Autodesk is not blind; it has noticed its increasing popularity in the 3D design community. As a result, in 2011, it released 123D, its first desktop software aimed toward the do-it-yourself community. Autodesk was making the first steps toward creating a product that helps users take products from concept to the shelf.
Since then, Autodesk has released four different apps, each offering its own way to make 3D designing easier. The first was 123D Sculpt, which lets iPad users create and modify clay-like models with their fingers. 123D Catch, released in May 2012, integrated the cloud and cameras into 3D design. By taking digital pictures of an object, the software can process images and create an accurate 3D model of the object. 123D Make, released that same month, helps turn their 3D designs into real objects. Different construction techniques can be used to build objects, and templates can be created to send to laser printers.
Browser-based 123D Design and example model. (Source: Autodesk)
Most recently, Autodesk added 123D Design to its app family. The free software can be used on a tablet, on a PC, or even through an Internet browser. Since this is cross-platform software, users can begin modeling on an iPad and continue working on the project on a PC.
Christian Pramuk, product manager for the 123D apps, told us the latest program is designed to make 3D modeling as easy as possible while helping people create complex and difficult models. "The software emphasizes interactive creation, where users learn by playing with the software and experimenting with parts until they get something they like." To get new users started with this process, the software comes with a few project kits (a house, a train, and a robot) for modeling and possible expansion. Experimenting with these kits can give users a feel for the software's mechanics. For example, using pieces available from the robot kit, users can scale and manipulate the parts and use the system's snap feature to build their own robot.
Autodesk has done its best to give users a way to get their 3D model printed. Files can be saved and transferred as .stl files, which is currently the most common type of file read by 3D printers. Autodesk has also integrated its technology with three different printing companies (for now). Sculpteo, Shapeways, and i.materialize will print your designs and models and ship them directly to your house. The procedure involves uploading your designs and following step-by-step instructions to have your model printed just they way you want it.
Autodesk has been leading the way in the design community for 30 years. Recognizing the growing popularity and use of 3D printers, it "wanted to have a solid foundation in the community in which it could build on." The 123D family provides that foundation. Using this software, more people (experienced or amateur) can create 3D models of anything they can imagine. More people than ever before have the ability to design and create like professionals.
Autodesk recently bought instructables, an online community where people share what they have built and how they have built it. There is nothing more motivating that the accolades of the Internet masses.
Nice article, Cabe. The video really makes the concept come to life. You mentioned in the article that this is also aimed at do-it-yourselfers. Does Audodesk have a discounted version (perhaps a cloud-based system) for this app?
Cabe, this is an interesting application. Getting this kind of software into lots of hands will definately accelerate the acceptance of this kind of design and manufacture. It is interesting that so much can be done with 3D printing. That area is moving fast. Perhaps we are seeing the begining of customized, or mass customization, manufacture as oppossed to mass production.
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