When Autodesk looks at the state of 3D printing, it sees a convoluted hash of incompatible file formats, incomplete representations, and confusing processes. But worst of all, it sees a failure rate of anywhere between 25% and 75% for 3D printing projects, depending on the exact combination of software, hardware, and materials.
Autodesk also sees a market opportunity in the billions for 3D printing (analyst consensus of $16 billion by 2018). So when markets and opportunities cross paths, what is a company that lives for the disruptive moment going to do? Jump in with both feet, of course.
Earlier this year Autodesk introduced a new software platform for managing 3D printing, as well as a reference design for a 3D printer. (See “Autodesk reveals impatience with 3D printing innovation rate”). At the time we quoted Autodesk CEO Carl Bass as saying, “I’ve been fascinated by the promise and frustrated by the reality of 3D printing.”
Last week at Autodesk University 2014 Bass and his executive team shed more light on their plans forSpark, new middleware Autodesk hopes will standardize the use of 3D printers the way AutoCAD ADI standardized the use of input devices for drafting. Spark will be available by the beginning of January 2015, and made freely available to hardware makers and others in the 3D printing industry. A variety of companies have already signed on to use the standards, including HP for its new wide-format fusion 3D printing technology unveiled in November (see, “HP sets sights on 3D printing again with homegrown technology”).