Depending on your age, you may remember when Macs first impacted desktop publishing in the '80s and '90s. All of a sudden everyone was a graphic designer, empowered with digital tools that meant they didn't have to learn how to wield an X-acto or apply Letraset.
The barrier to entry for industrial design has always been higher, because at a minimum you had to learn how to draft/CAD/3D model. But Autodesk is hoping to lower those barriers by introducing easy-to-use—and free!—modeling software aimed at consumers, no Bachelors of Industrial Design required. This week they launched 123D Design, a cross-platform app (Mac, PC, iPad, and even a browser-based version) designed to get the average Joe up and running with 3D modeling.
To that end, the software includes a bunch of pre-configured models (a robot, a house, and a train for starters) with swappable parts, for those not comfortable starting from scratch. Furthermore, an online library contains dozens of random objects you can download and modify. And for those ready to dive in, they've released a series of video tutorials showing you how to create your own stuff and navigate the software.
When it comes time to realize your model, digital manufacturing companies Shapeways and i.materialise offer in-app printing services. But if you've got your own 3D printer or want to go elsewhere, 123D Design can of course export the all-important .stl file format.
"We believe that everyone is creative," says Samir Hanna, Autodesk's VP of Consumer Products, "and we intend to put easy to use design software in the hands of millions of people so they can create real objects, have fun doing it and then fabricate the things they want and need, just the way they want them."
Here's a teaser video: