First Microsoft, now Adobe: 3D printing will get a big mainstream boost Thursday when users find they can now use Photoshop to edit 3D designs and output them directly to a 3D printer.
Right now, designing a 3D printable object can be a cumbersome process that involves switching between several design and print prep software applications. While users will be able to use Photoshop to create designs from scratch if they wish, Photoshop product manager Andy Lauta said in a press conference earlier this week that Adobe expects people will mainly use it as a finishing tool that will cut down on the number of applications needed to get an object designed and ready to print.
That includes making use of all of Photoshop’s best features: adjusting color, adding texture and even mashing up different designs to create something new. Considering that almost every 3D design program is only compatible with monochrome printing, this will add a jolt of color to the industry that makes it easier to use the growing number of mid-range and professional color printers and services like Shapeways.
More importantly, Photoshop wants to solve the problem of ensuring a design is compatible with finicky 3D printers. Generally, when a design is finalized, its creator may find it is incompatible with a 3D printer due to holes, thin walls or other problems. Adobe is integrating tools to spot these problems directly into Photoshop.
“The problem is the 3D meshes these different tools create have many flaws, and if you try to print those models as they exist to these different printers, you’re going to get failures,” Lauta said. “Overcoming these flaws in models is actually a huge burden, particularly to creatives who do not understand the complexities of the printers and are not materials scientists.”
Users will also be able to see a live-updated rendering of what their completed print will look like and inspect printing elements like support structures: temporary pillars that hold up overhangs on an object while it is being printed.
Once an object is ready to print, users can either export it as a file, publish to Sketchfab or print directly to a printer. Direct printing is currently compatible with MakerBot and 3D Systems Cube desktop printers. Users can also print directly to Shapeways and choose different materials and post processing within Photoshop. Adobe plans to add more compatible printers in the future.
While Microsoft bringing native 3D printing support to Windows 8.1 has the potential to reach 100 million people, adding 3D printing capabilities to Photoshop will likely have a more direct appeal to the 1.4 million Creative Cloud subscribers for whom the service will go live later on Thursday. Creative individuals and firms might use Windows, but they don’t necessarily know the compatible CAD tools dedicated to creating a 3D printable object. They do know Photoshop.
Lauta said the company hopes that existing familiarity will drive more people to adopt 3D printing.
“We are making 3D printing available for the first time to the creative mainstream,” Lauta said.