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Autodesk Unveils 3d Printer As It Aims To Become Industry's Android 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the spread-the-wealth dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "BBC reports that Autodesk — the leading 3D modelling software-maker — is going into hardware with its own 3D printer and in addition to selling the machine, Autodesk will also allow other manufacturers to make their own versions of the printer or power their own models off its software at no cost. 'The printer is a bona fide attempt to prove the interoperability and open source nature of Autodesk's platform,' says Pete Basiliere. 'And by sharing its design we could see a second wave of small start-ups creating stereolithography machines just as the makers did when the early material extrusion patents expired.' Chief executive Carl Bass likened the new printer to Google's first Nexus smartphone, a product meant to inspire other manufacturers to install Android on their handsets rather than become a bestseller itself. In Autodesk's case the idea is to drive the adoption of its new Spark software, a product it likens to being an 'operating system for 3D-printing'. Although Autodesk is giving away both Spark and the printer's design, the company should still profit because the move would drive demand for the firm's other products. 'If 3D printing succeeds we succeed, because the only way you can print is if you have a 3D model, and our customers are the largest makers of 3D models in the world.'

Instead of the extrusion technique most commonly used by existing budget printers, Autodesk's printer uses a laser to harden liquid plastic to create the objects delivering smoother, more complex and more detailed objects. 'We're making a printer that, rather than just being able to load in proprietary materials, you can load in any material you want. You can formulate your own polymers and experiment with those. That's an important next step because we think material science is a breakthrough that has to happen to make [the industry] go from low-volume 3D-printed stuff to where it really starts changing manufacturing.' Bass said, its printer is targeted at more professional users–for creating small objects like medical devices or jewelry–and will likely end up closer to the $5,000 range, though exact pricing has not been set."
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Autodesk Unveils 3d Printer As It Aims To Become Industry's Android

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  • coming to a theater near you.

    • Monopoly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DrYak (748999) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @09:08AM (#47008111) Homepage

      monopoly? huh... how?
      They are dozens of 3D printers models out-there, both by big brand (like Materialize [materialise.com]) or very small maker groups (RepRap [reprap.org]), based on several different technologies (glued powder, extruted melted material, laser polymerisation, etc.).

      There's a clear open standard to transfer data (STL).
      This format is documented [wikipedia.org] (and is brain dead simple).
      Anything that can spit this format can be used for 3D printing.
      Any printer that can eat this format will print.

      The only ploy for Autodesk is that they are a dominant actor in the market of software used to make the models (the "STL spitting" mentionned above).
      The more the 3D Printing market expands, the more demand for models, and thus the more creator may buy Autodesk professionnal ).

      But no monopoly is going to take over the STL ecosystem,
      just like the post-script ecosystem didn't got taken over by HP.

      • "just like the post-script ecosystem didn't got taken over by HP."

        Wrong analogy. Two things:
        1. PostScript was developed by Adobe

        2. HP never came close to dominating the PostScript printer market, prefering to sell printers that used its own Printer Command Language. Apple was for a time the dominant PostScript printer vendor with its Laserwriter series. PostScript printers now tend to be niche products favored mostly by manufacturers of high-end imagesetters used to produce the print-ready layouts of fashio

        • by nospam007 (722110) *

          "1. PostScript was developed by Adobe"

          BTW, my first Postscript Printer did cost 10.000$ at the time and it was only 2D, black&white and only 300dpi.

      • by bmajik (96670)

        Based on my experience of using SketchUp to design a part that I ultimately had ShapeWays print for me, I would say that there's plenty of room for innovation in the 3d printing toolchain.

        One thing to note is that modelers like SketchUp assume a uniform internal volume. And so you use tools like slic3r to prepare the model for printing.

        In effect, the 3d geometry is the source code. Slic3r would be a "compiler" -- which translates idealized geometry to something more ready for printing -- e.g. by driving a

    • With Android, google did something good to the mobile world I think. It has created a mostly open source OS, and allowed it for every company to install it on their device. Whether it has a monopoly or not, it created a base for small companies to start with, when creating their own mobile OS. This OS also has standardized lots of the mobile phone world outside of this apple walled garden. Look at how incompatible those old feature phones were across vendors.

      • With Android, google did something good to the mobile world I think.

