Autodesk 123D: 3D prototyping for everyone

“The mold costs buried them.” That, the copywriter for American Science and Surplus explained, is how the unsold inventory of a new invention wound up in their catalog. The company that invented it went broke paying for the molds needed to manufacture it.

I read this in AS&S’s print catalog a long time ago. I don’t even remember what kind of product it was, although obviously it would have been made out of molded plastic. But the words still haunt me. As a wannabe inventor, it had never occurred to me before that a brilliant idea, a potential moneymaker, could fail due to the costs of bringing it to market. (OK, so I was naive. Still am.)

I wonder if the same fate would have befallen those inventors if they’d had access to 123D from Autodesk. This is FREE software that lets you design 3D objects on your PC and then render them in one of three ways:

You can export them to a 3D printer, like a MakerBot, if you have access to one.

You can upload them to Autodesk’s laser cutting service, receiving in return precision cut cardboard pieces that can be assembled into a 3D model (like the gorilla, above).

You can upload them to Audtodesk’s 3D printing service and have them rendered in your choice of material on a high quality 3D printer.

For now, 123D is PC only, although Mac support is said to be coming. But there is a free iPad app called 123D Sculpt that lets you manipulate (but not create or export, evidently) 3D images via touch. Can’t wait to try it.

We live in an age where you don’t have to be a sculptor or a wood carver to think up a 3D object and hold a physical prototype in your hands the same day. It’s so cool that it blows my mind.

Discovered at Cool Tools.