In the past, we have written numerous stories about companies who are striving to make 3D printing easier for the masses. When it comes down to it, the way things have stood since the inception of this technology, is that it’s simply not just all milk and honey. “3D printing sucks,” as Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski explained yesterday during his keynote speech at the Inside 3D Printing Conference here in Santa Clara, California. In defense of the technology, Kowalski was pitching Autodesk’s new 3D printing platform, Spark, which aims to make the entire process easy enough for everyone to use.
Kowalski used an analogy to compare Spark to Google’s Android operating system. It’s open source, easy to use, and easy to develop for. However, one other company, PrintToPeer, which we covered back in May when they launched their Indiegogo campaign, seems to agree with Kowalski’s assessment.
Yesterday, PrintToPeer’s Founder and CEO, Tom Bielecki took part in a startup competition here at the Inside 3D Printing Conference. He had a very little amount of time to try and convince judges, investors, and the media on hand, that his company has the potential to change the 3D printing space for good.
During his brief pitch, he announced that PrintToPeer is now available for free download via their website. The software is basically an operating system that can be used over the cloud, using a plug-in Raspberry Pi box. Once connected to a 3D printer, it can be set up to allow as many individuals as needed to access it from remote locations, via the cloud.
Bielecki told us, that during a workshop held on Tuesday at the Inside 3DP Conference, many experts within the field said that 3D printing should be (and isn’t quite there yet) as easy as saying, “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot,” and simply getting that cup of tea (metaphor for the 3D printed object). Of course this phrase is in reference to Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek ordering his tea from his version of a 3D printer (The Replicator).
Bielecki proved to us that this is not true however, as he tapped his watch, waited for the “beep” and repeated those famous words “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot”. Before our very own eyes, PrintToPeer showed just why they may have accomplished what many have been eagerly awaiting; A method for quickly and easily 3D printing an object. The system sent the command to print an “Earl Grey” tea cup to a printer at a remote location, and while Bielecki didn’t have the time to show us the final printed object, we assume that it printed out just as he had asked.
Bielecki was questioned by one of the judges about how they plan to compete with Autodesk’s Spark platform. After all, it seems as though both companies have the same idea. He believes that while, the ideas are quite similar, the business models are not. While Autodesk aims to make deals with 3D printer manufacturers by teaming to include the Spark platform on their new machines’ as operating systems, PrintToPeer allows anyone with whatever 3D printer they have, to quickly and easily use their service. Their Raspberry Pi box can hook up to virtually any 3D printer, whether it be a DIY RepRap or a MakerBot Replicator Z18. “If Spark is Android, then we are Chromecast,” explained Bielecki.
PrintToPeer already has several deals in place with many partners, including 3DHubs. They are currently looking to team with companies who will allow for the 3D printing of objects directly from a website. Imagine being able to login to your favorite 3D printing file repositories such as Thingiverse.com and simply being able to click on “Print” next to a desired object. This object would then automatically be sliced, the gcode would be compiled and the printer would begin printing in a matter of a couple minutes. This is what the future holds, if PrintToPeer can manage to gain more traction. So far, they are well on their way.
Feel free to give it a try. Signup and begin 3D printing in the cloud today, absolutely free at PrintToPeer.com.
What do you think? Will PrintToPeer successfully change the way we think about 3D printing? Discuss in the PrintToPeer forum thread on 3DPB.com.