back to article Autodesk to release 'open' 3D printer

Design software specialist Autodesk is taking a step into the wonderful world of hardware, after announcing it intends to released a 3D printer. CEO and president Carl Bass has blogged about the new device, to be called the “Spark”, and explains that the company is trying to get the computer-aided design community enthused …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lets see what their definition of "Open" is first...

    From their blog about it:

    "Spark will be open and freely licensable ..."

    "Freely licensable" sounds like mealy mouth words meaning "not open". Hopefully I'm wrong, and it's truly open (eg for modification, derivatives, etc).

  2. P. Lee Silver badge


    Will my local printer work if my internet link is down?

    1. billse10

      Re: Question!

      at least it's not from Brother .. telling them what you've made / printed and crashing your machine if you try to disable that ....

  3. raving angry loony

    Autodesk newspeak strikes again.

    Autodesk - that paragon of closed, proprietary, lock-in tech that goes out of its way to buy up and close down anything that might compete - is about as likely to release anything "open" as I am to become Patriarch of the Orthodox Church. I suggest that the headline writer and whoever wrote this drivel have fallen victim to a well-known scam known as "the press release".

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Autodesk newspeak strikes again.

      >I suggest that the headline writer and whoever wrote this drivel have fallen victim to a well-known scam known as "the press release".

      Possibly, but their is such a thing as blind cynicism, just as there is blind naivety.

      You sem to be suggesting that Autodesk are hoping to buy up and close down several competing open source projects.... that can't happen.

      Autodesk make their money by renting out their software by the year, across architectural, engineering and design disciplines. This software becomes more useful if it can be used to output to 3D printers. Currently 3rd party software, open source or proprietary, is required to generate Gcode or equivilent from what the CAD software outputs. I haven't found these software solutions to be mature yet.

      Autodesk, will want to drive rentals of their pricey software by releasing an alternative to the current open source software (principally, SkeinForge and Slic3r). Autodesk will benefit more from this model than trying to sell 'slicing' software to users. That adoption won't happen if Autodesk's offerings are substantially closed. The whole concept won't work if people are not able to configure it to individual printers.

      Autodesk's real competitors are big enough to look after themselves.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smooth models

    Autodesk claim that the process will produce smooth surfaces rather than the rougher stepping of most 3D extrusion processes. They liken their design propagation intention to producing an "Android" of the 3D printing world.

    The BBC has a longer article and pictures of what appear to be objects produced by the process.

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: Smooth models

      Stereolithographic printers do indeed have those advantages. Smoother, higher detail, better able to handle overhangs.

      They do have two disadvantages, though. The printers are more expensive ($5000 is actually amazingly cheap) and they require feeding with a quite exotic chemical concoction - a goo which is not only expensive to make, but has a shelf life. Extrusion printers, the more common type, just need PLA or ABS plastic - cheap as dirt.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Smooth models

        Current workflow:

        Create CAD model

        Convert CAD model into a mesh defined by thousands of triangles (*.STL)

        Take STL into 'slicing' software, that has had machine-specific variables (material, print temp, bed temp, bed size etc) loaded into it:

        - analyse overhangs and create support structures if need, either 'break away' or using a second extruding head

        - slice the mesh and added structures into hundreds of 2D slices

        - create G Code that controls the movement of the print axes, lots of factors here including print temperature and speed.

        Put G-code into a software 'print simulator', to make sure the slicing software hasn't got confused.

        Load G Code onto the 3D printer.

        Calibrate printer


        Spot an issue, fine tune some of the above variables, repeat steps as required.

        Print again.

        Cross fingers, go to pub for a couple of hours.

        There is certainly room for improvement. There is no real reason why the intermediary STL format is required, when my instincts tell me the 2D slices or the actual G-code could be generated directly from the original 3D CAD model, with greater respect for the 'design intent'. The GCode format itself isn't perfect, either.

        Really, systems are getting smarter. There is no reason a depth aware system akin to MS Kinect couldn't be used to provide real-time feed-back to the control system to compensate for any physical variation in the print process (belt tightness, ambiant temperature, variation in material composition). I'm not sure that the current Gcode system is suitable for this scenario.

        AutoDesk's products, like those from their competitors, already have simulation plugins and the like... there is no technical reason one should have to leave one's familiar CAD interface in order to print the object.

  5. Steve Todd

    Some of the key patents for SLA printing expire this year

    So it's not surprising that a company like Autodesk (who are already involved in 3D printing with their software) should show an interest. There are two issue that I see though. Firstly $5000 is a bit steep for this type of printer (you can already find cheaper) and secondly the much superior SLS (laser sintering) system will also be out of patent shortly also (it works with a better range of materials that don't continue to cure and become brittle after manufacture)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That 3D printer...

    ...looks like an Espresso machine to me. :(

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: That 3D printer...

      So, you could print your very personalised cup first, then it pours coffee into it? I can see the hipster coffee bars falling over themselves to get their hands on such a device.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That 3D printer...

        or a personalised beer glass for a sunny Friday afternoon

  7. The BigYin

    Pull the other one


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