One of the biggest barriers to the widespread adoption of 3D printing, especially for consumers, is the steep learning curve associated with CAD software. Working with SOLIDWORKS, the most prolific of CAD programs, usually requires at least a college degree in mechanical engineering. However, the existing computer design paradigm is on the verge of a major shift.
As low-cost desktop 3D printers begin to democratize manufacturing, new CAD tools are emerging to make 3D design a less esoteric skill. One of the most striking examples is that of Shapr3D, a tablet software for 3D modeling. While until now the app has made it possible to quickly and intuitively draw complex geometries, the company behind it has now introduced new features that configure these models for actual manufacturing.
Founded by CEO István Csanády in Budapest in 2015, Shapr3D has created a remarkably advanced, yet easy-to-use CAD modeler for iPad that relies on the Apple Pencil to draw geometries using the same Siemens Parasolid engine as SOLIDWORKS and Siemens NX. This is no small feat, as advanced CAD requires advanced computing power, which makes mobile modeling a typically slow and tedious task. The software is particularly fast when it comes to modeling on the iPad, but the speed at which Shapr3D develops the software is also surprising. Having reached a Apple Design Awardthe company also brought in 24,000 paying customers in just a few years.
The app works by allowing users to draw a shape with the Apple Pencil and then extrude it to create a 3D model, providing a full modeling tool chain. All of this can also be done on existing SOLIDWORKS files. With the ability to export models as STL files, this makes Shapr3D one of the most advanced tablet tools for 3D printing.
Now that it has conquered the task of quick and easy tablet modeling, Shapr3D takes the next step, a 2D drawings characteristic necessary for the actual production of the designs. With this tool, users can generate drawings from objects, systems, and structures that provide manufacturers with the key information and requirements needed to integrate models into the physical world.
Shapr3D users have been asking for this feature because they have relied on external software to generate 2D drawings so far. Now they can generate the designs in the software, which means they don’t have to leave the program to create designs for their fabricators.
According to the Shapr3D team, some users will already be able to create technical drawings for manufacturing when they master these new features. At launch, drawings will include standard base views, dimensions, base notes, a project border, and a simple title block. By the end of March there will be more advanced title block options, as well as section, auxiliary and detail views, as well as advanced notes, centerline and midpoint features . This means that the number of users who will be able to send their designs into production will only increase as we approach the end of the quarter.
Shapr3D’s closest competitors are Onshape (purchased by PTC), Fusion 360 and uMake, all of which have drawbacks. Onshape and Fusion 360, for example, look more like programs that started out as computer CAD that were then translated to the tablet, with Apple Pencil as an afterthought. This makes them significantly less intuitive.
The startup’s CEO, István Csanády, is already well aware of the potential of other mobile applications, such as augmented reality (AR). AR capabilities have been released in fall 2020, allowing users to see what their designs look like in physical space and then capture screenshots. By adding much-requested drafting functionality, Shapr3D positions itself as the first production-ready mobile CAD application. We no longer live in a world of desktop computers and it is high time that CAD tools acted accordingly.
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