In Brief: Autodesk Launches Open 3D Printer Platform

By Norman Chan

Design is freely licensable to manufacturers.

Autodesk just announced that it's getting into the hardware business, and its ambitions are big. The maker of 3D modeling and CAD software (and owner of Instructables) launched Spark, a new open software platform for 3D printers. Spark isn't a single printer, but a platform for connecting Autodesk software to new 3D printers, which any hardware manufacturer can adopt and license for free. Its akin to the MakerWare software that MakerBot developed for its Replicator 3D printers, except it'll be software that will theoretically work on any printer. Autodesk wants you to think of it as Android for 3D printers. Coinciding with Spark will be Autodesk's own 3D printer, which the company has not said it will make itself. The only thing we know is that it won't be RepRap-based, and will use SLA printing technology. The design of this printer will also be made public for any OEM to adopt. This is a big play for Autodesk, which still is in the business of selling software. It's similar to Adobe's forays into hardware with its Project Mighty and Napoleon experiments--devices to bolster its primary products and get more users into their community and ecosystem. Bonus link: this thoughtful opinion piece arguing why 3D printers need to take lessons from the sewing machine.