Autodesk Unveils Open-Source 3-D Printing System

English: RepRap v.2 'Mendel' open-source FDM 3D printer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: RepRap v.2 ‘Mendel’ open-source FDM 3D printer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Autodesk is hoping to kick-start three-dimensional printing in much the same way Google spurred smartphone development, with a free operating system.

The company announced on Wednesday that later this year it will release an open software platform for 3-D printing, which would enable makers of 3-D printers to spend far less on operational software. It will also sell its own 3-D printer, at least in part as a demonstration of the software’s possibilities.

“There’s been a disconnect between designing objects and being able to print them,” said Carl Bass, chief executive of Autodesk. “I saw there were 40 different types of printer software, and that is what is holding this back.”

He likened the project to Google’s Android operating system for smartphones, which is offered free to any phone maker. Android has become the world’s most popular phone operating system, benefiting Google by encouraging customers to use its mobile products.

The Autodesk printer, Mr. Bass said, is akin to “a midmarket industrial machine.” Autodesk has not named a price, but he said that sort of printer usually costs about $5,000. The company has used the machine, which makes objects with light projected on a photosensitive polymer, to make architectural models, parts for medical equipment and jewelry.

Other types of 3-D printers use metal, plastic and biological materials. Mr. Bass said any material used in 3-D printing could be used on the Autodesk software platform, which the company is calling Spark.

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