Bringing the museum home with you (legally) with 123D Catch

 Guardian Lion courtesy of Asian Art Museum SF

As product manager of 123D Catch, I’m always curious how this powerful little app is being used. Lately, I’ve seen a boom in use of 123D Catch at museums. It is a great app to help truly study a piece in a collection and understand a master’s intention. Putting in the extra credit to heal and 3D print a captured piece can be especially rewarding in this regard.

See a few examples here of taking the museum home with you by way of this handy iPhone/iPad app.

Here is a piece on Gizmodo about a recent 3D Printing Camp where kids are using the 123D Catch iPhone/iPad app to scan dinosaur bones at the American Museum of Natural History in NY:

Another from Techcrunch of an individual using Google Glass to snap photos at Walters Art Museum to capture a sculpture. Photos can then be uploaded via the web app or Windows app:

Of course each museum will have its limitations on what you can capture in 3D and what your intentions are with the captured piece from their collection or a temporary installation. Best to know their take on it before you recreate these masterpieces.

So, if you want to try it out, I’ve created three videos to show how you might do this yourself. Go from shooting photographs of your favorite piece in a collection to 3D printing it with a 3D printing service easily. Many thanks to the Asian Art Museum SF for lending their pieces to capture!

Its as easy as 1…2…3D print!

Step 1: Use the iPhone or iPad app to shoot photographs sequentially around your subject. Here, I use my SLR camera and upload them using the web app:

Step 2: Use the editing and healing capabilities of the 123D Catch web app to clean up and prepare your capture for 3D printing.


Step 3: 3D print your capture using a 3D printing service directly from within the 123D Catch web app!! You can choose from iMaterialise, Shapeways, or Sculpteo, and each has an interesting assortment of material options, including plastics, metals, and ceramic to name a few.


Introducing 123D Design Online!

Around 6 months ago, the 123D Design team launched a series of products that could empower users with little to no CAD background to create, edit and customize 3D models for fabrication.

Let me introduce you to the newest version of 123D Design online. 3D modeling on a browser is not exactly new. In fact, we now have the popular modeling program Tinkercad as a member of the 123D family. So what makes 123D Design online so unique? It provides tools for fine tuning and editing models that has been so far seen in products like AutoCAD, Inventor, and Fusion 360. You can now round and bevel edges, create a shell or pull faces out of any part, and all this with extremely natural interactions.

Speaking of natural interactions, all manipulations of the parts in the scene are done with very easily identifiable modifiers. If you have used image editing or presentation software, you will find very familiar interactions for resizing, rotating, moving and aligning elements.  And since we are a 3D application, we have also introduced a really delightful experience for rotating and aligning parts against other parts in space, which we call cruising.

Making holes has never been easier either. The best of all is that we can also keep the whole history, meaning that if you have made a hole in a part using another element, you can always go back to the original elements, move them around, and see the new results without any additional operations.

We also have Smart Content! If you manipulate a part shaped like a keyhole, it’s very likely that you will want the circular part to remain circular, and this will never be the case in direct modeling. This happens because some of our content is defined by rules, which are checked after any action. Being able to create text and modify it on the fly is another result of using Smart Content.

So we have history-based solid modeling that can also be rule based, in a browser? Excellent! So what if you want a mesh, or need to start from a 2D drawing?

123D Design online also supports importing STL and OBJ files. So you can now import models from 123D Catch, 123D Creature, or pretty much any other application that can generate these formats. 

As much as we love 3D modeling, we also acknowledge there is a vast amount of drawings that could be the initial step for editing in 3D. 123D Design online supports SVG import, so bring in any vector artwork and see it come to life as a 3D model.

This video will show you the power of 123D Design online in action while making a simple earbud holder to print on a Makerbot. 

Check it out at and stay tuned for updates!





Interview with a Dinosaur Hunter!

