Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "BBC reports that Autodesk — the leading 3D modelling software-maker — is going into hardware with its own 3D printer and in addition to selling the machine, Autodesk will also allow other manufacturers to make their own versions of the printer or power their own models off its software at no cost. 'The printer is a bona fide attempt to prove the interoperability and open source nature of Autodesk's platform,' says Pete Basiliere. 'And by sharing its design we could see a second wave of small start-ups creating stereolithography machines just as the makers did when the early material extrusion patents expired.' Chief executive Carl Bass likened the new printer to Google's first Nexus smartphone, a product meant to inspire other manufacturers to install Android on their handsets rather than become a bestseller itself. In Autodesk's case the idea is to drive the adoption of its new Spark software, a product it likens to being an 'operating system for 3D-printing'. Although Autodesk is giving away both Spark and the printer's design, the company should still profit because the move would drive demand for the firm's other products. 'If 3D printing succeeds we succeed, because the only way you can print is if you have a 3D model, and our customers are the largest makers of 3D models in the world.'
Instead of the extrusion technique most commonly used by existing budget printers, Autodesk's printer uses a laser to harden liquid plastic to create the objects delivering smoother, more complex and more detailed objects. 'We're making a printer that, rather than just being able to load in proprietary materials, you can load in any material you want. You can formulate your own polymers and experiment with those. That's an important next step because we think material science is a breakthrough that has to happen to make [the industry] go from low-volume 3D-printed stuff to where it really starts changing manufacturing.' Bass said, its printer is targeted at more professional users–for creating small objects like medical devices or jewelry–and will likely end up closer to the $5,000 range, though exact pricing has not been set."