Why Stratasys? An Interview with PTC’s Brian Thompson

PTC recently released new 3D printing functionality with Creo 3.0 M040.

I had a conversation with Brian Thompson, vice president product development at PTC, about these new capabilities last week. Among other things, I wanted to know why the interface is currently limited to the Stratasys Connex 3 models.

Brian Thompson, PTC

He began by explaining the goals of the release. Thompson said in this release, the company wanted to do away with redundant external steps typical of the design and 3D printing process. For example, typically after you design a part, you export the STL, import into the printer software, edit, export a print file and pass it to the printer.

Thompson  pointed out that the current “semi-standard” 3D CAD software can export to STL and printer software, but then forces the user to select color and material—parameters that have already been specified in the CAD model.

Also 3D printing – like any manufacturing technology – has specific limitations that the user must take account when modeling for 3D printing. This means that prototypes sometimes need to be adjusted to create a durable and accurate 3D print. For example, very thin areas may need to be adjusted for successful production, and manual support structures installed in certain places.

Close cooperation with Stratasys

To successfully prepare objects for printing requires some experience with 3D – or clever software that detects problematic geometry for the user.

That’s why PTC partnered with Stratasys for this release. This includes auto-placement, which arranges parts optimally in the printing tray. The printer tray is shown in Creo. You can also see support structures and printing time and amount of material.

More 3D printing settings are available, such as the volume of fill material needed – and the scale of the object.

Also, a wizard is installed, which performs the target detection of problematic geometries and proposes solutions to the users. Here, the software considers the properties of the materials chosen by the user. And this answers the initial question, why only support the Connex 3? These functions strongly depend on the properties of the machine and of the materials used.

The Stratasys machine is simply the first. Thompson said  developers plan to include more printer models, and more manufacturers, in future releases. In addition, he says that PTC is working in various industry consortia, including an initiative of the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) to establish standards, similar to PostScript for professional 2D printers.

Microsoft has implemented such an interface in Windows 8; however, it is rather limited in its scope and does not do justice professional devices such as Connex 3.

Read the entire article (in German)