The tech world has always been pretty excited with both 3D printing and Cloud Computing. Cloud computing made significant achievements and is now a mainstream industry, even though it faced some grave challenges with users' trust because of security concerns. On the contrary, 3D printing had more admiration than challenges, yet it is not ramping up as quickly even after years of efforts.
Cloud and 3D Printing: Differences
The major difference between the two is hardware. Cloud computing is greatly focused at diminishing the dependency on hardware, whereas 3D printing has some inevitable strings attached with hardware for delivering quality results. The 3D printing industry gives the impression of a hardcore manufacturing industry, and it has expanded its services into the fields of jewelry, food, clothing, etc., but cloud remains a sophisticated computer-based solution that serves service and management needs.
Union of Cloud and 3D Printing
On the surface, it may appear that cloud does not have much to offer for the 3D printing. One can even argue that cloud has not made substantial changes with traditional (sheet) printing as well. Digging deeper, you see a different story. Considering the case of traditional printing, there may not be some straight facilities availed, but there are certain assistances. One no longer needs to carry a USB drive to the printer-connected device as it just remains available with the access to the cloud. A user can prepare the files to be printed even on the go from any device. Sharing a file the same doc file between different users saves the chances of errors and production of multiple copies. All in all, there are a number of conveniences that come with cloud computing and they cannot be neglected.
Moving to a much more complex and elaborated form, 3D printing, the cloud has some serious abilities to offer. 3D printing depends on certain software for designing and material control for the printing and when it comes to software, the cloud cannot be ignored. Here are the ways in which cloud can help 3D printing get better:
1. Multi-user Collaboration
3D printers are able to manufacture some very complex structures involving a variety of the materials. So, the designing controls the major aspect of 3D printing and it may involve a number of users to give a final shape of the projected product. 3D designing software has been abundantly available in the market since long and is widely practiced in the manufacturing industry. Switching to 3D printing was pretty easy for them. So there is no lack in the number of choices with such software but multiuser collaboration is not highly practiced.
3D printable files are very heavy in context to the storage space they consume and easily ranging in several MBs. Therefore, regular emails cannot deliver the desired sharing solutions. Hence, working on the same machine has been the most accepted solution. Cloud, which delivers the computing operations over a network, can host the file at a location and provide the access to different users without requiring the download of the file locally. To make it even better, built-in communication features can also be availed over the same cloud service.
2. Reduced Machine Specification
As mentioned above, 3D soft models consume heftier storage space. At the same time, the hardware requirements for installation of 3D printing software are also very demanding. It increases the overall expenses for the hardware. While some may just shy away from buying them, those buying them would struggle with the need to upgrade. Since the technology is still evolving, the chances for upgrades are pretty good.
Cloud offerings of the software simplify these hassles. Providing the service over the network ensures that the user device simply needs the internet connectivity to get started. Most upgrades are also offered on the cloud, and that keeps the local machine from working too hard, which can save a substantial sum of expenses.
3. Mobile Designing
Depending on the software one is relying upon for 3D printing, designs can be executed from mobile devices as well. Thus, even if the designer is travelling, the operations can be executed. This feature does not remain confined only to the designer as other members involved with the 3D printing at an organization can deliver their contribution.
Though the complete designing execution will require certain graphic hardware for the device, the cloud can enable some basic operations even for a smartphone. With the rapid pace at which mobile technology is evolving, it can be expected that more of the 3D designing abilities will be available.
Cloud capabilities with the printing end may be noticeable, but on the designing end they are very intense. It can greatly reduce the dependency on the hardware, which has been the biggest constrain of the three-dimensional designing. With the increasing number of industries, such as- food, clothing, etc. seeking solutions from 3D designing, the cloud looks to be just the right solution.