Autodesk’s “Spark” Open Source Platform: The Android of 3D printing

The monopoly of MakerBot, 3D Systems, and other companies in the 3D printing industry is on the verge of breaking by the entry of the world’s largest maker of CAD software: Autodesk.

3D Printing industry is about to witness the next disruption with the announcement of an Spark, open source platform for 3D printing by the world’s largest maker of CAD software: Autodesk. Termed as the Android of 3 printing, this might pose serious challenge to the existing platforms many of which have are neither comprehensive nor open for meddling by enthusiasts.

The president and CEO of Autodesk Carl Bass announced the release of Spark, which is an open software platform for 3D printing which according to him “will make it more reliable yet simpler to print 3D models and easier to control the printing of the model”. He also announced the release of Autodesk 3D printer, the combination of these two will provide the building blocks that product designers, hardware manufacturers, software developers and material scientists can bring to use in order to explore the limits of 3D printing technology. Autodesk hopes that its Spark platform would become the go-to operating systems for commercial 3D printing. The company is also describing the system as the “Android of 3D printing”.

The terming of Spark as the Android of 3D printing does give everyone the perception that Autodesk might want to follow the footsteps of Google, the creator of Android operating system. Android is the operating system that provides life to the handsets that are produced by hardware giants like LG and Samsung. Is Autodesk all set to step into the shoes of Google? The smartest move made by Autodesk would be breaking the barriers of combination of design and technical constraints with the help of an open source community talents. The rest only time will test the durability and the workability of the plans that Autodesk has.

After that being said, Autodesk cannot neglect a few inherent problems that lie in the 3D printing industry. The hardware open source community is very embryonic. This has generated some problems; the first one is related to the capital costs that are associated with the hardware innovation. Open source hardware requires some investments; this is a financial risk which is not viable for enthusiasts who are not entrepreneurs. The other dominant problem is that of the delivery of the hardware. The most interesting problem is that of the dynamics of the community. The success of MakerBot the first 3D printer that streamed into the main stream was largely due to the community. But the acquisition of MakerBot by Stratasys was a reason for the rift in the community. On the other hand Autodesk has been taking this process very slowly yet surely is cultivating the open source community through acquisitions and also by organizing hardware meet ups.

Industry leaders 3D Systems and Stratasys, which still are the major money accumulators in the trade from professional and industrial application in 3D printing, are unlikely to jump at the idea of allowing an open source near their product. For several decades these companies have had the monopoly in the 3D printing business and have been providing high-end printers.

Nevertheless, Autodesk’s Spark is all set to pose some threat to some of the big names of the 3D printing industry and it surely does exhibit some highly transformative industry potential.


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