Autodesk tackles 3D-printing industry with open software platform and printer

The 3D-printing industry can now welcome a new player: Autodesk.

Autodesk is a well-known software manufacturer for consumers and the architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing, media, and entertainment industries. Some of its most popular applications include AutoCAD, Sketchbook, Homestyler, and Pixlr. And now it has unveiled the Spark software platform.

Carl Bass, the CEO and president at Autodesk, has announced that his company is "frustrated by the reality of 3D printing". Autodesk has therefore made the 3D-printing industry a little more open, starting today. It has introduced an open software platform for 3D printing called Spark. Bass claimed Spark makes the ability to print 3D products more "reliable yet simpler". Autodesk also introduced its own 3D printer that'll go on sale and serve as a reference model for Spark.

"It (the Autodesk 3D printer) will demonstrate the power of the Spark platform and set a new benchmark for the 3D printing user experience," explained Bass in a blog post. "Together, these will provide the building blocks that product designers, hardware manufacturers, software developers and materials scientists can use to continue to explore the limits of 3D printing technology."

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Autodesk plans to launch Spark as a freely licensable platform for hardware manufacturers. The same goes for its 3D printer. Anyone will have access to the printer's design, meaning companies will be able to develop and experiment with the design or even blatantly copy the design. Autodesk will further simplify the issue concerning printing materials: the Autodesk printer will accept a broad range of materials made by both Autodesk and other companies.

It's clear that Autodesk cares more about aiding the progress of 3D-printing rather than dominating the industry or making money. That said, according to The Wall Street Journal, Autodesk's 3D printer currently targets professional users who would like to 3D print medical devices, jewelry, etc. Because it doesn't initially have consumers in mind, Autodesk will likely retail its printer for $5,000. But that price isn't set in stone yet.