        Autodesk is not Google. Android is a mostly open ecosystem, created to prevent Apple from dominating the smartphone market. I don't think that is what Autodesk is doing. If I can code up a design in Python, convert it to STL using FreeCAD [freecadweb.org], and print it on this device, then I will be very happy and might even buy one. But I will also be very surprised. I RTFAed, and didn't see STL mentioned anywhere, although they did repeatedly use the phrase "open source" in a context that made no sense.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Autodesk software is hella expensive. They'll throw in the hardware for free.
    • by taiwanjohn (103839) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @08:34AM (#47007855)

      I was thinking the same thing. And this breaks down their analogy to the Google Nexus, since Android was released as "free" and (reasonably) "open" software. OTOH, if you can afford a $5k printer, you can probably afford a "seat" license for AutoCAD too. Seems to me the maker-bot crowd have already sparked the fire, so I'm not sure how this new offering is going to speed up the revolution. I don't see anything wrong with what they're doing either... just have to wait and see what comes of it.

      • by TWX (665546)
        I'm fully expecting a Digital:Convergence Cue Cat Scanner-type debacle out of this. Someone will figure out how to make the printer work without the expensive software, Autodesk will get pissed off, try to sue them, but the "security" to prevent the printer from working without Autodesk's software will be so poor that it could be proven in court, and in the end, they'll be angry and bitter.

        I actually hope that I'm wrong, but we'll just have to see.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          The whole point of this printer is that you can use it without the expensive software. They're allegedly giving away the part you need to use the printer, that is, the driver. They're also giving away the design for the printer. They probably paid for the design already and couldn't figure out how to commercialize it (you know, the old word for "monetize") on a completely proprietary basis so they decided to trade it for good will and mindshare. Probably the printer driver will come on a disc with some auto

          • Probably the printer driver will come on a disc with some autodesk demos that you can pay-to-unlock.

            If the price to "unlock" the demos is cheap, they might have a winner, but then why would their current customers continue to pay those hefty per-seat fees? OTOH, if they're going for a mass-market shift toward cheap, ubiquitous 3D printing, that would make sense. I just don't see how a big corporation would make a move like that on such a short time scale. Methinks this is more marketing hype than a real strategic shift.

            • Autodesk wants to sell you 3D design software. They think it's the best in the world, and worth a premium price. (For all I know, they may be right.) For their purposes, the more useful a created 3D design is, the better, since more people will think their software worth the price. I doubt they care that much whether people who weren't going to buy their software anyway (I have very little use for such software) benefit or not.

          • The whole point of this printer is that you can use it without the expensive software.

            Citation please. I read the article, and it does NOT say that. It seems to imply that, but it doesn't come out and say it unequivocally, and it uses lots and lots of weasel words, that could mean anything or nothing. The term "open source" is tossed around without any context. If you read the AutoDesk's press release [autodesk.com], you will find more weasel words. They don't use the term "open source" themselves anywhere, even once. That phrase was apparently inserted by a journalist that misunderstood what AutoDes

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              They're also giving away the design for the printer.

              Citation please. They say it is "freely licenseable"

              Guess you missed the part where they say "the design of the printer will be made publicly available" in the very article you linked. Stop FUDding.

  • by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @08:24AM (#47007799)

    'We're making a printer that, rather than just being able to load in proprietary materials, you can load in any material you want.

    How about bacon? I always wanted to print with bacon.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I thought Autodesk products like AutoCAD weren't open source.... ummmm.... can someone please enlighten me?

    • by some old guy (674482) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @08:53AM (#47007987)

      The flagship products, i.e. AutoCAD, are closed source, but document utilities and the API's for standard formats (ISO and ASCII *.dxf for example) are open source. Note: the international file format standards were adopted from Autodesk's proprietary formats many years ago.

    • They aren't This is marketing BS. Autodesk is about as closed source as you can get. They open source their document formats so any competitor will use them and further solidify Autodesks leadership position. But that has nothing to do with being open and everything to do with trying to lock in customers. Go install Autocad... It should elicit memories of installing Microsoft software in the 1990s. You enter keys and serials, verify things on-line over and over... You better hope nothing gets screwed up in

      • by iggymanz (596061)

        you are funny, AutoDesk has 85% market share, they are the de factor standard. The are certainty The Relevant ones. The cost of their software is nothing to the companies that use them to make millions to billions a year in profits.

