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BCN3D targets “deep hardware and software integration” with AstroPrint purchase

Spanish 3D printer manufacturer BCN3D has completed the acquisition of cloud-based additive manufacturing platform AstroPrint

Having initially been agreed last April, the deal, which will see AstroPrint’s software team begin working on ways of optimizing the performance of BCN3D’s machines, has now been finalized. With the integration and continued R&D of AstroPrint’s technologies, BCN3D aims to streamline the experience of its users, and introduce innovative features, the likes of which have “never been seen before on the market.”

“We see this as a new chapter in our quest for offering the absolute best possible solution to clients across both hardware and software,” said Xavier Martínez Faneca, CEO of BCN3D. “We are certain that this acquisition of a company with such expertise in this field will serve to boost our BCN3D printing profile to its full potential, and that the merging of our teams will undoubtedly entail countless benefits.” 

BCN3D’s 3D printers use an Independent Dual Extrusion (IDEX) system. Image via BCN3D.
BCN3D is targeting “deep software and hardware integration” after its acquisition of AstroPrint. Image via BCN3D.

AstroPrint’s cloud platform

From its base in San Diego, California, AstroPrint offers a suite of cloud-based 3D printing products. The company’s current portfolio includes CAD design file storage and in-browser slicing programs, as well as an extensive print management offering, that allows users to remotely monitor the priority and quality of their prints.

Since being founded in 2013, the platform has attracted over 200.000 registered users in 130 different countries, thanks in part, to its compatibility with a wide array of FDM machines. While AstroPrint itself has only verified a handful of systems for use with its softwares, users have found that certain printers from Anycubic, MakerBot, LulzBot, Ultimaker and more, are able to utilize them after some tinkering. 

In terms of BCN3D’s offering, the platform is said to be compatible with its Sigma, Sigmax, Plus and ‘R’ systems, although this hasn’t been verified, and while the combination of the firms’ technologies is likely to allow these systems to run AstroPrint softwares natively, it’s unclear if users will require an ‘Astrobox’ to do so. 

Available in ‘Touch’ and ‘Gateway’ editions, these devices enable users to control their existing setup via AstroPrint software. While other products such as the ‘OctoPi’ and DIY AstroBoxes, also allow adopters to connect with the program, it’s equally unclear if this open-source approach will continue after the platform’s acquisition. 

A screenshot from the OctoPrint software.
OctoPrint users can currently access AstroPrint via a simple plug-in. Image via AstroPrint.

Exploring software synergies

Following protracted negotiations, which began last April, BCN3D has finally bought its takeover target. Working with its new subsidiary, the Spanish firm says that it intends to develop a “new cloud-based platform,” in addition to redeploying its talented team to focus on “the future development of its 3D printing solutions.”

BCN3D maintains that AstroPrint will continue to trade as an independent platform, and that it will develop new functionalities for its user base in future. However, with the integration of its subsidiary’s technologies, it has also identified potential “benefits for both its clients, and the development of Industry 4.0” moving forwards.

In order to turn these prospective gains into reality, BCN3D has appointed AstroPrint’s Co-founder and CTO Daniel Arroyo as its new Chief Software Officer (CSO). According to Arroyo, who will spearhead the fusion of the companies’ technologies, their combination will eventually yield noticeable end-use advantages for BCN3D users. 

“Our collaboration with BCN3D brings us the challenge and pleasure of developing more advanced solutions for BCN3D clients,” added Arroyo. “We are super excited to pair our software with BCN3D’s hardware in order to unlock tremendous value via deep hardware and software integrations and innovations.”

Cloud-based data transfer platforms like Markforged's Digital Forge have become commonplace in 3D printing. Image via Markforged.
BCN3D’s acquisition follows the launch of Markforged’s cloud-based Digital Forge in November last year. Image via Markforged.

Increasing cloud integration

BCN3D isn’t the first 3D printer manufacturer to establish a cloud-based offering, with the aim of improving the experiences of its user base. Markforged launched its industrial Digital Forge 3D printing platform in November 2020, which is designed to connect all 12,000 or so of its systems, into a cohesive machine learning network. 

Using the company’s Eiger print preparation software, the Digital Forge is effectively able to become ‘smarter’ by learning from errors encountered in previous jobs, allowing it to better make corrections mid-print, and reduce print failures.

On a smaller scale, Polish 3D printer manufacturer Zortrax also launched its new inCloud print management system during September last year. Having previously been deployed by the company at its headquarters, the program has now been rolled out for its customers to use too, allowing them to drive greater productivity from their 3D printing workflows. 

Elsewhere, on the external market, there remains an array of similar platforms available as well, such as the well-known print software offered by MakerOS. Earlier this year, the company made its business management AM program free to use, with the aim of “democratizing product development,” although its premium features remain behind a paywall. 

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Featured image shows a ‘print farm’ of BCN3D Sigma 3D printers. Photo via BCN3D.

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