Autodesk 3D Printer Prototype

Autodesk recently announced Spark, their open software platform for 3D printing, and the company now says a partnership with Local Motors will drive the first large-scale application of the Spark platform as Local Motors works to bring the Strati 3D printed car into production.

Local Motors says they'll use the Spark platform to help improve the quality and speed of the Strati's production.

"The Spark platform is set to accelerate manufacturing innovation. From capturing our ideas more accurately to guiding Design for Additive Manufacturing (DFAM) and simplifying the creation of machine code, Spark will help us to turn digital models into actual physical production parts far faster than was previously possible," said the head of community management at Local Motors, Alex Fiechter.

Autodesk Spark screenshot

Developed by Local Motors at the Department of Energy's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the Strati is the first large-scale, industrial application of Spark.

"This collaboration is a natural fit to push the boundaries of large format 3D printing to fundamentally change how things are designed and made," says Samir Hanna, vice president and general manager at Autodesk.

The device used to create the Strati, ORNL and Cincinnati Incorporated's BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing) machine is essentially a laser cutter with added custom hardware which made it a truly massive 3D printer. Autodesk says Spark will help connect digital design information to the BAAM in a streamlined way to make it easier to visualize and optimize the output of the machine.

The Strati project uses advanced manufacturing tools and software, like the Spark platform, to reduce the number of parts in a vehicle's Bill of Materials (BOM). They say the conception and execution of the vehicle has meant that the number of parts necessary to complete the car dropped from 25,000 components to less than 50.

Carl Bass, CEO of AutodeskAutodesk CEO, Carl Bass, recently spoke with Bloomberg Television about his company's move into hardware and about the future of 3D printing.

"For a long time, I've been fascinated by the problem – but frustrated with the realities – of 3D printing," Bass said. "We wanted to put together a software platform to move to the next level. The best analogy I have is Android. Pre-Android, there was a whole raft of operating systems in the world and people learned how to use them. We wanted to start with that."

Bass says Spark will be open and freely licensable to hardware manufacturers and others who are interested and that the design of the firm's companion 3D printer will be made publicly available to allow for further development and experimentation as well. Bass added that he hopes Spark will make it possible to incorporate 3D printing into the design and manufacturing process.

Both Spark and the Autodesk 3D printer will be available later this year.