When 3D printing first hit the marketplace, there was plenty of interest, but the price of 3D capable printers meant that only large companies and educational facilities with large budgets were able to take advantage of it. That may soon change thanks to Autodesk.
Known primarily for the AutoCAD software, Autodesk saw the potential in the 3D market and decided to take it to the next level. The company recently announced the debut of their open source 3D printer and the software, Spark to go with it.
Instead of locking the software behind licenses, the company has decided to make it open source so that developers will feel free to make their own modifications to it and post them for the rest of the world to share. Others have compared this to what Google did with Android – although not many people use Google specific hardware, millions rely on the Android platform and that is what Autodesk hopes to accomplish.
The printer should retail for about $5,000, making it come in range of smaller businesses and medium sized companies who were unable to use 3D printing in the past thanks to the high cost of printers and software. The lower price point will also help schools adopt this technology, which will give students the opportunity to not only experiment with creating variations for the software, but also open up the entire world of 3D printing and its potential to a much wider user base.
Companies that require small prototypes will undoubtedly appreciate what Autodesk is doing. These companies and engineers will now have the capability to quickly and easily design, print and use prototypes right in house, instead of having to outsource the work, or worse, rely on other methods that are not as useful.
Not only does Spark allow the user greater control over the finished printed product, but the imaging stage is much improved over other 3D printers and allows for the user to actually see in 3D what they will be creating.
It will be interesting to watch the changes in the 3D printing world over the next few months as more people see what they can do with the Spark platform and come up with their own changes and ideas to make it even better.
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