        The open source CAD alternatives are crap, sad to say. There is no credible threat to AutoDesk on the horizon for at least the next decade

        • You might be mistaken. Yes, the current manufacturing industry uses AutoDesk, and doesn't care about the price. After all, manufacturing almost anything will set you back at least a few hunderd thousands of dollars before the first product is shipped. Compared to that, the software cost is irrelevant - and if AutoDesk is even just a little bit better in getting everything right the first time, you've saved more than a decade of license costs. So that's their current customer set - big companies shipping pro
        • you are funny, AutoDesk has 85% market share, they are the de factor standard. The are certainty The Relevant ones. The cost of their software is nothing to the companies that use them to make millions to billions a year in profits.

          The open source CAD alternatives are crap, sad to say. There is no credible threat to AutoDesk on the horizon for at least the next decade

          Yes, the industry uses Autocad. Just like Artists used to use Apple almost to exclusion. But now the indi-people are moving to other things because Autocad is insanely expensive. (and yes, the price really is insane) So what happened when all the indi-people started doing graphic art and recording on IBM PCs in the late 90s early 2000s? It didn't go so well for the apple desktop. Teenagers couldn't learn on ultra-expensive apple computers and apple software so they learned on PCs. When they got to school th

  • The summary misses an important point: The software platform is open-source and freely licensable. See the official Autodesk press release here

    http://inthefold.autodesk.com/in_the_fold/2014/05/accelerating-the-future-of-3d-printing.html

    • The summary misses an important point: The software platform is open-source and freely licensable. See the official Autodesk press release ...

      That press release does not use the term "open source" even once. "Freely licensable" does not necessarily mean "licensed for free". This press release contains a lot of gibberish that appears to have been carefully crafted to mean one thing while appearing to mean something else.

      As a corporation, AutoDesk has always been on the dark side of the force. Not to the same degree as Microsoft or Oracle, but still pretty bad. You should be automatically skeptical of anything they say.

      • ... and 'licensed for free' does not necessarily mean 'open source'. In fact, the term 'freely licensable' suggests to me that it is NOT open source.
  • I want the oven/crucible from Diamond Age -- anything else is just an incremental step along the way.

  • 'We're making a printer that, rather than just being able to load in proprietary materials, you can load in any material you want. You can formulate your own polymers and experiment with those.

    Is UV hardening resin really any less proprietary than ABS filament spool? I don't think there are any 3D printers that require truly proprietary (in that you must get them from the OEM) are there?

    • I don't think there are any 3D printers that require truly proprietary (in that you must get them from the OEM) are there?

      Apart from most of them, no. By most of them I mean the higher end ones. It's really common.

      • by AC-x (735297)

        Ah of course I was thinking just in the consumer space, even then tho are there 3D printers specifically locked to certain material cartridges, or is it just that no-one else makes resin / powder with the right material properties for the printer? Is it just a contractual thing where companies must buy x amount of refill material from the company etc?

        • by afidel (530433)

          I know one of the 3D resin printer companies had some patents that just recently expired, one of the maker type printers was going to use their tech after the patents expired but they kicked off their crowdfunding campaign before that date which apparently constituted selling an infringing device.

    • by Rrraou (3655889)
      This is basically the same thing as my Form 1, which sells for around 3k (http://formlabs.com/products/form-1/). I'll be curious to see the build area on this because from the picture, the platform doesn't look all that big, though it's hard to tell size without a banana for scale. The huge resin tank is a nice feature at first glance to make sure you don't run out during a print, but keep in mind you want to be able to squeegee any misprints off the silicone at the bottom of the tank and use something like
    • Actually, yes there are. Stratasys uses their own proprietary filament, and consumer-grade Cube 3D printer uses special cartridges - which of course you can't buy anywhere else.
  • misleading (Score:4, Informative)

    by joss (1346) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @10:15AM (#47008639) Homepage

    > uses a laser to harden liquid plastic

    ie http://www.3dsystems.com/quick... [3dsystems.com] the tech that i was writing software for 20 years ago..

    > you can load in any material you want.

    well, sure, it just won't make anything. I mean you *could* load the machine with fucking coca cola if you wanted, but its not going to give you a part.

    To actually make something you need a photosensitive resin with very precise material properties. Back in the day that stuff cost $300/litre .. i'm sure its come down a bit, but the i'll bet ya good stuff still aint cheap

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      How is it misleading? They don't claim to have invented the technology, they're just one of the first companies to be selling a consumer-aimed laser-based system.

