Designers can now create models in 3D from scratch or refine existing 3D models using familiar Photoshop tools

Adobe Systems Inc. has added 3D printing capability to Photoshop CC, and one industry analyst says this has the potential of expanding 3D printing adoption in the enterprise space.

Subscribers to Adobe’s Creative Cloud software-as-a-service offering can now design in 3D from scratch or refine existing 3D models and produce print-ready 3D models using the familiar Photoshop tools. The update also includes automated mesh repair to correct errors such as water tightness issues. The tool also builds a support structure or scaffolding to prevent the model from collapsing while printing.

“The new 3D print capabilities in Photoshop CC takes the guess work out of printing 3D models for everyone,” said William Hendrickson, vice president for products at Adobe’s media solutions division. “Before today, there were gaps between the content produced by 3D modeling tools and what 3D printers need in order to deliver a high quality result.”

The new Photoshop CC allows designs to be printed to a locally connected 3D printer or via built-in access to popular online 3D printing services . The software also supports printing with a full range of materials including ceramics, metals and sandstone.

Apart from allowing designers already familiar with Photoshop to now create both 2D and 3D pieces, the update could also influence 3D adoption in the enterprise, said Peter Basiliere, research director for research firm Gartner.

“…the ability to readily output Photoshop CC to a 3D printer will drive enterprise use of 3D printing for conceptualization, prototyping and even finished goods manufacturing,” he said in his blog today. “Shipments of 3D printers are taking off and are poised for a ‘hockey stick’ growth curve.”

In October, Gartner forecasted that shipments of 3D printers priced less than $100,000 will grow by 49 per cent and reach 56,507 units by 2013.

Veronica De La Rosa, industrial designer for product development company Fathom, said Photoshop CC reduce the time spent in correcting design.

“Using Photoshop CC, the new 3D features reduce file troubleshooting and ensure that our client’s 3D models are accurately represented before final print,” she said. “This is extremely helpful for us as it will speed up customer communication saving time and money for both us and more importantly our clients.”

The research firm predicted that quality and performance innovations across 3D printer technologies will drive enterprise and consumer demand and cause shipments in 2014 to grow 75 per cent to 98,055 units.

Enterprise expenditure on 3D printing will reach $536 million in 2014 compared to only $325 million the previous year, said Basiliere.

Current uses of 3D technology in the enterprise space is largely focused on one-off or small-ruin models for product design, prototyping or fixtures used in manufacturing processes, he said.

“As advances in 3D printers, scanners, design tools and materials reduce the cost and complexity of creating 3D printed items, the application of 3D print technology will continue to expand to include areas such as architecture, defense, medical products and jewelry design,” said Basiliere.

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