It’s been a busy couple of months for Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS), what with its fine showing at RAPID + TCT, the expansion of healthcare 3D printing services at Stratasys Direct, acquiring the remaining shares of Xaar 3D Ltd, and much more. The polymer 3D printing provider has had even more exciting news to share over the last couple of weeks, and I’m going to tell you all about it right here.
Open Software Platform for Production-Scale 3D Printing
First, the company just introduced the enterprise-ready GrabCAD Additive Manufacturing Platform, which will help manufacturing customers integrate and manage whole fleets of production-scale Stratasys, and non-Stratasys, industrial 3D printers. This open software platform was designed especially for AM needs across the digital thread and also integrates with enterprise applications and the Industry 4.0 infrastructure.
As SmarTech Analysis projected in its “Opportunities in Additive Manufacturing Software Markets 2020” report, the total global AM software market will reach $3.3 billion by 2026 as the industry continues to scale. But while we keep seeing 3D printers get larger and demonstrate their readiness for 3D printing end-use parts at volume production, more operational capabilities run by software, like managing multiple printers over multiple locations, automating materials management, monitoring output quality, and more, are needed, because additive workflows are very different than traditional manufacturing ones. That’s where the GrabCAD AM Platform comes in.
Stratasys was already in a good position to be the sole 3D printing platform provider for its customers, and with its new platform, the company can expand its offering even more.
“We see manufacturers moving their 3D printing operations from the lab to the production floor, and that significantly increases operational requirements for everything from productivity to quality assurance. The GrabCAD AM Platform, our enterprise software stack specifically for 3D printing, can be a catalyst for the growth of the additive manufacturing software market. It enables customers to efficiently manage ever larger and more complex operations to produce consistent, high-quality production parts at scale. This is an essential part of our vision to digitally transform manufacturing operations around the world,” explained Nadav Goshen, Executive Vice President of Software for Stratasys.
The GrabCAD Software Development Kit (SDK) allows for two-way connectivity between 3D printers, Industry 4.0 infrastructure, and applications and is used by the new GrabCAD AM Platform to integrate GrabCAD applications and third-party GrabCAD software partners. For example, several GrabCAD applications in the platform, such as the cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) work order management application GrabCAD Shop, allow users to manage all orders in one location and assign them quickly to networked printers. Another example is GrabCAD Print, which is CAD-agnostic and uses high-end security protocols to make the workflow between DfAM and 3D print preparation easier.
The new platform, which is supported by a team of over 100 developers worldwide, also includes, as previously mentioned, Industry 4.0-ready SDKs, which provide users with APIs, code samples, documentation, and support integration with enterprise IT, in addition to third-party applications for asset and account management, security, analytics, order management, and more. Finally, the GrabCAD AM Platform includes the GrabCAD Print Manager, allowing manufacturers to easily manage industrial 3D printer fleets.
Adobe Collaboration Allows for Full-Color, Tactile 3D Printed Models
Moving on, Stratasys is collaborating with Adobe, and the result is that engineers and artists using the Adobe Substance 3D Painter now have a workflow for managing Stratasys PolyJet technology to quickly turn digital 3D renderings into full-color, tactile 3D printed models without having to use any other outside processes or software.
“This collaboration has allowed us to see our designs for the very first time in the physical world – which is every artist’s and designer’s dream. And to be honest, we have gotten a little bit emotional seeing our designs come to life and in a way that is so realistic,” admitted Pierre Maheut, Head of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, 3D and Immersive – Substance for Adobe.
Until now, users of the Adobe Substance had to use extra processes or external software applications to get their designs ready to be printed with the textures and colors they’d added during the design process in Adobe Substance software. With this new workflow, users can easily create, render, and 3D print full-color models, complete with physical textures, right from Adobe Substance to a PolyJet printer.
Typical renderings for Adobe Substance 3D tools include applications like fashion, architecture, games, product design, consumer packaged goods, and films. But now that it’s combined with PolyJet 3D printing, the software can also help create package designs and product prototypes. This means that engineers, artists, and designers can test different product design variations with full color, material, and finish (CMF) models without adding more time or money to a project.
3D Printed Display Pieces for New Paisley Park Exhibition
This summer, we told you about the 3D printed tribute to Prince and his vast shoe collection that Stratasys was working on for a new exhibition at Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minnesota called The Beautiful Collection: Prince’s Custom Shoes. Designed by Paisley Park’s Duff Eisenschenk and curated by the Paisley Park Museum Collections team, the exhibition is now open to the public, which means we can finally see the custom 3D printed display pieces that Stratasys made for 300 pairs of the iconic artist’s shoes.
A baby grand piano in the center of the exhibit, built for 11 pairs of shoes to be displayed, was 3D printed using both PolyJet and FDM technologies by Stratasys, which says it’s the first of its kind. It’s made of 45 individual parts, which were later fused, and all of the structural parts, printed on the F900 and Fortus 450, are made out of Nylon 12 carbon fiber; ASA Black was used to print non-load-bearing covers. Because the piano keys were printed on the J850 out of VeroUltra White and VeroUltra Black, no paint was needed to finish them.
Eisenschenk designed the piano’s legs to be replica Cloud Guitars, one of Prince’s most iconic guitar shapes. Stratasys took over 250 3D scans of Prince’s Cloud Guitar, and once they were processed, they spent 60 hours making sure that 3D printing would be able to replicate each guitar element. Nylon 12 carbon fiber was used to print the guitars on the Stratasys F900, which was large enough to be printed in one piece. Even more amazing – the guitars were painted and fitted with real bridges, strings, and tuning nuts so that they could be played as well.
For the pièce de résistance, Stratasys created a 9 x 9-foot polymer image of Prince on fabric, consisting of over 347,000 clear spherical cells containing layers of color that replicated a photo of the musician on canvas. The J850 was responsible for this masterpiece, as it can print more than 640,000 combinations of textures, gradients, transparencies, and color down to the micron level. The completed canvas was printed in 56 sections on 100% white cotton denim before being hand-sewn together into the final breathtaking product.
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