SolidWorks World 2014, Part 2: Trends on Display in the Partner Pavilion

25 Feb, 2014 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

New offerings in the exhibit hall emphasize expanded 3D printing capabilities and tools that move the heavy lifting of design and rendering off the desktop.

Mcor Technologies also uses an unusual raw material in its 3D printers, although it's at the other end of the cost spectrum: standard printer paper. The Mcor IRIS creates full-color models in two stages: First, an inkjet printer component dyes the appropriate areas of each sheet (patented inks penetrate completely through the thickness of the sheet, without bleeding out across the surface). In the second stage, each sheet is cut into the appropriate shape and glued into place, becoming one layer in the model (read more about the IRIS here). Mcor is currently rolling out a software upgrade that doubles the IRIS’s print speed, thanks to a more efficient build pattern.

Once the IRIS has finished printing a model, users can pull away the recyclable waste material by hand — or, in the case of more complicated shapes, with the aid of a craft knife. This sphere was made by loading the 3D printer with colored paper. Click image to enlarge.

Conor MacCormack, cofounder and CEO of Mcor, confirmed that the company plans to further expand its service bureau partnership, which enables customers to upload files to Staples Office Centers and have them produced on Mcor 3D printers. The Staples myeasy3D service was launched in Europe last year; MacCormack expects the service to be available in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year.

Dell, known for its workstations, is expanding its hardware horizons to include 3D printing. Under a new partnership with Stratasys subsidiary MakerBot, Dell has begun selling MakerBot Replicator 3D printers and 3D scanners. Andy Rhodes, general manager of Dell’s Precision business, explained that with the new arrangement customers will be able to buy everything needed for prototyping from one vendor — even the printing materials. Dell will be exclusive to MakerBot in the small and medium-sized business channel in North America, said Rhodes.

Off-Site Tools Deliver Power Remotely

Several vendors’ offerings showed that more users are relying on remote hardware and software resources. The Lagoa platform enables users to create photorealistic renderings and visualizations via a web browser — there’s no software installation, and the client machine is not involved in the process, explained Chris Williams, Lagoa’s vice-president of sales and marketing.

Because the tool is browser-based, models are fully coeditable, and guest links give access to anyone the user wishes. With view-only access, a client can rotate a model to view it from new angles, for example. Processing takes place in the Amazon cloud, so rendering is faster than desktop-based options and jobs can be executed in parallel rather than in sequence.

In addition, some customers are using the Lagoa API to build their own web-based 3D applications, such as interactive product configurators that let shoppers visualize their customized products before purchase.

The cost advantages of such a platform can be dramatic — customers don’t need to purchase high-powered hardware, and pricing starts at free for the Community option (the Professional level is $50 per month, and Enterprise pricing varies based on the company’s needs). Lagoa currently supports more than 40 CAD file formats, including assembly and part files; support for kinematic assemblies will be added in the second quarter of this year.

“All this stuff is going to end up in the cloud in the next couple of years,” said Williams, gesturing around the exhibit hall. “The cloud does this so much better.”

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