  We meet a lot of interesting people at the Maker Faire events.  Every once in a while, there's someone who's been quietly laboring over something absolutely cool and I'm stoked that I get to gawk at it for a little bit.  Last week in Kansas City we met Matt Christopher, a Paleontologist at Science City in Kansas City and he showed us a 3D printed model of a Psittacosaurus skull, rendered using 123D Catch and Blender. I couldn't help but follow up with some questions - some serious and some irreverent, but all enlightening.

123D: What’s your name?
MC:  Matt Christopher (like the children's sports book author) 

123D: What is your quest?
MC:To stay awake and get more stuff accomplished. 

123D: What do you really do?
MC: I'm a paleontologist who has too much fun working with digital media tools making things like fulldome planetarium productions and interactive didactic kiosk apps.  I work at Kansas City's Science Center,  Science City, and teach an online course for Park University in Parkville, MO: Geology 300-Introduction to Dinosaurs. 

123D: When did you know you wanted to do that?
MC:I knew I wanted to be a dinosaur hunter for as long as I can remember.  I think I remember  learning that was called a paleontologist rather than an archaeologist when I was 8 years old, and have been correcting people ever since. 

123D: Who’s your biggest fan?
MC: I think my greatest fan must have been my grandmother who passed away earlier this year.   At her funeral, I met a number of people I had either never met, or met when I was so young I did not remember them. They apparently all knew me and of my paleontological exploits through the newspaper articles she  made sure they all got to see and hear about. 

123D: What’s your favorite dinosaur?
MC: Ankylosaurus was one of the dinosaur genera that saw the Age of Reptiles come to an end.  It was heavily armored, had a low center of mass and so was adapted to a world where survival  meant being able to intimidate the likes of Tyrannosaurus with appearances and body language alone. That would be my mount of choice were I to find myself riding across a Cretaceous terror-scape. 

123D: Finish this sentence: “Take the house, take my car, just don’t take my….”
MC: The obvious answer here is my family.  I cherish my 5 & 6 year old boys, Lane and Landon,  and my wife, Ashlea.  (Aren't you proud Sweetie?  I remembered not mention your age!) 

123D: What are you working on (‘making’) right now?
MC: I've got a small ongoing dinosaur replica side project ( molding and casting fossil teeth and claws. I have a jigsaw puzzle of dinosaur rib parts lain out across my workbench and I'm also working on mounting a Psittacosaurus, a 6-foot long herbivorous dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous.  I've 3D printed a replica of it which I'm using to design the armature for the real skeleton which will most likely be composited of 3D printed and  laser cut parts. 

123D: Give an example of a recent ‘AHA!’ moment in your life.
MC: After gluing my 3D printed Psittacosaurus skull together and inspecting it closely, I noticed that psittacosaurs did not have forward facing stereoscopic vision (as herbivores would not have as  much use for as predatory dinosaurs would), but it may have had stereoscopic UPWARD facing vision.   This would be important for hitting a target with its head lowered, battering-ram style. 

123D: Your White Whale.  Is there a project that just keeps getting away from you?
MC: If only I could stay awake even longer!  I've got a number of fossils in my garage that need to be prepared but I think my muses slap me around the most over not finding time to do some independent fulldome feature production.  Then there's that paper I should write about that epiphany mentioned above. 

123D: First thing you remember really breaking and then fixing:
MC: I can't remember if I was 6 or 7, but I was standing on the bathroom sink and squirted what seemed like a mile of toothpaste out of a nearly new tube when I stepped on it and the cap popped  off.  Knowing I'd get in trouble for: A. standing on the sink, B. trying to get in the medicine cabinet, which was of course why I was standing on the sink and C. wasting so much a tube of toothpaste that everyone would remember was full that morning, I decided to squirt the toothpaste back into the tube using Mom's cake decorating kit.  There was a hint of mint to the next couple of cakes Mom  decorated, but other than that, I'm pretty sure I got away with it. 

123D: Please share one tidbit of technical knowledge and/or expertise that someone could possibly go their entire life without needing to know.
MC: If you have a web browser open, Control+U opens a portal to "The Matrix". But seriously, brachiosaurid cervical vertebrae are volumetrically more air than bone. 

