2011: a massive year for personal fabrication software

The Best of the Blog 2011: Software

2011 was a year of big developments in mobile apps, web apps and cloud computing. Again in no particular order, here are some of the highlights of 2011 in software…

1. Autodesk 123D


123D is notable here because of software giant Autodesk’s recognition of the maker community. Autodesk has developed software for use in industry and high volume production environments. The development and releases of 123D, 123D Make, 123D Create and 123D Sculpt show how serious major software publishers view the on-coming tide of personal fabrication and mass customisation. 123D Beta 8 is currently available for free download.

2. Ponoko API Version 2

app gateway

Created for developers to make Apps that use Personal Factory’s features. The API will allow people to customise products.

At the moment, the flagship app that utilises the API is as mentioned above – Autodesk 123D. I’m hoping 2012 will see many additions to the App Gateway!

3. Grasshopper for Rhino


It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Rhino. I’m also very pleased with the generative modeling plug-in for it – Grasshopper. Admittedly Grasshopper has been in development for about four years, but was recently badged as stable.  Taylor covered an article about how Nikolas Weinstein Studios were using Grasshopper in their practice.

4. EagleUp

EagleUp is a plugin that takes your PCB design files and converts them into SketchUp. This is a really important and useful link in the work flow for any product with electrical components, enabling people to visualise their projects’ components  accurately.

5. Tinkercad

The cloud and cloud based software is slowly making inroads into how we use the web. Tinkercad is one of the first solid modelers to really tackle how to do web based 3D modeling. Tinkercad is an excellent introduction for people who are interested in 3D modeling, but haven’t yet been able to learn other free modelers such as Blender or SketchUp.

David is an industrial designer from New Zealand. He contributes a weekly article on personal fabrication for Ponoko. Follow him on

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No mention of Sketchchair? http://sketchchair.cc/ I quite like the idea of design tools created for specific types of products.

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