we are now focused more than ever on new research to advance the 3D printing industry,” Smithyman says. “We hope you will join the new Ember Research Hub, where we will continue to provide support and drive conversations across the community relating to DLP printing technology.”
The continued development of the Ember itself, however, is now up to its users. Discuss in the Ember forum at 3DPB.com.