Microsoft and Autodesk have partnered to incorporate the computer-aided design (CAD) software maker's 3D printing software platform into Windows 10, the companies announced during this week's Build conference in San Francisco.
Autodesk is embedding Spark 3D in the upcoming operating system, a move the company hopes will help popularize the burgeoning 3D printing market. "3D printing is incredibly promising, but also still too complex and unreliable," said Autodesk's Samir Hanna, vice president and general manager of Consumer and 3D Printing, in a statement. "This relationship is a key step in making 3D printing easier and more accessible to businesses and individuals alike."
In 2014, 3D printing and additive manufacturing spending reached $3.1 billion, according to analyst group Wohlers Associates. Expecting even more billions of dollars to pour into the market in the coming years, technology companies are rushing into the scene with newer, more affordable 3D printers, rapid prototyping services and even a desktop printer that can print working electronic devices.
The Windows 10-Spark 3D integration is expected to streamline the process of turning on-screen models into physical objects for users, while accommodating a variety of printers, software and materials. To spur third-party support, Autodesk will make Spark APIs available to the Microsoft developer community, said the company.
"By providing the 3D printing building blocks found in the Spark platform and optimizing it for Windows 10, Autodesk has empowered our global developer community to confidently enter this new world of additive manufacturing," continued Hanna. Additionally, the company is joining Microsoft as a founding member of the 3D Manufacturing Format (3MF) Consortium and contributing to the group's efforts to create a 3D interchange and printing format.
Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of Developer Platform and Evangelism for Microsoft, said the industry is "approaching a tipping point with 3D printing, which means there is a huge market opportunity waiting for companies developing applications for Windows 10," in a statement. "By providing the 3D printing building blocks found in the Spark platform and optimizing it for Windows 10, Autodesk has empowered our global developer community to confidently enter this new world of additive manufacturing."
To add a more immersive dimension to 3D printing, Autodesk is also enlisting Microsoft HoloLens, the Redmond, Wash., tech titan's buzzed-about, Windows 10-powered augmented reality headset.
The companies are working to make 3D models from Autodesk Maya and Fusion 360 viewable on HoloLens. The capability can help modelers closely examine full-scale virtual models of their creations, enabling them to tweak their designs before committing them to multiple prototypes, envisions Autodesk. Similarly, the company hopes that the technology will open up new entertainment experiences from game developers and filmmakers.
Ultimately, Autodesk sees HoloLens as a potentially key component in 3D printing workflows. "In the future, designers and engineers could create 3D models of their ideas with Autodesk software, like Fusion 360, view the models with HoloLens, and prep them for 3D printing on Spark-compatible printers," anticipated the company in a statement.