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Autodesk(s adsk) is known for the software that drives much of the creative industry, from animation to architecture. But as of today, Autodesk is also a hardware company, after announcing at MakerCon that it will release a 3D printer later this year.
The printer will create objects by solidifying liquid resin layer by layer, a technology generally known as stereolithography or SLA printing. Most affordable desktop printers make use of a rival technique known as fused deposition modeling, which relies on spools of solid plastic. But SLA printing is becoming more popular due to its superior speed and quality, plus the expiration of patents that previously protected the technology.
Autodesk’s printer will be open source. While the advent of desktop 3D printers was dominated by open source FDM printers, SLA printer buyers and makers have never had a similar wealth of open information to draw from. The result could be a similar boom in the number of startups making affordable SLA printers.
The printer will also be compatible with a range of resins, which could pressure other printer makers to move away from forcing customers to buy a specific (and often overpriced) brand of resin.
Autodesk’s real motivation for making its own 3D printer is an open source software platform it also announced today. Known as Spark, the platform is meant to make it simpler and more reliable to 3D print objects. Moving between a digital design and printing can be a difficult jump for beginners who are unfamiliar with the huge range of programs 3D printer makers have developed over the years. Spark will be available to any company that wants to integrate it into its printer.