Software vendor Adobe has added direct support for 3D printing to Photoshop. An updated to the company's subscription-based Creative Cloud suite rolled out on 16 January includes direct support for desktop 3D printers from MakerBot and the Shapeways online 3D printing service.
The Cube 3D Printer is also supported, but printing to it and to other devices that do not yet have Photoshop 3D printer profiles requires the export of an STL file to a USB drive.
The move will make "3D printing available for the first time to the creative mainstream," said Adobe product manager for Photoshop Andy Lauta at a press conference.
"We're envisaging that on the horizon there's going to be an inflection point in the 3D printing market," Lauta said.
"And that inflection point is going to be driven by consumer uptake and consumer usage of 3d printing technologies, but most importantly consumer consumption of 3D printed content."
Although 3D models can be created directly within Photoshop, Adobe envisages it more as a 'finishing' tool for 3D creations in a similar fashion to how it is currently used as a tool to tweak 2D imagery before production.
Lauta said that Adobe had identified a "software gap" in the 3D printing process. That gap is at the point between the tools used to create, generate or otherwise source 3D models and the actual printing.
Photoshop incorporates tools to identify problems with 3D meshes, Lauta said.
"The problem is that these models — the meshes, the 3D meshes that these different tools create — actually have many flaws and if you try to print those models right as they exist to these various printers you're going to see failures," Lauta said.
"You'll get spaghetti on your local printer if you're trying to print on a MakerBot or you'll get a rejection letter from Shapeways because of the flaws in the model."
A mesh may not be watertight or its walls may not be thick enough to support themselves in the material being used or portions of the model may require support structures.
When a 3D printer profile is selected and a material to print in is chosen, the main Photoshop window reflects these changes in a WYSIWYG fashion. All of Photoshop's standard tools can be used when creating textures and patterns for objects, limited only by the print media by a particular device.
Printer profiles are defined in XML files, and Adobe said that vendors and end users can use the profiles shipped with Photoshop as the basis for creating new profiles or achieving unusual effects with already supported printers.
Immediately prior to printing, a print preview style function adds scaffolding and a raft (the base a model sits on).
Photoshop will support five formats for importing 3D models: OBJ, STL, 3DS, Collada, KMZ.
Support for 3D printing from Photoshop is available to Creative Cloud subscribers in an update rolled out on 16 January.