Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
Autodesk will introduce a 3D Printer built on the Spark platform
May 27th, 2014 by Susan Smith
Mary Hope McQuiston, director of marketing for the Autodesk consumer group, answered our questions about Autodesk’s groundbreaking 3D printer and software:
What precipitated Autodesk’s move into the hardware business with the Autodesk 3D Printer?
We’ve seen across multiple industries that tightly integrated hardware and software can often improve the user experience and we hope many in the industry will take advantage of the Spark platform. To provide an example of what’s possible, we will introduce an Autodesk 3D printer built on the Spark platform. This printer will serve as a reference implementation that demonstrates the potential of the Spark platform, raising the bar for the 3D printing user experience. In keeping with our open approach, Autodesk will make its designs for the printer available to anyone that wants them.
What customers have expressed interest in this type of product?
Autodesk is working to improve how the world is designed and made and to accelerate a new industrial revolution built around advanced manufacturing processes such as 3D printing. We see a need and opportunity to speed innovation in the 3D printing industry by reducing the barriers to entry and improving cost, speed and quality of the output through more tightly integrated software and hardware for 3D printing. The Spark platform will be available to manufacturers who develop 3D printers for both business and consumer applications. We believe that the greatest opportunity in 3D printing is to improve the design and manufacturing process and we expect most Autodesk 3D printer buyers to be businesses.
Do you anticipate the 3D printing market changing as a result of Autodesk’s entry into that market?
Today the link between software and hardware for 3D printing is in need of improvement. Software must translate digital content into the right format to be interpreted and produced by the printer, but there are many potential points for failure in that process. Often you don’t know if a 3D print will succeed or fail until the process has started, which can be expensive in terms of both cost and time. Spark will offer a common and open platform that shortens that path between digital content and hardware. This will facilitate a much improved information exchange between design software and the printer, so software can address and offer automated fixes and optimization to the design before production begins. In addition, the SDKs and APIs that will be included with Spark will enable a broad group – from materials science companies to crowd-funded startups – to access and innovate the 3D printing pipeline.
What customers do you anticipate will embrace this product? Mechanical design? Consumers? Architects?
Companies in the 3D printing ecosystem, including hardware manufacturers, service providers and software developers are also the target adopters. We hope anybody and everybody who is 3D printing will benefit from this new software. It is important to note that while the users of Spark will be primarily the hardware manufacturers and software developers, the beneficiaries of Spark will include all users of many types of devices, software and services including engineers, product designers, makers and artists, and ultimately consumers who want a hand in designing and creating their own 3D printed objects.
How is the software different than that of other 3D printing offerings?
The 3D printing software used by most manufacturers today misses one or more of Spark’s key tenets: complete, open and free. With a single set of standards and common technology platform, the entire 3D printing industry can offer a better end user experience to professionals and consumers alike, and attract new users thru innovation around products and services.
We’ve always said software is extremely important to 3D printing. It is essential but also difficult to build and requires know-how and investment. We have the software know how and the depth and strength to dramatically change the 3D printing user experience. 3D design is Autodesk’s core competency. Autodesk understands the issues the 3D printing industry is facing because as a provider of 3D design software, we’ve been confronted with them first hand. We’ve been trying to address them from the design software perspective, and ultimately realized we need to rise above that and solve at a higher level, allowing a tighter coupling of the digital content and 3D printing hardware.