Additive Manufacturing Software: All Grown Up
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SmarTech Analysis believes we are now entering a new phase of AM capabilities where the relative importance of software and hardware are reversing; an age where software is going to be as responsible (or more so) for driving adoption of additive technologies than the systems themselves. This was always inevitable.
For how many years have developers of AM-related software tools been saying that the hardware capabilities have surpassed the capability of the software tools that control them? This, of course, is a natural progression. We saw the same trend in the personal computing sector, where the hardware (PCs) have been commodities and new kinds of software are what matters. In machine tools (including AM machines) manufacturers have built in physical capabilities into printers that will achieve their full potential only through advanced software control.
SmarTech Analysis recently completed its latest study of the additive software landscape, its first official analysis of this sector in nearly three years, to find that in that time the capabilities of additive software have expanded in a huge way. One factor is that the last several years for machines have seen customers demand systems that behave like and otherwise resemble traditional machine tools across a number of different metrics. In addition, the most influential segments of the additive software chain are now becoming integrated into the world’s established and leading CAD, PLM, and CAE software platforms.
AM Software Graduating to the Big Leagues of Software: More Opportunities
Compared to just three years ago, the biggest differences in the AM software market are:
- In 2017 there were hardly any meaningful generative design software platforms that took into account how to design specifically for AM processes. A few early stage tools were in developmental state at that time. Today “additively-intelligent” generative design packages are becoming offered across the industry from the largest players in CAD. Autodesk Generative Design, PTC Creo Generative Design, MSC Apex Generative Design, Siemens Solid Edge and more are all notable “prime time” AM-focused generative design tools available as part of widely used manufacturing and design software platforms.
- This has effectively graduated the opportunity for AM-specific design software from a handful of startup tools for lattice generation and optimization, to full blown design software that is increasingly optimized for AM. Most of this is being achieved through AM generative design add-on modules living within already established software brands. Meanwhile, as advanced users of AM technology (especially metal additive technologies) have come to the realization that “design for additive manufacturing” represents one of the pillars of successful AM integration, the investments into such software packages has grown significantly from what might have been considered the typical AM design optimization software investment just three or four years prior.
In the rest of this article we provide SmarTech’s current estimates of the size of the AM software market taken from our new report and how these have changed since our 2017 report We also take a look in more detail about the specific new functionalities that have been added to the latest generation of AM software.
(Feature image courtesy of nTopology.)
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