The 3D Printing Cloud Can Be A Lot Bigger Than You Think
I’m reading a press release from Ultimaker regarding a new feature in their cloud and had a thought.
Ultimaker some months ago announced “Ultimaker Cloud”, a feature available through Ultimaker Cura software. It enables the creation of 3D printer workgroups through a cloud relay system. Previously, Ultimaker Cura could discover 3D printers only if they happened to be on the same network. But the change then allowed the formation of a workgroup based on cloud account, rather than network accessibility. A good change.
This time they’ve made another change to their cloud system to allow the creation of workgroup teams, or, as Ultimaker calls them, “Teams”.
Ultimaker Cloud Team Concept
Basically it’s a way of creating a group of individuals who are allowed access to a group of Ultimaker 3D printers. This is not particularly useful for individuals or even small businesses with a few machines. It’s instead targeted at enterprises where there are dozens or hundreds of people, perhaps separated by geography and hierarchy.
This feature could greatly simplify use of 3D print resources across an enterprise. If you haven’t worked in a large organization, it can be extremely difficult to get things done. In order to coordinate activities, a large enterprise will institute many procedures, protocols and approvals that must be traversed before accomplishing anything. The new Teams feature should simplify at least a little bit of that effort.
But what was of most interest to me was that Ultimaker was able to do this at all. They were able to do so because they had already built a cloud infrastructure to which their machines and software are connected. That’s the hard part. The relatively easy part is to develop a protocol for Team implementation.
In a way, a cloud infrastructure transforms a 3D printing environment into a software development environment: new features can be constantly added, changed and fixed with virtually no effort required at the end points.
That’s a tremendous power to wield, and it appears that Ultimaker is taking small steps forward into that universe.
Ultimaker’s Next Moves?
What could they do next in the cloud? And I mean “could”, as in, “what is possible?” That’s an almost infinite answer, as it is really “anything they can think of”. It’s like asking how many softwares there can be. The answer is “lots”.
Their Teams feature is very good, but I suspect it is but the tip of the iceberg of possibilities. There need only be more analysis of what’s needed in enterprises (Ultimaker’s new favorite client type) to trigger implementation of new features. It can only get better.
For 3D printer manufacturers who are not on a cloud system yet, consider this a caution that Ultimaker could run forward very quickly with new functions that could make other products look far less powerful in comparison.
Get a cloud, and leverage it.