Software is Often Greater than Hardware in 3D Printing

By on February 23rd, 2018 in Ideas

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 3D Scanners from SMARTTECH
3D Scanners from SMARTTECH

I’m reading a press release from SMARTTECH and noticed a common pattern in the industry. 

Vendor solutions for 3D printing are most often viewed as discrete hardware items. We talk of a “3D printer”, or a “handheld 3D scanner”. Sometimes we talk of software, but usually when the product is solely software, like Simplify3D or NetFabb. 

But the truth is a bit more complex. Devices are actually complex combinations of hardware and software. In many cases the software component is actually significantly more complex than the hardware it supports. 

But we see the hardware, so that’s how we think of these devices. 

But back to SMARTTECH. They produce a line of 3D scanners that can produce good quality 3D models from a range of subjects. Their most recent press release dealt with an improvement to SMARTTECH3Dmeasure v. 2018, their software – not their hardware. They explain: 

The new function of curvature alignment allows not only to perform 3D scanning without positioning markers or a rotary stage but also to easily acquire cloud points of large object. In addition, the SMARTTECH3Dmeasure v. 2018 allows you to create a triangle mesh with just one click, simplifying the measurement results processing to an absolute minimum.

New analysis and control modules significantly extend the SMARTTECH3Dmeasure software capabilities. Through advanced measurement functions it allows to measure the distance between points, calculate the surface area and make a cross-section or compare flatness patterns without the use of external software.

This is a pretty impressive upgrade. It leverages the existing hardware (and more importantly the range of data provided by that hardware) in new ways to make life easier for the user and producing a more powerful product. 

Software, I believe, is the key to advanced hardware. It is far more than just an input / output interface. It can refine the performance, introduce new features and even overcome hardware limitations in some cases. 

Sufficiently upgraded software for a hardware device can often produce end-user effects that are effectively a new device, even though the manufacturer may not term it as such. 

Perhaps they should. 


By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!