Stratasys takes the next step in its software strategy

The 3D printing company is updating and globally releasing its GrabCAD Print software, with an eye towards building its business in specific verticals.

The 3D printing company Stratasys is launching GrabCAD Print out of beta on November 17, releasing the software worldwide in nine different languages and with more than 40 customer-driven enhancements.

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The update comes as Stratasys faces continued headwinds in a mature 3D printing market: The company reported earlier in the week that its third quarter revenues were down from a year earlier and below market expectations.

Stratasys, however, continues to innovate and build partnerships, keeping its eye on growth in several key vertical markets. Strong software offerings are a key part of growing the additive manufacturing business more broadly, as well as in specific industries, Paul Giaconia, vice president of software products and strategy at Stratasys, told ZDNet.

"If you think about components of making additive manufacturing work, it's the combination of systems -- the printers themselves, the materials those systems use, perhaps asset management and support -- and understanding the overall equipment efficiency and how they're performing... Software is an integral layer to making it all work," he said.

Given how integral the software is for ensuring efficiency and optimal performance, the software comes free for customers who invest in Stratasys printers. The GrabCAD Print product today is targeted at shared office workflows and model shops. In the future, the software should help Stratasys advance its vertical market strategy.

"As we evolve our software strategy, we have a vision there will be vertical solutions built on top of those somewhat generic workflows, where there will be significant value we will charge commercially for," Giaconia said. "So, if we have a life sciences app that helps in characterizing BioMimics [3D stents] and becomes a tool for surgeons to plan surgery and is based on 3D printing anatomical parts, that'll be a product we charge for in the future."

In Stratasys' third quarter conference call this week, CEO Ilan Levin said the company is "observing a growing opportunity for value-added advanced manufacturing applications across industry verticals, such as aerospace, automotive, medical and education."

Through a combination of tailored hardware and software offerings, the company aims to help customers in those verticals deploy 3D printers right out of the box.

"Our approach is to go to market on a use case basis, meaning we don't necessarily want to sell a 3D printer and have our customer figure out how to use it," Giaconia said. "We want to sell a solution that matches their intended use."

The updated version of GrabCAD Print includes both high-level enhancements, as well as more detailed improvements. For instance, Stratasys fine-tuned the way parts are placed on a tray, which should help make running a model shop more efficient. Some bigger picture changes improve the delivery of business intelligence. For instance, users can now issue standard reports that aggregate information on the material usage and performance of machines over a week, quarter or any other period of time.

Stratasys is also adding higher-end printers to the list of devices supported by the software and introducing a beta version for full color devices.

SAP and Stratasys have also announced they are building a global network of 3D printing labs. The digital manufacturing and co-innovation sites are currently being built out in Paris, France; Johannesburg, South Africa; Walldorf, Germany; and Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, and Palo Alto, California in the US. To harness the full potential of 3D printing it needs to be integrated with enterprise workflows for certification, planning, procurement, and production, the companies said.

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