It seems that 3D printer manufacturer Raise3D is getting into the cloud business.
They’re developing something called “RaiseCloud” and are now seeking beta testers for the system. This is a “closed beta”, meaning it’s not open to anyone. You must apply to be considered for testing.
Cloud printing is a thing that’s gradually appeared over the past few years, and I think we’re going to see a lot more of it in the future. However, I also think we are still in a kind of transition point between standalone 3D printers and a fully networked future.
The first 3D printers were standalone. You had to literally be in front of the machine to operate it, typically through a control panel. Some early desktop 3D printers were so rudimentary they did not even have a control panel, and you were forced to operate them through a software control panel on a PC connected to the machine through a USB port.
But those days are mostly gone, except for ultra-low priced equipment competing on price – but not convenience of use.
Today we find most reasonable 3D printers equipped with touchscreen control panels and WiFi or LAN networking.
The networking features do allow an interesting and potentially very powerful approach: cloud control of the 3D printer. This creates a number of fascinating use cases, such as remote control of a machine, pooling machines together to act as one, automated re-print after print failure on another available machine, etc. The possibilities are limitless and I suspect many more spectacular use cases have yet to be discovered.
While the idea of cloud 3D printing was pioneered by third parties using set top boxes, an increasing number of 3D printer manufacturers have opted to produce their own cloud systems that directly work with their equipment. MakerBot’s Innovation Center, for example, was perhaps one of the first companies to do this.
What will Raise3D’s cloud do? It’s not entirely clear yet. They say only:
“We invite you to take part in our beta testing program. With the support of beta testers, we are able to elevate our 3D printing solutions to a higher quality level before releasing them. As a participant, you can share your ideas, and together, we can create the best product possible. When you join our Beta Testing Program, you’ll enjoy the following benefits:
Getting a look at the new product before anyone else;
The pleasure of finding unsuspected bugs and providing your suggestions;
Improving the newest software as a result of testing”
I expect they’d provide the usual cloud functions and benefits, but I’m interested to know if they are attempting anything unusual. It’s hard to tell by looking at their blurry screenshot shown above, which is essentially the only details we can find. We’ll find out soon after they launch.
They’re inviting the public to apply, but there is one obvious catch: to qualify to apply you must operate at least three Raise3D printers of any model. This suggests that their cloud will at least initially be applicable only to their equipment, which is a reasonable strategy.
If you qualify for their program and have interest in leveraging cloud functionality, perhaps you should apply for their closed beta test. The system launches on September 3rd, but signups are open until September 10th.