What is Additive Manufacturing?
Within the last 20 years, a variety of new fabrication technologies have emerged, which are fundamentally different from any other manufacturing methodology. During centuries, the creation of any part involved either the substraction of material from an initial building block or some kind of casting procedure. Today, modern information technology allows a very different approach: additive formation from scratch, in most cases layer by layer. This strategy allows the creation of geometries of almost any imaginably freedom, as well as a direct "printing" of prepared CAD-data.
In the near past, these benefits had an enormous impact on the prototyping industry, where short delivery times and customizability are a crucial factor for success. But with recent technological developments, the range of available materials (e.g. plastic: PA and PE, metal: titanium and cobalt-chrome) and machine types evolved to a new level, finally capable of fulfilling real production requirements.
Together with the possibility to create customized products, the benefits are comparable to these created by digital printing which came up during the 1990s. As there are already recognized trends into that direction, we strongly believe that major fractions of the future manufacturing industry will create highly customized on-demand-delivery products.
What is netfabb Studio Basic?
A very important component to this transition is a large-scale availability of production machines. In fact, while the state of the Rapid Prototyping industry is often compared to that of the computer industry in the 1970s, more and more low-cost fabrication machines (1, 2, 3) are becoming available, paving the way for a diversity of customized niche applications. Furthermore, open source projects like rep-rap or fab@home are aiming for the "factory on every desktop".
On the other hand, there has not been any affordable software which is capable of preparing the source data for additive manufacturing processes. By releasing a free (as in free beer) version of netfabb Studio, we are addressing this gap. netfabb Studio Basic offers all the functionality needed for creating build data out of an STL file.
- STL display and inspection
- Hole closing and mesh repair
- Part placement and orientation on a platform
- Part slicing and export
While doing this, we hope to contribute to the spread of the technology as well as to give access to data preparation to universities, hobby-users and anyone else with the need to build parts by additive manufacturing processes.
What is netfabb Studio Professional?
With netfabb Studio Basic being a completely free product we must earn our money elsewhere to support the development and launch of new products. We hope that commercial users can appreciate this and support our efforts by upgrading the free netfabb Studio to a professional version - netfabb Studio Professional.
Priced at a very affordable level, netfabb Studio Professional is a full range mesh edit, repair, analysis and slicing software for a number of input and output formats. netfabb Studio Professional includes important functions like Boolean operations and file size reduction. Together with netfabb Studio Basic we want netfabb Studio Professional to be an affordable tool to allow organizations to invest in not only one seat of RP/3DP/AM software for the “specialist” but to make the world or 3D Printing data accessible on a larger base in an organization.
Compare, for example, with software for email, written documents, spreadsheets or slideshows. Although there are viewers to view PPT files or PDF files, it would be totally unacceptable to have the making of such data centralized to one person only. With the netfabb Studio concept, EVERYONE in an organization can get access to and view and edit 3DP data in the most general format by using netfabb Studio Basic, and it will not cost them anything since it is free, as in free beer.
With netfabb Studio Professional, a user can carry out advanced modifications, editing, boolean operations and slicing, and this can be done in a software that costs less than most CAD tools. This allows all design and engineering people to afford and install netfabb Studio Professional with administration and everyone else using netfabb Studio Basic.
It is almost a political statement but 3DP data must be accessible to everyone in a proper way for it to really get into mainstream. For example, why should you print a 2D picture of a part and include it in a powerpoint presentation for an internal meeting or a sales meeting, when you can just as easy bring it up on screen as 3D data and turn, twist and zoom on the part as needed and even suggest changes by making modifications?
We truly believe this is essential for the growth of the Additive Manufacturing industry and we want to make a bit of history by making all of this happen.