123D apps from Autodesk > Create, Make and Play

Autodesk is hard at work trying to stimulate the creator in all of us. They are re-branding some of their previous applications into a suite of tools aimed at the creator and maker.

123D Catch : turn images into 3D objects


Previously known as "Project Photofly" on the Autodesk Labs and discussed in http://cad-3d.blogspot.com/2011/06/project-photofly-20-available-from.html this is a Windows application to turn a series of photographs, taken with a regular digital camera, into a 3D model, automatically. It requires an online connection, as the processing of the images happens on the Autodesk servers.


Beware: I have installed it in a virtual Windows XP on Parallels, but I had to take care to use a local path (e.g. C:\Temp) to ensure proper uploading. The My Documents folder which was linked to my actual Documents folder in OSX was not usable as such.

You can export the 3D model in e.g. FBX format for use in other applications.

123D Make : turn 3D objects into 2D Slices

This is a new Mac-only application (for now) that turns a 3D model into 2D slices that can be directly printed on a Laser cutter. You load an included model or one of your own and can quite easily create a series of cutout contours that are directly layed out on one or more sheets. While the included templates are US-based (inches, Letter format), you can switch to cm or mm and set your own sheet size (e.g. 600x300mm is what we have available in our local Fablab).

123D Make (Mac-only)

Beware that it only runs on Mac OSX (intel CPU) and expires on 31/1/2012!


The app can import STL files or OBJ files only. For proper smooth objects, both can be used. You can create these in most 3D modeling software.

The example I tried was a Rhino model, exported into STL. When trying the OBJ format, it did not read the NURBS version and could not properly import the polygon mesh version. STL seemed more reliable.
Interlocked slices from Rhino STL file
The end result can be exported into EPS or PDF format, which can be used directly (e.g. to send to the Lasercutter or to edit in Illustrator or Inkscape if needed).

123D Sculpt : an iPad Sculpting application

The final app is only available for iPad in the App Store. I could not try this myself, but it seems to be a nice app so definitely check it out if you have an iPad.


What I don't fully get is what you can do with the results... You can share it online as a movie or on social media sites, but it is unclear if you can get your 3D model into a usable form outside of this app.

Final Conclusions

While the apps shown here are interesting and are presented as a suite of tools, you need at least two machine to run them: a Mac, a PC (or at least Windows on your Mac) and an iPad.

They are all free, but are still partially in beta-version, so there are some smaller issues and problems.

That said, they are oriented towards a larger audience, who don't necessarily have all the knowledge and experience for full CAD software.

But as always, with more experience you get better results. So when you use this in combination with e.g. Rhino or AutoCAD or SketchUp, you might have better results in the end.