#MakerED Book Review: 3D CAD with Autodesk 123D #makerspace

Update: On Dec. 16th, Autodesk announced they would be shutting down the 123D App family in “early 2017”.  Most apps will become incorporated into their 3 powerhouse apps: Tinkercad, Fusion 360, and ReMake.

As I detailed in my most recent post, 123D is a free suite of CAD tools for the creative maker/designer.  It acts as an introduction to CAD modeling for beginner and intermediate users.  Through 123D, a maker can design, sculpt, repair, share and modify 3D models in industry standard file formats.  You can even scan real-world objects into digital models!


Autodesk’s documentation can be uneven throughout the suite of tools.  O’Reilly Media published Make: 3D CAD with Autodesk123D by Jesse Harrington Au & Emily Gertz to help fill this gap (with old-school learners like me.  I’m a book guy).

Au & Gertz quickly run through the top five 123D apps:  Sculpt+, Meshmixer, Design, Make, and Catch.  They break down the basic tools and capabilities of each software with clear pictures and language.

union square meshmaker screenshot

Sculpt+, Meshmixer and Design have simple projects and exercises attached to their sections to encourage the reader to become familiar with the tools.  Unfortunately, the skills, challenges and projects are not laid out in a “learning friendly” way, rather presented in a slipshod fashion which promotes confusion rather than clarity.  Lastly, each section is too, too short.  Sculpt+, a tool with limited distribution due to its OS (iOS only, recently for Android), is presented with the most detail.  Meshmixer & Design receive very little love as compared to their impact in the hobbyist maker lab or classroom.

used with creative commons license. Original photo owned by babbagecabbage @ flickr.com

Overall, 3D CAD with Autodesk is little more than a printed out version of the help files in each software with different illustrations.  Not enough to help a CAD novice learn a software, not enough to help a teacher design a curriculum unit.


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