A major desktop 3D printer vendor selected a CAD vendor as partner.
Flashforge is one of the larger manufacturers of desktop 3D printers, having been founded in 2011 producing machines similar to the original MakerBots. Since then the company has increased their 3D printer product line and now offers a line of inexpensive desktop machines, some of which have been rebranded by major retailers for sale in chain stores.
But like most desktop 3D printer manufacturers, it’s become more difficult to sell equipment to hobbyists, as there is very substantial competition from other manufacturers, and the fact is there aren’t that many hobbyists that don’t already have 3D printing equipment. In order to expand business, desktop 3D printer manufacturers have been forced to work with new markets.
While some 3D printer manufacturers have chosen to focus on the educational market, others have focused on the professional market, which includes industrial designers, architects and product prototypers.
But what actions might a 3D printer manufacturer take to provide focus on the professional market? Some have introduced software and networking services that enable better office workflow, for example.
But it seems that Flashforge is now taking a definite step in the same direction by announcing a partnership of sorts with ZW3D, a producer of commercial 3D CAD software.
ZW3D software is used to design mechanical products and includes a number of features to make it easier to do so. Here’s a list of some of them:
- Solid Modeling
- Surface Modeling
- Direct Editing
- Unified Modeling (Surface+Solid+Direct)
- Parametric Modeling
- Feature-based Design
- Smart Sketching
- 2D-to-3D Creation
- Reverse Engineering
- Direct Editing
- Spec-driven Optimization
- Draft/Thickness Analysis
- FEA Analysis (integration)
- Interference Checking
- Motion Simulation with Collision Checking
- Geometry Healing
- Design Optimizer
- 2D Associative Drawing Generation
- 2D Production Drafting
- PMI in 2D Drawing
- Bill of Materials
- Workflow Automation
- Machining Strategy/Editing Tools
- Machining Analysis/Simulation (basic)
- Code Generation
- 3D Printing
- Drilling (with Smart-Holing)
- Milling (2-5 Axis)
The last few are quite interesting - it seems you can generate GCODE from ZW3D, a rare feature in CAD systems.
ZW3D is available in several versions that have different combinations of the above features, with pricing ranging from USD$1,300-8,750. It’s not an inexpensive package, but is somewhat less than some other commercial alternatives.
Flashforge explains the reasoning behind their selection:
Flashforge realized that more and more customers chose to purchase 3D printers to design and print themselves promptly. However, 3D printing based on 3D CAD design is not easy for the customers to handle if the operating system of the matching 3D CAD is complicated. Therefore, it became Flashforge’s priority to find an easy-to-learn and intelligent piece of 3D CAD software.
After a thorough evaluation, Flashforge chose ZW3D to accomplish their goal. ZW3D is easy-to-learn. The user-friendly and streamlined workflow of ZW3D allows users, whether beginners or professionals, to master ZW3D in no time.
Concise as the interface is, the functions of ZW3D are powerful and can support the frontend design of 3D printing, making sure 3D models are of high quality.
ZW3D is also intelligent. With a high compatibility, ZW3D is able to work together with 3D printers smoothly, helping them design and manufacture models effectively. Besides, ZW3D also helps improve data accuracy. After introducing ZW3D, Flashforge managed to minimize the number of fractions and improve the radian and structure density of the models.
This is an interesting business step, as it enables Flashforge to have a more complete package to market when approaching professional customers.