Autodesk to launch 3D printing software platform, reference printer

|By:, SA News Editor

Good news for 3D printer vendors: (DDD, SSYS, VJET, XONE): CAD software giant Autodesk (ADSK) plans to launch Spark, an open-source software platform it hopes will lower software costs (both 3rd-party licensing and in-house R&D) for printer makers, and also improve/ease the design process for users.

Bad news: To show off Spark, Autodesk plans to make a reference printer whose design "will be made publicly available to allow for further development and experimentation." CEO Carl Bass calls the printer "a midmarket industrial machine," and notes similar hardware typically costs ~$5K.

Autodesk's printer will rely on stereolithography (SLA), a printing processĀ  less frequently used than fused deposition modeling (FDM) in mass-market printers, but which is gaining steam thanks to speed/reliability benefits and patent expirations. The company promises a wide range of materials will be supported.

Autodesk, which reports tomorrow, is undoubtedly hoping to drive further usage of its CAD software, already used in plenty of 3D printing projects. Its efforts could have implications for software vendor Materialise (recently filed for an IPO).

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