Sunday, August 11, 2013

Scanning and 3D printing

Competition among software vendors is a common thing. Indeed with OS and Office application suite there is one choice (only 4% of the readers of this blog have a Mac) but, fortunately, the world of professional design and engineering CAD systems has aggressive competition between the big four - Dassault , Siemens, PTC and Autodesk. While the first three focuses primarily on expensive software solutions for the professional market, Autodesk recently is looking at the amateur and home users or the Makers.  
 For Autodesk the focus at the amateur market is reflected in more than just development of new software tools. A year ago, the company acquired the popular site for plans and ideas exchange - Instructables and integrated it with the growing solutions for hobbies, inventors and technology lovers.

Autodesk Instructables
3D systems, a manufacturer of 3D printers and Rapid manufacturing solutions, are another major company that interest at the makers market. The vision of 3DS CEO, Abe Reichental, is to bring the 3D printing technology to every home. The road there is through massive investment in development and acquisition of companies and websites that can promote that vision. In recent years, 3D Systems invest at manufacturing centers, printer manufactures, material producers, file sharing websites and most recently, two CAD companies. While Autodesk does not see herself as a hardware manufacturer, 3D Systems start to position itself, maybe not on purpose, as a competitor to the giant software developer.
123D with Replicator
3D systems Alibre (now Geomagic Design) produce cheap substitute Solid Parametric CAD software to SolidWorks or Autodesk Inventor. Geomagic however, is professional evaluated software that is perfect for handling 3D scanned data. Typically, a 3D scan of an object creates thousands of XYZ points called "Point Cloud ". That information has to convert to curves, surfaces and Solid with tools to repair modify and edit. 3D Systems acquired Alibre and Geomagic to provide solution that will integrate with the company width range of 3D printer and scanner. While 3D Systems is involved in all types of 3D printing technology, its biggest competitor Stratasys, is much more focus. The new Stratasys , created from the merger between Israeli Objet and Stratasys, focuses on two main printing technologies leaving the CAD area to business partners such as Autodesk. So, 3D systems's entry into the CAD world paved the way for collaboration between Autodesk and Stratasys and set out a joint campaign offering amateurs the Replicator printer from Stratasys's subsidiary MakerBot along with a variety of free software from Autodesk.
Memento Project
3D Scanning is complementary solution for CAD and 3D printers in particular and Autodesk have no intention of leaving this area to the printer manufacturer. While 3D Systems is offering the expensive Geomagic software, Autodesk bring to the party free software and cloud technologies. ReCap to create intelligent 3D data from photos and scans is included with each one of Autodesk 2014 suites, Memento Project, toolset that visualizes huge meshes from laser scans, photos, or any modeling application is new and free innovative software and 123D Catch is adding scanning solution to mobile devices.

Recent 3D Systems acquisition is Team Platform, cloud product management software. Team platform competes with similar products from Autodesk and Dassault System and the acquisition will push Autodesk to works closely with 3DS competitor, Stratasys.  Stratasys has a lot to gain from such cooperation. Autodesk have big and strong distributors and resellers network with many customers, a resource that Stratasys can only dream about and, If Autodesk will start pushing Stratasys products through they own distribution channel, it will provide Stratasys a huge competitive advantage.
Gal Raz

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