3D printing from the cloud

Hey everyone,

We all know regular printing from the cloud. It’s just what you do when you hit the print button inside a VM, connected to a network printer. Now we can add the 3rd dimension to this type of workflow.

Many of you CADers out there will already be using GRID-accelerated VDI sessions for your Solidworks or Autocad work. You’re already experiencing best-in-class DirectX or OpenGL CAD performance in a remote environment.

…but how do you take the next step when you’re produce a physical prototype? You could download your model, and take it to the workshop. But what if you had a way to go directly from CAD-model-in-the-cloud to real-life object? Then you wouldn’t have to lug around huge (and possibly sensitive) CAD files, and versioning wouldn’t be an issue since you are always operating on the most up-to-date copy.

With the help of GRID-accelerated VDI and a 3D printer, now you can.

Today I conducted an experiment at the University of Melbourne’s 3D printing studio, and am very happy to report that it was a big success. I managed to hooked up an UP! Plus 2 printer to a VDI session running inside VMware Horizon View. My session was streamed to a Wyse P25 zero client end point.

Here’s what I did.

After plugging in the 3D printer’s USB cable into the zero client device, it immediately registered inside the VM. However, I needed to manually point Windows driver update to the location where Drivers folder inside where the manufacturer’s software had installed. Installation of the driver after that point was quick and pain-free.
Once done, the 3D printing software running inside the VM communicated perfectly with the 3D printer via the local USB connection.

Inside my GRID-accelerated session everything was buttery smooth. Even loading up big models presented little challenge to the remote experience when I rotated and scaled within the software. Of course, if I needed any changes made, I could jump straight into Solidworks which I already had open in the background (in the same VDI session).

Looking at the setup I was really quite amazed. If you trace the wires, it goes:

3D printer <--USB--> zero client <--Ethernet--> datacenter

Here was a 3D printer moving and interacting with the real world—building a physical object—being sent commands directly from the cloud. If I had a wireless setup, the printer would have been controlled out of thin air!

With the power of CUDA running on GRID in the cloud, I could see this replacing bulky, power-hungry processing units on robots and other autonomous devices that need to make split-second decisions based on real-world inputs on the fly.

I’ll report back as I conduct further experiments.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email or social media if you are interested in this area.


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so nice.

Thank you for sharing, I was struggling a bit with getting my models to print from the cloud. This post I still found be helpful even though it is pretty old. I am newer to 3D printing and found this Tool box page to be pretty helpful for knowing what options there are out there for 3D printing when just starting out.