One of the biggest areas driving the 3D printing forward industry is software. When you visit a show like CES and witness all of these amazing applications like custom insoles and 3D printed toilet seats – we kid you not it’s on the 3DPrintlife stand – it’s very easy to negate the fact that before these finalised ideas are pulled from the build plate there is a very complex design process.
We met with Chris Walker at the 2015 International CES to talk about a 3D printing system that is set to make the process better.
Back in 2012 Walker found himself in the 3D printing industry with some university friends, working on 3D printing vending machines built for university campuses to allow students to 3D print their project designs. After implementing the machines set to lower the barrier of access to the technology, he found that they were not as reliable as he had hoped with some breaking down and of course the industry wide problem of intellectual property - if someone were to print a patented design, would it be the university's fault? The students?
In light of this, Walker set out to produce Skyforge, a 3D printing system that can manage a network of 3D printers for a particular location or group. Think libraries, schools and businesses that are running a large number of users.
Created in Idaho, US, and managed by a team of just four, the cloud based system works in two ways. It connects people to 3D printing by providing them with a format to have their designs realised successfully but also provides the benefit of being able to manage a large number of prints.
The system allows users to manage and share 3D printers in a communal environment to save time, streamline design ordering processes and offer 3D printing to a greater number of people.
The service makes it easy for organisations to manage their print jobs and for users to select the particular machines and select options such as material and colour based on the printer. By adding prints to a queue they can be organised efficiently and prevent users from printing objects that might not be suitable.
Administrators have the freedom to determine how much users will pay for prints depending on select user groups. So for example, if a library has a 3D printer, the administrator can tailor the system so that perhaps adults pay X amount and school children can print for free.
The system also features a database of designs that users can create, upload and access within the community.
Skyforge has been going through tests since August and will be rolled out during Spring 2015. Several universities are already on board with the software across the US along with corporate interest from businesses, highlighting the demand for this type of 3D printing service.
Walker commented: "We're definitely focusing on enterprise opportunities. Some of our existing customers are large companies, and we're working hard on growing that side of the business."
For more updates from CES head to the TCT CES LiveBlog for all the latest news from the 3D Printing Marketplace.