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GrabCAD's Print Cloud Speeds Up 3D Printing

GrabCAD Print takes the GitHub concept of a processing and sharing hub that can deal with many different file formats and applies it to the 3D-printing process. The goal is to make prototyping faster and less convoluted.

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<p align="left">GrabCAD Print is intended to shorten the prototyping process as shown in this illustration from Statasys.</p>

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3D printing is supposed to help smooth the path from designer's mind to prototype. It does, when compared to processes involving clay sculptures and other handcrafted models. Still now, there are many steps involved -- including some that Stratasys hopes to wring out of the process with the release of GrabCAD Print.

In a phone interview, Paul Giaconia, vice president of software products for Stratasys, said that there are still many limitations in additive manufacturing -- the industry's term for processes such as 3D printing. "Printers need to be more connected." He added that the connections he's talking about apply to cloud rendering and the design process itself.

GrabCAD, owned by Stratasys since 2014, is a cloud-based hub allowing collaboration around CAD files through GrabCAD Workbench. Functioning in ways that are broadly similar to GitHub for software developers, Workbench allows designers and engineers to check CAD documents in and out, see version histories, and share files with colleagues. GrabCAD Print takes the same idea of a processing and sharing hub that can deal with many different file formats, and applies it to the 3D printing process.

"There's a quality gap built into the design-to-printing process," Giaconia said, explaining that quality and time are lost at the interfaces between hardware and software, or between two pieces of software that must be employed in the prototype-creation process. "There are too many tools between the concept author and the printed part," he said. The idea behind GrabCAD Print is that there should be one step between creating the CAD file and seeing the finished 3D-printed prototyped.

GrabCAD Print allows a file in any of a number of popular CAD formats including PTC Creo, Dassault Systèmes' SOLIDWORKS, CATIA, and Autodesk Inventor to be uploaded to the GrabCAD Print cloud. From there, it is sent directly to a Stratasys 3D printer available to the designer. Intermediate rendering, slicing, and management steps are all performed within GrabCAD Print and away from the view and interaction of the designer.

[How does a global logistics operation make use of 3D printing? Read UPS: 3D Printing Maps out a New Future.]

One of the keys to the GrabCAD Print approach is that it makes print management via a Web browser interface available to anyone with authorized access to the 3D print job. This means a print technician no longer has to be on-site to verify consumable levels or make sure that the print job is running successfully. That information is available through a GrabCAD Print Web interface on any device.

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Giaconia gave an example of an engineer who can kick off a complex print job late in the afternoon and schedule it to run into the night. Rather than having to wait until the next morning, or to come into the office during the night, to see whether the print job is running properly, the engineer can check the status on a tablet or smartphone from home.

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GrabCAD Print supports Stratasys uPrint SE, uPrint SE Plus, Fortus 250mc, Dimension Elite, and Dimension 1200es printers. Support for more models is coming later in the year, according to the company. The service is in public beta now and will remain so into fourth quarter 2017. GrabCAD Print is available at no cost to Stratsys 3D printer customers.

About the Author(s)

Curtis Franklin Jr.

Senior Editor at Dark Reading

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and other conferences.

Previously he was editor of Light Reading's Security Now and executive editor, technology, at InformationWeek where he was also executive producer of InformationWeek's online radio and podcast episodes.

Curtis has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He has contributed to a number of technology-industry publications including Enterprise Efficiency, ChannelWeb, Network Computing, InfoWorld, PCWorld, Dark Reading, and ITWorld.com on subjects ranging from mobile enterprise computing to enterprise security and wireless networking.

Curtis is the author of thousands of articles, the co-author of five books, and has been a frequent speaker at computer and networking industry conferences across North America and Europe. His most popular book, The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Podcasting, with co-author George Colombo, was published by Que Books. His most recent book, Cloud Computing: Technologies and Strategies of the Ubiquitous Data Center, with co-author Brian Chee, was released in April 2010. His next book, Securing the Cloud: Security Strategies for the Ubiquitous Data Center, with co-author Brian Chee, is scheduled for release in the Fall of 2018.

When he's not writing, Curtis is a painter, photographer, cook, and multi-instrumentalist musician. He is active in amateur radio (KG4GWA), scuba diving, stand-up paddleboarding, and is a certified Florida Master Naturalist.

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