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Formlabs

Qt in Use

Formlabs delivers intuitive and connected 3D printing experience

Formlabs designs and manufactures pioneering desktop 3D printers, bringing innovative and sophisticated fabrication tools for designers, engineers, and artists around the world.

In 2015 Formlabs introduced ‘Form 2’, the most advanced desktop stereolithographic 3D printer commercially available. Designed for professional CAD users, Form 2 delivers large, high-resolution 3D prints with spectacular details. Its precision and reliability, combined with the intuitive and connected printing experience it offers, position Form 2 in the next wave of 3D printing technology.

For the development of Form 2, Formlabs was looking for a cross platform desktop user interface system capable of ensuring high fidelity user interfaces, including OpenGL integration and easy integration with C++.

Having initially looked at other GUI and application frameworks, such as Android and a web-based solution with WebGL for 3D graphics, the company chose the Qt solution for its ability to create rich user interfaces that overlaid OpenGL.

formlabs_3dprinter

The cross-platform nature of Qt was also an influential factor, since many Formlabs’ customers use OS X and Windows.

A user of Qt technology since 2012, Formlabs was able to re-use a significant amount of its existing Qt codebase in the new printer, something that would have been extremely difficult with any other solution, including Android. While Qt Quick enabled developers to create complex touchscreen user interfaces working directly on the product, thus eliminating an often time-consuming dialogue between designer and programmer.

“The ability to use the same framework on all platforms was a boon for productivity. We also enjoyed the ease of rapid user interface development with QML on both desktop and mobile.”

Shane Wighton, Software Development Lead
Formlabs

The 3D model processing application, that runs on desktop platforms pre-processing 3D meshes and communicating the information to the printer, made extensive use of Qt libraries for application logic and Qt Quick for the 2D user interface layered on top of an OpenGL view for visualizing 3D data.

 

Watch on-demand: “Building Successful Cross-platform Applications – featuring Formlabs”

With Qt’s testing libraries simplifying the integration of unit tests into Formlabs’ codebase, the company estimates that it saved 30-40 development hours a year in debugging and test case implementation when compared with using non-Qt technology-based devices. The time that Formlabs saved enabled developers to spend more time improving the user’s interaction with the product, including getting the GUI just right.

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