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10 Ideas for the Ideal 3D Modeling Software

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on Jul 3 2014 , 11:34:35
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What would the ideal 3D modeling application for 3D printing look like? One of the major things holding 3D printing back is the time that it takes about 2000 hours to learn CAD/3D modeling. This is a considerable amount of time, especially for consumers or people who would like to try out 3D printing.

Solving the time-consuming nature of CAD/3D modeling is critical for the long term success of 3D printing. Not only in the consumer world but also in business. If there is only one 3D modeler in the company and he/she is busy then the machine cannot be used.

If everyone in the office can make simple things then the machine will be in use all the time. 3D printing is a Gutenberg press for things, but no one can read or write. We need to have simple 3D modeling applications that can let millions of people create. This will expand the market greatly.

Over the years there have been a number of good steps forward. Being able to use MineCraft for 3D printing, 3DTin and TinkerCAD are great examples. I’ve held 3D printing workshops with kids whereby there were just given a link to 3Dtin and 80% of the group would be able to make a 3D printable model. This would be very different with traditional CAD packages.

3D Systems Cubify Invent and Cubify Design are great tools. The most active party in creating easy 3D modeling tools is Autodesk. Their 123D suite consists of 10 tools you can use to create. My favorite is Meshmixer which is a great push/pull tool for creation.

But, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what the ideal 3D modeling tool would be. Below are ten ideas for the ideal 3D modeling tool that would push 3D printing forward:

  1. TinkerMixer: I like the simplicity of TinkerCAD’s building up of blocks and love pushing and pulling models to make them more organic. So one solution would be a meld TinkerCAD and MeshMixer. The use of blocks makes building easy and gets people started in minutes.
  2. SolidDots + smooth surfaces: SolidDots is an iPhone app where you playfully bash away at an object to make virtual things. If this output could become an STL file it would be a super fun way to create. Add a way to in a fun way cut surfaces to be smooth and you have a great way to design.
  3. Creepy Facebook App: What if you had a Facebook app that asked people questions about what design items, shapes, products, brands, paintings and art they liked? Then you could access their profile data and harvest the brands, bands, things they liked, and other things they enjoyed. If enough people signed up  for the app and used it you’d be able to distill what people liked. Then through asking them a number of questions you could magically predict a shape, earring or type of vase they would enjoy.
  4. DarkerDepth: A lot of people have trouble going from 2D to 3D. Extruding and manipulating a 3D shape is complex. But, most of us can draw to some extent. What if you had an Ipad drawing app whereby the darker the color used the higher the height of the object? This would let anyone draw in 3D easily.
  5. Kinect Draw: Many people are working with the Xbox Kinect for scanning, but what if you could easily draw in 3D space using an Xbox app?
  6. Wii Controller Light Sabre 3D modeling: What if you could wield your Wii controller like a light saber and in a fun way, with the acompanying noises, slash away at an object and create?
  7. Lego Virtual Designer: Lego already has tools to let you design online. What if through an app you could virtually build things out of Lego bricks and then either rebuild them in real or 3D print the output.
  8. Beautiful Modeler: Is a tool made by Karl Willis some years ago. It lets you sculpt with virtual clay on your Ipad and then print the results. If this tool were perfected it would be amazing in my opinion.
  9. ClayService: A 3D scanning service whereby you could make anything in clay, send it to them and they’d scan and print it out for you in any material.
  10. D Scanner for iPhone. Many people are working on this but if a reliable 3D scanner for the iPhone were to emerge that creates perfect STLs then any kind of input or object could be 3D printed.

What do you think? What ideas do you have for an ideal 3D modeling app?



Joris Peels is a heavyweight 3D printing industry commentator who doesn’t shy away from discussions and is never short on educated, animated opinions. Joris blogs about 3D printing at VoxelFab and works as a consultant in the 3D printing industry. He previously worked for Shapeways and i.materialise and as a developer of Origo, a 3D printer for kids.

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