Innovative 3D design software

In an earlier post, I wrote about The Design Dilemma, and how hard 3D design software is to learn and use. Fortunately, there is innovation happening in this area, and it is not coming from the existing industry players like Autodesk and Solidworks. These are small innovative companies, who each take an innovative approach to 3D design.

I divide them in two categories; software innovation and input innovation. I start with two companies who innovate on the software side. These are:

  • 3DTin — online 3D design software using voxels or cubes. It uses WebGL to deliver impressive 3D performance for an online design software application. As an extra bonus, it lets you easily create 3D printable objects out of the box. I wrote about them in my post on 3D on the web and WebGL.
  • Tinkercad — same as 3DTin but even more focused on 3D printing.

On the input side, innovation can be found in two areas. One is haptic interfaces. Haptic are freeform 3D input devices, which provide tactile feedback to the user when hitting something. The user can draw by holding a stick, which they can move in all directions. Here is a nice overview on available haptic devices on the market. A special mention for the Falcon from Novint. It only costs $200, which makes it very affordable.

The other area is 3D Motion Capture. This technology has been developed to track and record motions of people. The recorded motions can be used as input for game characters or figures in digital animation movies. But this technology can also be used to draw your 3D model as proven by Front Design, about who I wrote in my post 3D design your furniture in thin air. But there is also a simple proof of concept version available on Instructables using a computer, LED lamp and 2 webcams.

There is one company, who does not make 3D software, but did a great job on making easy to use 3D software, and that is surprisingly — or not — Lego. The Lego editor is a brilliant piece of software both from a functional perspective, as from a marketing perspective. Please take a look for yourself. Though they should make an online version.

I want to end this post with a great video showing Farah Bandookwala using a haptic interface to create her 3D designs:

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