123D: Cake or Pie?
MC: Pie.  Key lime.   

Gotta love key lime.  See more of Matt's project here at his Instructables page and some dinosaur bits on the 123D gallery.

Introducing the Autodesk 3D Print Utility

Update, Feb 18, 2014: To provide you with a streamlined 3D printing experience, the Autodesk 3D Print Utility has been integrated into Meshmixer - a powerful yet easy-to-use mixing and sculpting software.  Now, when you click “3D Print…” from any of the 123D apps, your project will be loaded into Meshmixer to prepare, refine and preview your models to print with confidence.  To download the latest version of Meshmixer, please visit

Introducing the Autodesk 3D Print Utility!

What is it?   The utility (A3DP for short) is a tool to help you successfully 3D print your models.  You can use it by choosing the "3D Print" option in the Autodesk 123D apps or you can open it like a stand-alone application from the Windows Start Menu or the OS X Applications folder.  It works with the software that came with your 3D printer such as MakerWare or Objet Studio by sending your model directly to that app – or you can just save the optimized 3D model as an STL.

What does it do?  The utility will make changes to your model to make it easier to print and also help you find the best orientation for a successful print with the least amount of support material.  It does this by applying a series of techniques that we call mesh-optimizations - which I will list below.


Automatic Healing.  The utility analyzes every triangle and vertex for problems and automatically fixes them upon import.  You're told how many repairs were made (if any) in the upper left corner.  If no fixes were made and you click "Save…" or "Export to MakerWare" the resulting STL will be identical to the original.

Hollowing gives the model a 5mm wall thickness.  This lets you later set the infill % rather high, but not have to fill in the entire volume.  If a region of the STL is less than 10.0mm thick, that region won't be hollowed.  We may update this with a user-selectable wall thickness, stay tuned.

Adaptive Thickening or "Thicken thin regions" takes into account your printer type and slightly expands regions of your model that are too small to print on that type of printer.  This is a powerful feature, but we don't recommend you use it for all your prints.  We find it most useful when meshes come in with tiny features like pointy claws, teeth, or hair and need to be expanded and smoothed out before 3D printing.  Basically, if something is too thin to print it will be slightly widened in only those areas.  In the example below notice how the pointiest part of the tip of the pin and the edge of the round disc have been slightly widened but the rest of the model is unchanged.

Support material preview.  With a click of the mouse, you can add a preview of the overhanging areas and the support material that they'd need to successfully print. You can see this in the top image of the Tyrannosaurs, the red is the model, the grey is the support preview.  For this release of A3DP, it is not adding actual support to your model, just previewing it as it would look in Makerware, etc..

Where do you get it?  The easiest way is to download one of the 123D apps like 123D Design, 123D Make, or 123D Catch – the installers for these apps will ask if you'd like to install the Autodesk 3D Print Utility.  Another way is to create something in one of our awesome, free online apps like 123D Design Online or 123D Catch online and choose "3D Print at Home" from the main menu – and yet another way is to open any model in the gallery and choose "3D Print at Home" from the "Fabricate…" menu on the right.

What does it work with?  Your file will open in the utility if you choose "3D Print" from the main menu of the aforementioned apps, or if you press "3D Print at Home" from Autodesk's 123D gallery or the 123D online apps.

What are you waiting for?  If you have a 3D printer or you just want to play around with 3D models go ahead and download it now!

Introducing 123D for the Tinkercad community

Autodesk is pleased to welcome Tinkercad to our family of fun, powerful and easy-to-use tools! We’d also like to extend that welcome to you, the community of users that has made Tinkercad great. For those of you who aren't familiar with 123D or are here for the first time, check out the brief video tour below, and then read on for an introduction to the rest of the 123D family, and some of the things you can do with them. You'll find tools that help you get 3D models of real world objects into Tinkercad, help to make your Tinkercad models into physical objects, and design software to take your designs to the next level.

