Spark - Open Software Platform

Being an open platform, this should benefit Rhino users too… I’m looking forward to reading more details as they’re announced.

Can you elaborate on how it being an open platform, could benefit Rhino users in the long run?


@Willem It’s purely speculative at this point and DISCLAIMER my thoughts are all a ‘perhaps’ statement since the platform is only announced and there really are no details. These are just my own thoughts as I have the same information you do.

According to Autodesk CEO Carl Bass the new open platform “will make it more reliable yet simpler to print 3D models.” Assuming the printing platform/ SDK is in fact open, anyone can write a plugin including for Rhino as well and there may be less fiddling about with exporting STL files and Print 3D.

This could mean a lot of things. It could just be an API/ SDK for printing but it also could involve export file format improvements. For example, the quality of final surfaces produced by a 3D printer is among other things a combination of file resolution and machine resolution. If one has a low resolution STL file and a high resolution printer, or one wants to enlarge the model beyond its intended size specification, one gets a sub-optimal result. Exporting from NURBS to STL files is much like rasterizing vector graphics. I could be off base here, but if one wants to make a universally share-able 3D printable model, at the moment one is pretty much stuck with STL. We wouldn’t share fonts as rasters, so why are we sharing 3D models this way? There may be other considerations here such as adding information to the file like embedded material choices, constrained parameter adjustment, digital rights management, etc. There is room for improvement in the process. Standardization across platforms may help everyone, unless only the interface with the file format is open but the file format itself is closed. It’s certainly possible the intention is to make an API/ SDK that increases Autodesk software license seats at the expense of other platforms (in which case, uh-oh, maybe my theory is busted). But may also be that Autodesk is trying to help drive its software sales in a more general way. We’ll have to wait and see on this one.

What is less speculative is the commoditization of small stereolithography (SLA)/ DLP 3D printers. This will make lower cost hardware available to Rhino users. I believe Autodesk is taking a page out of the Google/ Android playbook. If Autodesk releases an open source printer, there will be virtually no cost to end users for the associated R&D, only cost competition for the hardware. Margins will drop on the printers and the media. The number of direct competitors for this a small SLA printer is huge: 3D Systems ProJet 1200, EnvisionTec Perfactory Micro, FormLabs Form 1, the Asiga Pico, B9Creator, and many, many more including announced but unreleased printers.

It also potentially opens up the door for more innovation on the hardware front; hardware developers may end up spending less time worrying about the machine/ user software interface.

Additionally anyone can make printing materials available as well. For example:

3D Systems has just released the Projet1200 Mico SLA printer. It competes directly with the EnvisonTec Perfactory Micro. 3DS makes its money from the printing cartridges (razor and blades model). It is a relatively inexpensive machine at $4900, but it uses eye-wateringly expensive media. EnvisionTec makes its money mostly off the machine but the base price is $14999 the last time I checked.

  • For the 3DS Projet 1200, each VisiJet FTX Green ‘cartridge’ (10 pack @$490) is 30 grams and weighs 1,02 g/cm3 (29.4 cubic cm per cartridge). That translates to 1.79 cubic inches (0.0610 cubic cm/ cubic inch) per $49 cartridge or $27 per cubic inch. Currently there is only one proprietary printing material available for the Projet 1200.

  • For the EnvisonTec Perfactory Micro resin is about $8 per cubic inch depending upon the resin type but the machine is 3-4 times the price. There are 5 different materials available.

3DS Project at $4900 with $27/ cu inch. material costs
Envisontec Perfactory Micro at $14999 at $8/ cu inch. material costs.

Opening the hardware plans will lower cost machines while increasing the variety of and lowering the costs of printing materials. This will be great for any Rhino user that has use for the technology. It is an interesting business tactic.

Generally, more 3D printer sales will drive the demand for content creation. As content creators Rhino users will benefit.

In the end, I guess it all depends what Mr Bass means by open platform.


EDIT: Just read this quote here.
The questions is no longer “if” but “when” a company puts their engineering and manufacturing data on the cloud.
I’m sure there is something I am missing about the Spark open platform in relation to its cloud strategy.

Hi André,

Thank you for the elaborate reply.

Indeed, and as much as I like to be optimistic, there is absolutely no substantial information in those 2 articles about what Spark offers, that will make it more reliable and simpler to 3D print, all we can do is speculate. And I think that is exactly what the intention is for making these general statements. promising a better future. It creates a buzz without anyone being able to seriously critique the facts, simply because no facts are given.

