What’s The Dreamweaver Of 3D Design?

Posted by on Monday, October 8, 2012 in Uncategorized


In case you missed it, our CEO Bre Pettis and Wired Magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson had a wide ranging discussion at World Maker Faire last weekend about the Maker movement, the possibility of a new industrial revolution, and MakerBot’s place in those.

You readers of this blog over the last few weeks have been incredible in sharing your thoughts and criticisms with us. Sorry to be so quiet lately while we manage the launch of new machines, software, and a retail store. Let’s get this conversation going again. Here’s the topic:

A central part of Chris’ presentation is the analogy between desktop 3D printing (what we do at MakerBot) and desktop publishing (the explosion of word processing on personal computers). At about the 13:50 mark, Chris says that the new tools have…

made us all into designers. In the way that desktop publishing made us all into publishers…we now have access to design tools. And this means we’re going to have to get good at it. Fortunately it’s getting easy.

Chris goes on to discuss the Autodesk 123D family of applications, including 123D Catch for scanning through pictures. MakerBot owners have used 123D Catch quite a bit for capturing things in real life, and this blogger has done a few *pretty impressive* captures of fire hydrants and siamese drain pipes. It really is easier than you think.

But once you have your scan, altering it in a design program is another question. Following Chris’ analogy, the ability to create nice documents came from simple icons and menu items in word processing programs. Throwing together quick web pages became possible with programs like Adobe Dreamweaver. In the world of 3D design, what are the easy generation tools that will turn your neighbor into a manufacturer?

Perhaps there will always be some push and pull here. Programs like Tinkercad do an amazing job of walking novices through the basics of designing on a computer. If you need more proof, check out our series of Tinkercad tutorials from last week. But just as there is a big gap between your average Dreamweaver user and an expert web designer/developer, there will always be a spectrum of 3D design expertise.

So here’s my analogy: Thingiverse is the Facebook of 3D design. Back in the day of personal homepages (remember when people had their own Geocities pages?), only the motivated person bothered to make a nice page and actually maintain it. Chris says we have to get good at 3D design, but in fact, not that many people ever got good at web design. When MySpace came along, it was a big relief for those of us who didn’t want to bother with html. But MySpace was still fairly complicated, and Facebook took the stress out of compiling a personal homepage. Facebook just passed the 1 billion user mark. Anyone have a good count on personal homepages?

Thingiverse makes it easy to get designs and follow instructions, even for those people who have no interest in learning 3D design tools. I mean, they’re missing out on half the fun, but most of us miss out on half the fun of most things, am I right?

Okay, that’s all. We’ll have more on the blog now.


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2 Comments so far

  • Tim
    October 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Makes sense – in the early PC days, everyone wrote their entire programs in machine code – no-one (well, almost no-one) does that now. For anything other than 3D scans, artwork or the most basic of models (ie, virtually everything in Thingiverse) the level of effort to design and build from scratch is enormous. What we need are practical components – less chess pieces and more screws, bolts, cogs, shims, braces, wheels, axles etc. that be folded into composite designs.

  • Perry Engel (aka cerberus333)
    October 15, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    What software to use for 3D design is really a matter of preference and what you are familliar with, also what type of models you want to create.
    Making ‘artistic’ models that do not need to be exact measurments
    might point you towards one set of apps. Engineering modeling
    would lead you to others. (I lean towards artistic not engineering)
    Free software is what I have been using.
    Tinkercad is very good for simplicity and has a reasonably fast learning curve.
    It also has some very powerful tools once you get the hang of it.
    Making geometric based forms is where it excels.
    Sculprtis is a wonderful tool for making ‘organic’ forms.
    it has a realtime mirroring function which allows you to make symetrical
    forms quickly. I highly recomend it.
    I also use a old program which is now “freeware” truespace (i prefer 5)
    It has some very nice features which when used in conjunction with suclptris
    makes my work flow fairly fast.
    Tinkercad with it’s addition of import of .stl files (25,000 triangle limit) allows
    for really nice mashups. I sometimes will move from one of the apps to the other
    leveraging the strengths each has to offer.


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