While Autodesk, the computer-aided design frontrunner, has been responsible for stunning professional-scale projects, from Tesla cars to James Cameron's Avatar, its scope is not limited to the professional market. Now, with the addition of a free multi-platform CAD application, it aims to bring digital design and 3D printing to the consumer on a DIY level.
Today, Autodesk launches 123D Design, the latest addition in a family of free 3D modeling applications designed for the rest of us. The cross-platform tool runs on iOS, Mac, PC, or in a web browser, making it highly accessible.
But Autodesk didn't stop there when it came to accessibility. In addition, they aimed to flatten the product's learning curve and add in prepackaged kits of parts Autodesk found useful for a variety of designs.
From there, these pieces can be clicked and dragged until they snap into place, at which point users can then adjust the scale and orientation of each component before using a sculpting tool to customize their creation to their liking.
Despite the tremendous scale of Autodesk's vision, their efforts did not stop here. They then teamed up with three partners, Sculpteo, Shapeways, and i.materialize, each of which offers printing services for the 123D Design. Once users achieve a design they're pleased with, they can adjust the overall scale and select a printing material to fit their budgets, and watch their creation take physical form. And if a 3D printer isn't readily accessible, the application also exports its design as .stl files, a format readable by most all 3D printers.
But one of the strongest features of 123D Design is its cloud backend, which allows for a design to be passed back and forth between various interfaces (such as from your iPad for a quick sketch of a design to your Mac for polishing) as well as moving between various Autodesk applications.
While 123D has passed through various stages and iterations, its end point has remained constant: a physical object created from the digital design. “It's not just for making a digital thing, it's for making physical representations of things. Anything you can imagine, you can make,” said Autodesk CEO Carl Bass in 2011.
Full story at Wired