Computer aided design giant Autodesk has announced plans to produce an open software platform for 3D printing, dubbed Spark, to be supported by a reference-design 3D printer.
Autodesk's Spark printer will, the company has announced, serve as a reference design for its open 3D printing platform to launch later this year.
3D printing has become a hot topic of late, with companies from Microsoft to Adobe scrambling to add support for the technology to their products. The majority of consumer-grade 3D printers work on an additive printing process, squirting melted plastic in precise patterns to build up a three dimensional real-world object from its descriptive design files. Initially restricted by price and complexity, recent releases have seen high-street retailers offering kits and pre-built systems starting at under £500 - roughly equivalent to a high-end 2D laser printer.
Autodesk, which is best known for its AutoCAD computer aided design software, is hoping to get a chunk of the market with the launch of a fully open 3D printing platform. 'Spark will be open and freely licensable to hardware manufacturers and others who are interested.
' explained Autodesk president and chief executive Carl Bass of the move. 'Same for our 3D printer – the design of the printer will be made publicly available to allow for further development and experimentation. The printer will be able to use a broad range of materials, made by us and by others, and we look forward to lots of exploration into new materials.
'The world is just beginning to realise the potential of additive manufacturing and with Spark, we hope to make it possible for many more people to incorporate 3D printing into their design and manufacturing process. Over the coming months we’ll be working with hardware manufacturers to integrate the Spark platform with current and future 3D printers. Both Spark and our 3D printer will be available later this year.
Although Autodesk has indicated that it will be building Spark printers for sale directly in addition to releasing its design and software under an open licence for third-party exploitation, it has not yet revealed pricing.