Off the bat, the first thing you should know about Spark is that it is just a software, not the hardware. The hardware or complete 3D printer by Autodesk is called “Ember” and we’ll talk about it in the next article. For now, let’s see why Spark has sparked such commotion in the 3D printing realm.
Diving into it head first, Spark is meant to be a DIY solution with every bit of the software and hardware developed and distributed as open source, meaning it is completely customizable for your requirements. This means, once ready, you can actually download all the software and rewrite it according to your choice, all the while buying the hardware as stated by Autodesk to put together your own printer right there in your garage (that’s where I do all my techie stuff!).
Before we read about it in detail, one more thing needs to be addressed. The reason for Spark and Ember’s conception is the excess of proprietary hardware and software that has limited the development of a technology which offers a very array of applicable potential. So if you’re interested in 3D printing, check out Spark and Ember, and the other resources provided, in turn sharing your experience and conclusions with the rest of the 3D printing community.
Just a Spark?
Spark has been designed and developed with Open-Source software in mind. It is meant to allow the additive manufacturing technology, specifically the recently-made-famous 3D printing technology, to get more attention and access. With Spark, Autodesk has announced their plans to allow companies to build on that platform, software for their own products.
Extensible APIs allow Spark to be deployed and built upon. Any kind of 3D modeling and printing software or firmware can be developed using Spark as it brings together all aspects of printing (software, hardware, materials, services, pools/shares and functionality) on the same platform allowing connectivity within services and parts as well as companies and mass-scale 3D printing markets/businesses.
The Spark’s development was also meant to allow people and services to connect to the cloud services and platform developed by Autodesk so as for everyone to be able to communicate, prepare, optimize and deliver 3D models seamlessly, whether to the 3D printer within the same room, or across the continent to a remote facility.
The standardization aspect of this open source project is meant to make all of this possible coupled with the developments and advancements that will arise from the analysis of the behavior of such a large and well-connected community.
Even though, AIO Robotic’s Zeus (All-In-One 3D Printer/Scanner) is the only personal 3D solution that has its own built-in design software that you can use to design a 3D model from scratch, the need for the facility is a recognized need. Hence Spark allows development of design modules that can be used separately or integrated with the rest of the firmware you develop. The cloud’s connectivity will also allow people to download your module and use it with their own firmware if you allow such public usage.
Are you sure the design that you are about to print does not contain a worm or a virus? Even if it is not infected, are you sure that the source you are receiving your print requests from is an authentic one? The one it claims to be? With Spark’s authentication standards (details unknown yet), you will be able to rest easy knowing what you’re printing is exactly and just that for the person/organization you are meant to be printing for.
3D model and print job warehouses are growing daily. Such warehouses and other virtual databanks allow you to upload your designs so someone else may download the design and print without a second thought. To allow you to manage your assets, parts, designs and models more effectively, Spark takes the headache of management off of your hands and leaves you just the executive decisions such as who to allow or disallow acquisition of the design.
The technicalities of uploading designs and models and updating older versions with newer versions will be handled by Spark pending your decision.
Have you had problems calibrating your printer? Perhaps because you tried to write a firmware for it yourself, (Arduino based firmware hacks are actually available) or perhaps because the latest update of the software didn’t work right with your older version of hardware.
Whatever the reason, with standardized software, you will be able to analyze and calibrate your printer without having to do much yourself. Even if this is not a problem that you have encountered, chances are, if you have more than one printer and multi-phased jobs that need hardware collaboration, you’ve had to scratch your head a couple of times having to manually manage your print jobs. With cloud connectivity and standardized communication methods, all of this will be handled at the back end.
The Nitty-Gritty Details
With all this said, the depth of the iceberg remains to be explored. Let’s talk about a few things that enable Spark and Ember to be as promising as predicted. The Print Studio is a software designed allowing you to prepare and deliver your models for printing.
It is built on Spark and hence allows Spark-based extensions to communicate with ease. The cloud drive service, your online storage space with a Spark subscription enables you to connect social media sites and sharing services as well as file management and hosting.
Check out the table below for more specifics about extended functionality and accessibility options.
- Import and export from STL or OBJ formats
- Manipulate meshes
- Locate and repair geometry
Tray and Print File Generation
- Set single or multiple meshes into trays
- Automatically optimize the orientation of the model
- Render support structures for particular meshes in the tray
- Connect and control 3D printers over the cloud
- Share printers with other users and set their privileges
- Queue and submit 3D print jobs; monitor and control their execution.
- Support for jobs initiated outside Spark (at the printer)
- Receive callback notifying your app of changes to print jobs’ execution status
- Link your printer to Spark and connect to our Print API and printer users
- Automate firmware upgrades
- Receive notification of printer registrations, commands sent to printers and print jobs
- Use our open-source printer management software handling job-queue and job submission over the cloud or locally
Service Bureau Printing
- Print 3D models through a service bureau.
- Submit models to a service bureau
- Connect your services to Spark
Print Studio Integration
Print Manager Integration
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- Use OAuth 2.0 to access the Spark API
- Enable end-users to authorize your app
Spark is not merely meant to connect every 3D printer enthusiast to the service. It’s meant to change the future of additive manufacturing through knowledge sharing and collaboration. It’s aim to standardize the industry through a structured approach to the practice enables it to be a hallmark of technological advancement, an endeavor that has much to offer to its own industry as well as the breadth of the technological domain.