Spark from Autodesk: the operating system for 3D printing

Autodesk is one of the world’s most popular 3D modelling software brands. Its products, which include AutoCAD, 3ds Max and Softimage, help professional designers and inspired hobbyists across the world to turn their maddest imaginings into tangible realities.

Autodesk sparks

At the MakerCon conference that took place in Redwood City, California this week, Autodesk announced the launch of Spark, an innovative platform that aims to give the designer better and more simplified control over how their model will look when finally printed.

Open sourced and freely licensable, Spark allows the designer to visualise their prints without the usual expensive and time consuming trial and error processes. The inspiration for Spark came from Google’s Nexus Smartphone, which, on release, prompted other manufacturers to install Android technology on their devices.

Autodesk 3D printer

It will be released alongside Autodesk’s first ever 3D printer. A Stereolithography (SLA) device, with an expected price tag of about $5,000, the printer hardens photopolymer liquid plastic using an ultraviolet layer by layer system, converting the material into a solid object.

The device has been manufactured to make affordable, consumer additive manufacturing as smooth as possible, while also demonstrating the full potential of Spark.

Autodesk 3D printed object

Discussing the two products on the company’s blog, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass said:

One of the limitations right now is on the material sciences side – the kind of chemistry. We’re making a printer that, rather than just being able to load in proprietary materials, you can load 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.

The next step is to start involving hardware manufacturers with Spark, ensuring it is integrated with their current and future printers, and encouraging future iterations and enhancements of the platform.

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