A new app called Gravity Sketch let's users design in 3D on the iPad with an intuitive and attractive interface.
The most fulfilling part of the whole 3D printing concept is that you can dream something up, design it, and then watch it come to life on a print tray in minutes.
Which is great, except for that design part. Many 3D printers are now push-button simple, so design is the technically challenging portion of the process.
The Gravity Sketch app works by "direct 3D generation" on a virtual plane, allowing creators to quickly create complex 3D designs without deep knowledge of CAD software. That's a big claim, as anyone who's taken a crack at complicated CAD software will understand. Autodesk, which is the industry standard, is a stumbling block for many amateurs interested in crafting 3D objects without an engineering background.
To me, the coolest thing about the app is that it feels native to the iPad. Everything in the Gravity Sketch app happens in realtime: 3D content is generated under as you move your finger.
It's paint by numbers, advanced design for dummies like me. Once you're done creating, you can order a 3D print straight from the app, delivered by Shapeways.
It's a smart integration, and a very cool tool to make that component, invention, or doodad you've been carrying around in the back of your mind. It's also the latest example of an encouraging trend. Ease-of-use is becoming the name of the game in everything from website development (SquareSpace) to architectural rendering (SketchUp).
Tinkercad from Autodesk is another beginners-friendly 3D design platform, though it's a browser-based platform and it's decidedly less sleek.
"Direct 3D generation is a more intuitive interaction than your traditional 3D software," the company's co-founders said in a statement. "This is because creativity relies more on spatial intelligence, than logical or linguistic intelligences which form the base of most 3D modelling softwares."
Shapeways is a virtual makerspace. Send your design and they'll send you a quality 3D printed widget a few days later.