Step in your time machines and go back just 5-6 years. You are now in a world where desktop 3D printing is nearly nonexistent. There’s no $300 desktop printers at your disposal, and if you were to mention the phrase ‘3D Print’ to 100 people, it’s more than likely all but maybe one or two would have any clue what you are talking about.
Now jump back into your time machine and travel back to the present day. There are literally hundreds of different desktop 3D printers on the market, some more affordable than the typical video game console or smartphone. The market has exploded and this is primarily due to the fact that designs for FFF 3D printers have been open sourced, in the process allowing dozens of startups to enter the space with little to no barriers to entry. An explosion of innovation within the market has been spawned.
Now history may be about to repeat itself within the SLA DLP 3D printing space, thanks to 3D software giant Autodesk. It will be a year ago tomorrow that Autodesk had originally announced their Spark 3D printing operating system, and let us all know that they would soon be launching their own 3D printer to go along with the OS. That new printer, called the Ember, is now available for sale and acts as an example for what the Spark OS is capable of. In the months to follow, the company has really embraced the open source movement, and just last month open sourced their 3D printer resin, providing a recipe for all to see.
Today, Autodesk has expanded their open source ambitions, releasing the mechanical design files for the Ember to the open source community. In doing so, they are enabling thousands of engineers and makers to 3D print replacement parts, and technically build their own Ember 3D printer. Although, conceivably this can be done, many of the parts of the ember are injection molded, and it would likely cost more to make it yourself than to purchase the printer from Autodesk. Eric J. Wilhelm, founder of Instructables.com and head of Autodesk’s hardware group does note that the prototype of the device was almost entirely printed though.
“The full design of Ember in Fusion 360 is now available for you to freely view, download, inspect and modify,” writes Wilhelm. “I’ve been having a blast with the explode model function! We’re sharing these designs under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, the same license Arduino uses to share their design files. Just like the formulation for our resin, we’re explicitly inviting you to understand, remix, and remake Ember.”
The most exciting part about the release of these files is probably the fact that designers can now modify the printer in their own way, perhaps making it work better, adding features, and sparking innovation in a similar way to what took place with FFF printers a few years ago.
“Our thought is not that you would duplicate Ember, but extend it,” explained Wilhelm. “The design files allow you to make your own modifications and enhancements. For example, we’d love to see Ember used as a research platform to explore the next-generation of stereolithography.”
Do you intend to download these files? What are your thoughts on Autodesk embracing the open source community as much as they have? Discuss in the Ember forum thread on 3DPB.com. Download the files here.