ZPC blog

123D Design Online: Even Better for 3D Printing

As 3D printing becomes more and more mainstream, accessibility can be expected to increase. The cost of a printer is out of reach for many people still and if you add in the cost of the accompanying software, you’re looking at an expenditure many businesses and consumers just can’t make.

Still, if you’re in the position of getting one or the other, investing in a 3D printer is a safe bet. Then you can use really cool tools like AutoDesk to get a handle on making your 3D creations from scratch.

What is AutoDesk 123D?

AutoDesk 123D is a piece of software designed to make creating three-dimensional designs faster and simpler. It’s not targeted toward professionals but it still offers quite a number of features that’s suitable for anyone looking to get familiar with CAD and modeling software.

It comes with basic modeling tools, STL export, and several out-of-the-box objects you can use to get started. Thanks to collaborations with other companies, 123D makes it so users can have the items they design created in real life thanks to 3D printing. The software is totally free to use as it goes through public beta testing.

Recently, AutoDesk also launched other tools that work in conjunction with 123D. These tools allow you to capture, design, and create with the explicit purpose of 3D printing in mind. Let’s review each of these downloadable tools:


Once loaded up onto your iPad or Android device, Catch works as a 3D scanner, allowing you to capture details about people and objects, manipulate this data, and print it out if you so desire.


This tool is a straightforward 3D design tool that allows you to take your 3D models all the way to the 3D printing stage. It’s pretty powerful, especially for a non-professional tool.


If you want to make your own action figure or build a scary monster from scratch this Halloween, the Creature tool is perfect for you. It’s designed specifically for the iPad multitouch interface and allows you to build creatures from the ground up before you print them out.


Another of the free apps offered by AutoDesk allows you to turn 3D models into DIY projects using flat materials like wood, metal, and cardboard. This is a fun twist on the whole 3D modeling concept.


If you want to take a more hands-on approach to what you make, the Sculpt app allows you to really delve into the multitouch interface to manipulate three-dimensional models.  Push, pull, and pinch the material just as you would real-life clay.

All of these tools are free to download to either your iPad or Android-running device and you can feel free to experiment and play as much as you’d like. The beauty of these applications is it gives you total power over the creative process. These tools are easy to use and are designed for the hobbyist. That means the more complicated settings and options are glossed over in favor of a sleek and intuitive interface that even a novice can understand.

As 3D printing becomes more accessible, more tools become available to the everyday person. Whether you’re thinking about investing in a 3D printer or just want to experiment with creating something really cool, these software components give you the tools you need to dive in headfirst without the upfront cost typically associated with CAD and modeling products. Play! Have some fun! And if you like it, you can always invest in the professional software and equipment later on.