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Anyone who’s been around manufacturing long enough will tell you that the current situation with additive manufacturing (AM) software is similar to what occurred roughly 50 years ago, when CNC lathes and machining centers began to gain popularity. Back then, the software needed to program machine tools was expensive and hard to come by, and its capabilities lagged behind the hardware it was meant to control.
Fast forward to today. The harmony between machine tools and software is evident. They’re dance partners waltzing to the same tune.
“The software side of additive is less mature,” said Alex Meckes, solutions architect for nTopology Inc., New York, noting that there are “few players in the game. Compared to hardware, the number of software innovations and gradual improvements has been fairly minimal.”
nTopology’s CEO, Brad Rothenberg, offered a reasonable explanation for this discrepancy. “Innovation always happens in the factory before the supporting processes needed to leverage it become available,” he said. “This includes the tooling, the software—and often the way of thinking needed.”
One might argue that the additive industry should have learned the lessons of its subtractive predecessors and brought better software tools to the table earlier.