Just like I would state here:

  • “Hi Rhino-users I’m developing a plugin to create 2D drawings with annotations much more reliable and more simple than Rhino’s build in Make 2D” *.
    Everyone would be all over me without the need for me to give substantial evidence of my claim.

All is well, but…since this is something coming from Autodesk, I can only assume it is a project with the intend to gain more; it is not about sharing and caring; Autodesk was never about that and never will be, it would be their downfall.

If you ask me, their strategy is not to get an open format that will be free for all. In fact: “Spark will be open and freely licensable”. Note that there is a substantial difference in being freely licensable and being truly free, all will still be a property of Autodesk. Think about what Microsoft has created with their office products: A monopoly on text, spreadsheet and presentation documents; any company would like to have such monopoly on 3D print formats.

How about when part of Spark will not be free and open ( all the things distinguishing it form regular STL). Once it gains enough market share, additions and improvements will be closed and remain proprietary. There is absolutely nothing preventing that in a licencing model like now proposed for Spark. There will be no easy way back and many of us will need to jump the paid bandwagon of Spark.

I agree that standardization for 3D printing (and CAD in general) would be of great benefit, but only when that standard is free for the public and by the public. Only when there is more than a single big corporation involved. Only when a community of real people with both mutual and opposing interests, sit together and negotiate an optimal standard.

That is true, but how about in the long run?
How about if these 3D printers will only run on Spark files by 2016?
Have you ever had to supply files for any type of manufacturing? Mostly only proprietary file formats are accepted, (PDF, DWG/DXF, AI, etc).
Note that 3D printing does not have such proprietary standard file format yet, it’s still STL.
If Autodesk succeeds in their goal to have Spark overtake as the de facto 3D printing format, they can manipulate the market for both software and hardware involving most 3D printing.

Exactly and do you think he has the interest of the Rhino user in his mind or the financial benefits of his company?

Sorry for not being able to have a more optimistic view on this, but in the world of big corporations there is no altruistic thinking, consumer benefits are only relevant if they affect the financial gains in any way. Consumer benefits are not a goal by itself and never will be. It is something the consumers are responsible for themselves.


Probably the biggest issue I have with my own post is the difference with the letter ‘s’ and the letter ‘c’, the difference between ‘should’ and ‘could’.

Clearly it’s a ‘could’.
Again, I’ll put the disclaimer at that these are just my own thoughts and speculations on what it could mean.

Don’t apologize for not being optimistic. I’m not particularly optimistic myself about any altruistic intentions on their part either. Autodesk is attempting to launch a strategy to sell more of its own products and benefit financially. Perhaps there aren’t enough paying seas for Fusion360 and this is the kick to try and get it going. In large part I agree with a lot of what you are saying.

If by manufacturing you mean large scale industrial manufacturing, no. My manufacturing gets done in house by me. But look at the machine Autodesk is building. I am the target market for this machine not industrial manufacturing. You pointed out that mostly only proprietary formats are accepted, was sort of my point. A better, open defacto industry standard could benefit many people including Rhino users. Given that so much business is moving into the cloud, it makes sense to have better interoperability.

That’s exactly my point. In many respects, which I already touched on, it’s a sub-optimal format.

1:[quote=“Willem, post:4, topic:8394”]
Only when a community of real people with both mutual and opposing interests, sit together and negotiate an optimal standard.
I’m not sure that is always true. I use Photoshop. IMHO it’s better than GIMP. The PDF file is an open standard. It wasn’t developed this way. But I frequently print from Google Chrome to PDF. But the fact that PDF is so widely accepted has help Adobe, the general user base, and created a wider market for PDF software.

Microsoft does not have a monopoly. Collectively called OpenXML, DOCX, PPTX, XLXS formats are open standard. I can open Office files in iWork or Google Docs. I have and use all three sets of products. I happen to prefer MS Office out of the lot, not because it’s a monopoly, but because for me it’s a better user experience. This is actually what I hope happens with Autodesk’s open platform.

Being the licensable property of Autodesk may come down to something as simple as controlling file format fragmentation, like the issues Google has had with the Android OS fragmentation and slow OS updates. There are lessons to be learned.

I suspect this is what they’re going for.

At the this point, it’s all speculation until we know more. But I thought the Rhino user base want to be aware of the development and keep an eye on it. And it’s nice to engage with someone else on the subject and get another viewpoint.
Warmest regards,

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