To get the most out of 123D, you should sign up for an Autodesk account. A free account will let you store projects in our online gallery, and download files from our content library and from other users. A premium membership will increase your access to premium content, give you access to an Instructables Pro membership, discounts on the purchase of a Makerbot, and many other benefits.


123D Catch turns a series of photographs into a detailed 3D model of an object.  You can take pictures with the iPhone and iPad versions, or use a digital camera with any modern internet browser that works with Tinkercad. We also have a standalone desktop version for Windows. Tools available in the desktop or online versions of 123D Catch help you clean up your scans, select the most important parts, and export a file suitable for 3D printing or CNC.

When you export a file for 3D printing from 123D Catch, Tinkercad can import these files (.STL or .OBJ) directly, and manipulate them like other solids. You can scale them, move them, and combine them with other solids. (In fact, Tinkercad does a great job of preparing 123D Catch files for printing).

123D Design is a 3D design program, much like Tinkercad, but with additional features that can help take your designs to the next level. Features like fillets (rounded edges), chamfers (angled edges), Smart Text and the ability to “tweak” edges to make complex geometries give you the power and flexibility to design just about anything you can imagine – and make it look sleek and professional! Tinkercad users should feel right at home with the interface, too.

123D Design can tap into an extensive library of premium models, hosted on the 123D Gallery website. You can also store your own creations on the 123D website, and share them amongst the various editions of 123D Design. 123D Design is available on the iPad, in any browser that supports Tinkercad, as well as a more powerful standalone desktop version for both Mac and Windows. You can export files from Tinkercad as you would for 3D printing, and import them into 123D Design, where you can scale them, move them, and combine them with other solids. You can’t currently edit Tinkercad files in 123D Design, but we’re working on it.

123D Make is a powerful program that takes a 3D model and prepares it for fabrication using many different techniques. For example, you can slice your model into layers, cut these layers out of cardboard using a laser cutter, and assemble into really big constructions.

You can also export files from Tinkercad as you would for 3D printing (STL format) and import them into 123D Make. They work great! 123D Make is available as a full-featured desktop app, and with the most popular functions as a browser based web app, compatible with any browser that supports Tinkercad.

The 123D Gallery acts as the connecting hub between the various apps, as a community for sharing with other users, and as a library for great content. In the near future, we will be developing additional tools for working on your 3D projects that will be hosted here.

All of the 123D apps support saving and loading files from the 123D website, giving you the convenience of being able to access all your projects from any of the platforms: mobile, web and desktop. You can browse and remix projects from other users, and also choose from the library of premium 3D models prepared by Autodesk. It’s also a great place to comment on projects by other users, and share models that you are proud of. Make sure to sign up for membership to make the most of these online features.

Getting things made
The 123D family of programs supports many different ways of turning your digital creations into physical objects. You can choose from carving out of wood (CNC Utility), 3D printing (Autodesk 3D Print Utility) or laser cut slices of cardboard or wood (123D Make). If you don’t have access to workshop tools yourself, you can request services from our many fabrication partners – either via the 123D website or from within the apps themselves.

We hope you find this introduction to the world of 123D interesting, and look forward to seeing what we can make together with these tools! Sign up for a 123D account now!

Photo Diary: Kansas City Maker Faire 2013 – Day Two

We wrapped up a great weekend in Kansas City on Sunday.  There were a lot of great projects and people and it's interesting to see the regional differences at the Maker Faires across the country.  At the Bay Area Maker Faire, there's no shortage of electric-vehicle conversions. It was really nice to see the classic car and low-riders show up and represent! The Union Station was a great venue for the event. The old train station has been beautifully kept and they've integrated a planetarium, science museum and giant theater into the building. If you were feeling bold, you could ride a weighted bicycle on a tightrope across the museum, step inside a helicopter or slide through a model sewer system. (All of which were much safer and cooler than they may sound.) Big thanks to the MF staff for having us out.  See you at the next one!