There’s been a lot in the news about Spark – Autodesk’s entry into the 3D printing market – of late. Earlier in the year we announced this open platform and a reference design for it, but in the last few weeks things have become even more interesting: specific examples of partnerships with companies who are building their own printers based on Spark have started to emerge. I thought it worth aggregating a few of the more interesting articles for those who might have missed them.
I’m personally really interested in the approach Autodesk is taking here. It seems to me that the “additive manufacturing” space is currently dominated by vendors trying to monetize both the upfront hardware investment and the consumables, which are often proprietary (i.e. the razor and the blades). And they’re providing software that’s really an afterthought rather than being considered of prime importance to the customer.
Opening up the platform to people wanting to drive innovation in materials and/or software should have a positive impact on the industry. And presumably be a good thing for users connecting Autodesk design tools with Spark-powered devices, of course.
Here’s an interesting interview where Autodesk’s CTO, Jeff Kowalski, provides some useful background information, including how the Spark platform and the coming Autodesk-branded 3D printers are analogous to Android and Google’s Nexus devices, respectively. And those who have managed to get their hands on the first Spark-based DLP printer are suitably impressed.
As an example of the type of innovation that could conceivably end up in the Spark software platform (I have no idea whether it’s part of the plan or not, mind), check out an Autodesk Research project announced at this week’s UIST (User Interface Software and Technology) Syposium:
PipeDream allows you to create internal pipes and tubes in your 3D-printed models as conduits for wires or for air leading to sensors or even actuators providing haptic feedback.
Local Motors was the first to announce a partnership with Autodesk, incorporating Spark into the process for creating the Strati, the first ever 3D-printed car.
It’s clearly been an interesting few months since Autodesk announced this new focus on 3D printing back in May. In recognition of this – and I have to admit to finding this pretty incredible, personally – 3D Printshow named Autodesk as their 2014 Brand of the Year.