It seems Stratasys won’t stop with the interesting announcements; now they’ve solved yet more workflow problems in 3D printing.
Two years ago Stratasys snapped up the then-independent GrabCAD system, a community dedicated to sharing digital 3D models for industry. Since then, Stratasys has beefed up its capabilities, such as their announcement of the free GrabCAD Workbench, but the most recent announcement was, I think, quite dramatic in its breadth.
Specifically, they announced something called, “GrabCAD Print”. It is a set of tools specifically for print operations that works independently of the printers! From GrabCAD Print you can immediately send a CAD file to print resources - without having to convert it to STL; you can use the original CAD file directly.
This breaks up a significant issue in any multi-printer operation: typically each 3D printer type has its own proprietary software to drive it, even from the same vendor! These tools invariably required STL file input, even though most of the 3D design work is done in other tools, such as Solidworks or any of the many Autodesk tools.
For a user, this is a significant change in workflow. Instead of having to sort out which software tool is required for the specific printer, they need only hit “Print” and GrabCAD Print worries about all the other details. Here’s a comparison of the workflows from Stratasys:
This workflow simplification is not the only benefit. Because the print requests now travel through a single environment, additional information can be provided. Print schedules, for example, can be shown - and even displayed on mobile apps for remote control of the print operations in a uniform manner.
Another very key benefit that I am certain will be very well received is the audit and log information. I can tell you from personal experience that obtaining print statistics from a 3D printer farm is a very unpleasant experience; it’s as if the manufacturers “forgot” about that issue and left you to your own survival. Another way to say this is that print farm operators have very poor statistics on what’s going on, making it very challenging to prepare invoices for print usage, for example.
That all changes when your equipment is hooked up to GrabCAD Print, which provides uniform statistics. Now operations can be monitored properly and made more efficient. Good work, Stratasys!
There’s only one issue with GrabCAD Print as far as I can tell: it works only on Stratasys equipment, as you might suspect. However, it’s still a great step forward.