      And did you actually read what they meant by "any material"?

      We're making a printer that, rather than just being able to load in proprietary materials, you can load in any material you want. You can formulate your own polymers and experiment with those.

  • Leading 3d Modeling? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ClimbRocks (2654647) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @11:51AM (#47009539)
    "The Leading 3d Modeling Software" is actually Solidworks by Dassault Systems, I suspect by wide margin over Autodesk Inventor. Of the equipment vendors I deal with, only 2 out of 8 use Inventor, the rest are on Solidworks. It's not unusual however, for most vendors to have Autocad (from autodesk) in addtion to either package, which is primarily for 2d line drawings (it does have some 3d capability, but the modeling is usually done in Inventor) Some other supporting stats. http://blog.cnccookbook.com/wp... [cnccookbook.com]
    • You forget the entire installed userbase of all flavors of autocad, including most of the architecture industry - not just inventor. I'm sure that's how they calculate their "3d modeling" numbers.

      Anything by Autodesk makes me cringe. Autodesk's licensing makes Adobe look like open source. No first sale, upgrades outside of 3 years are at full price, and annual maintenance is 30% of a well-negotiated single seat license price. As a bonus, the dwg format changes every three years (hmmm, that number is familia

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "The Leading 3d Modeling Software" is actually Solidworks by Dassault System

      No it isn't. People use 3D modelling software for other stuff than CAD/CAM. Autodesk own not only their own branded products, but also Maya and 3D Studio Max and Softimage XSI, which are used extensively in the entertainment industry (games, movies, TV). Their claim to own the 3D modelling software industry is completely accurate once you understand they mean "3D modelling", not "some arbitrary subset of 3D modelling".

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @12:44PM (#47009991)

    To control your 3d printer, or CNC machine, you use G-Code. Its been around for about 70 years since the original MIT variant. At this point in time it is the de-facto standard for CNC (which includes mills, lathes, AND printers)

    All printers and CNC mills I've seen use G-code, there is absolutely no reason Autodesk needs to be involved in this other than to make their software output proper g-code.

    For $30 you can create a G-Code capable stepper motor controller using an Arduino and GRBL. For $60 you can combine an Arduino and the GRBL Shield and power low end steppers like those used in pretty much all home/small 3d printers and an extruder, bed warmer and a few other things with only a few additional relays.

    GRBL is more than capable of doing all of the important bits of g-code and several that aren't so important when it comes to 3D Printing, so we already have a fully functional OSS g-code implementation, not to mention all the other ones such as the reprap controller software and so forth.

    Dear Autodesk,

    FUCK OFF, we don't want your shitty ass proprietary bullshit which will use some randomly new standard like printing auto cad files directly rather than producing a proper intermediate format. Its a 100% certainty that you will NOT create anything optimized for efficiency or space, only vendor lock in to your software.

    Your software also, well, fucking sucks in almost every conceivable way. The only reason you still have customers is legacy, nothing else.

    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @01:50PM (#47010563) Journal

      Awww, don't be so harsh on Autodesk. They will just want $1200 per person per year to keep your $6000 printer current and running - is that really so much to ask? A pittance, really, a trifle. Imagine all the wonderful things we^h^hyou can do^h^hsupport with that trivial licensing fee, like that great Autodesk HQ building with doggy day care and free meals. All for just a small nearly-voluntary donation once a year.

      (If Adobe and SCO had a bastard child, it would only be half as evil as AutoDesk.)

    • At least in CNC mills, there isn't any "proper gcode". It depends on things like available tools in the mills, material being milled, etc. I'd imagine that 3D printers of different types would require different gcode. I don't see how you'd use the same for printers that deposit material vs. printers that use lasers to solidify material. There's much to be said for making a 3D model first and then using something else to translate it into the specific gcode needed for the specific use.

  • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @10:04PM (#47014677)

    Monoprice also announced their printer, it's similar to a dual-head MakerBot but for roughly half the price.

  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Friday May 16, 2014 @07:51AM (#47016255)

    'The printer is a bona fide attempt to prove the interoperability and open source nature of Autodesk's platform,says Pete Basiliere.'

    'Please ignore the fact that we still require you to run Microsoft Excel to fully use Autodesk Inventor.'

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