Another start-up aiming to use the cloud to gather converts is New Matter, a Pasadena company that recently blew past previous 3D printer crowdsourcing campaigns on Indiegogo with a $249 machine. While the printer is indeed slick, surrounded by a transparent cube, its capabilities are average among consumer 3D printers.
A sub-$400 printer that uses a social network
New Matter, however, raised close to $700,000 (its goal was $375,000) during its crowdsourcing campaign, and it pre-sold 2,600 of its MOD-t 3D printers for $149 to $249. The company also recently raised $6.5 million in a series A funding round. The company expects to begin fulfilling 3D printer orders this summer.
What sets New Matters MODt 3D printer apart is that is uses Wi-Fi to connect users to an online marketplace where sharing a printable object file is as simple as sending a text message.
"All the processing of the .stl file, from uploading it to print commands to slicing and print generation, will be done on our servers. The printable file then gets streamed to the 3D printer," said New Matter founder Steve Schell.
The .stl file format --.stil is an abbreviation for stereolithography — is the default standard for computer aided design (CAD) images used by 3D printers to make objects.
When an .stl file is uploaded to a 3D printer's simple CAD software, the object image must first be "sliced" into the dozens, hundreds or even thousands of layers a printer will use to create it. Slicing an image can take several minutes or much longer depending on its complexity and the processing power of the computer on which the software is running.
MOD-t owners sign on to become part is the online community that allows users to upload and download .stl files, and even charge for designs. Typically, popular software such as Tinkercad, Autocad or Adobe's Photoshop CC (creative cloud), or some proprietary software, allows 3D printer users to perform simple manipulations of objects before they print.
Like a social network, users of MOD-t users can upload CAD drawings to the New Market's online marketplace and then send messages to other users with links to .stl files. Users get notifications, and they can chose to accept them and print the objects, ignore them or reject them.
All of the objects uploaded to New Matter's servers, however, are vetted to ensure they work well with the printer; often times objects downloaded from online marketplaces such as MakerBot's Thingaverse don't print well on all machines.
Users of MODt 3D printers will also be able to manipulate objects in the cloud using New Matter's CAD software before printing them.
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