Light Tracking BEAM Robot Comes To Life

Last week we announced a new theme: ROCKETS and ROBOTS so I'm super excited to post about a BEAM ROBOT that we've given life in 123D Circuits

"BEAM" is an acronym for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics.  It refers to a style of robots that don't require programming - instead they use analog logic to react to stimulus of various types (like light, sound, and heat).  The great thing about BEAM robots is that you can learn a lot about electronics just by making one or even taking one apart.  To get an idea, check out this BEAM robot simulator in 123D Circuits and experiment by clicking on its components to see what happens.

There are a ton of BEAM robot-related Instructables and we chose to build a simulation of one that reacts to light.  This is called a Phototrope, as it will try to move toward a light source.  That's pretty buggy!

Below is the simulation of the left 1/2 of the BEAM robot.  For clarity, we've linked a simulation of just one side of the BEAM robot (the second half would be identical).  Full left-right schematic here.

Press the PLAY button (top right) to get started.

link to this project in 123D Circuits - with full description and schematic

Whats What

We’ll be releasing this as a finished circuit board so you can build one, too.  We're also working on a 3D model for an enclosure in Tinkercad that you can use or build off and make your own Phototrope Bug.  Stay tuned!


Glow-in-the-Dark Rocket Mobile with 123D and Tinkercad

We've been thinking about rockets and spaceships this week at 123D and we had some cool glow-in-the-dark filament for a Makerbot Rep2, so naturally: GLOW IN THE DARK SPACESHIPS!

The models came directly from the gallery, and the planets, end caps and filament points I quickly modeled in Tinkercad. Because the rockets were taller than would fit on a Makerbot, I imported them into MeshMixer to chop them in half witht the Slice tool. Slicing them also allowed for printing without support material.  With a little Krazy Glue, you get more size options.

If you want to make this yourself, you can try downloading more and different rockets. We've collected together a bunch of really varied rocket designs. ( <- click to see the collection and download!)

The trickiest part of a mobile is (perhaps obvious) is the balancing of all the elements - both physically and visually.  I printed a couple different sizes of rockets and planets, with varying infills so that I would have options when I started assembling it.  Only after printing the last rocket did I realize I could have just modeled the eyelets, but there you have it.

In total, the project cost about $15 in parts and materials: monofilament, eyelets, dowels and krazy glue. 


This is a perfect weekend project - and the glow-in-the-dark filament is available from Makerbot.  See the whole project here on  What are you making for SPAC3D?

HIGHFIV3D: Autonomous Reassurance Device – Part 2

(I only had a small speaker on hand, please forgive the audio)

I started working on the electronics component to the HighFiv3D machine this week. In my previous post, I went from using a piezo senseor to an accelerometer; then this week I decided to do a tilt sensor before getting frustrated trying to debounce it. So ACCELEROMETER it is...!

The first step was gathering parts. After a bit of advice from Gian Pablo and Rob, I figured I'd need an Arduino Uno, a Wave Shield and the accelerometer to start. We have some Arduinos on hand at Pier 9, but you can get everything from Adafruit, retailing for about $60.

The Wave Shield is basically another circuit board that sits directly on top of an Ardiuno and allows for .wav files to be played from an SD card. Now I can record the audio with my laptop, convert to the proper file type (.wav) and store them on an SD card for random play when prompted; in this case, when the accelerometer is moved.

I used Adafruit's Wave Shield Kit, v.1.1, for which they have a great tutorial on soldering and building the actual board. If you can solder, it's very simple. You'll need a 2GB SD card (it can't use anything larger) that is formatted - I used the SD formatter that Adafruit suggested, but Mac's Disk Utility will work. Once the board was built per the instructions, I only added some female headers to make testing easier.

For the accelerometer, the only soldering that's required is the wire leads that will run from the Arduino to the Shield/Arduino. I chose Yellow/Blue/Red for my X,Y and Z motions, black for power and green for ground (my electronics aptitude has been dictated by motorcycle wiring). Just leave a foot or so of wire slack to test the sensor.

Once the shield was finished, I started working on the coding. My programming experience is pretty limited (I once made a light blink with an Arduino, but that's about it). Fortunately, there is a HUGE community with pre-written codes (Sketches), so you can get away with not having to completely write it yourself. I pulled from Adafruit's example sketches for the Wave Shield and the accelerometer. The Arduino forums are a good resource too. But, since I sit next to him, I asked Gian Pablo to help me with the shield code first.

From Gian Pablo:

The great thing about using the Arduino for DIY projects is that it is so widely used that you can almost always find an example or project that to get you started. For this project, we used the WaveShield from Adafruit ( to provide audio output. It is a simple Arduino shield with an SD card slot and audio output. We connected an accelerometer, an ADXL335 on a breakout board.

For programming, we just used one of the examples from Adafruit as a starting point, in this case the Play6_HC example ( We wanted to modify it so that instead of reading a button press to trigger the audio response, it would respond to sudden motion of the accelerometer, and allow for some time for the hand to settle down each time (if someone gave it a good whack). This only required 3 lines of code, and then we had to make some slight changes to the rest of the program so that it would choose a random response each time.

After a couple of hours we were good to go!

The only .wav files I had on hand were from Star Wars and Nacho Libre (don't ask), so I put them on the SD card, followed some directions, and voila... my little shield was talking to me. Incessantly.

Then, with the accelerometer tuned in - I was eventually able to activate random files by hitting the sensor. I was frustrated for 2 days because I kept getting an error, but we eventually realized that the file names were too long!! With just the shield, the file names didn't matter, it just played whatever is on the card. However, with the accelerometer and randomization, the same files wouldn't play because they were over 8 characters. Once I abbreviated them, it would play perfectly.



HIGHFIV3D: Autonomous Reassurance Device – Part 1

During the month of March, there are a few different music-themed things happening: SXSW and more festivals you can shake a stick at (it's even Music in our Schools Month!), so we're thinking about sound and music here at 123D. There are tons of great related models in the 123D gallery that we'll be remixing and playing with for the next few weeks, and a couple of us will be focusing on sound-related projects using 123D Circuits - look for #LISTEN3D 

As an at-best-novice with electronics, I decided to step lightly and integrate Circuits with some other projects I've been wanting to try. The first is, naturally, a High-Five machine.  While it has nothing to do with music, per se, I think I'll learn a lot about the audio/electronics side and 123D Circuits.

The idea is this: a free-standing hand that you can interact with for a bit of reassurance when walking to get a cup of coffee.  When you give it a healthy palm smack, it will generate some positive words of encouragement - think "You're Awesome!" or "Oh Yeah!".  Within a cardboard-stacked hand, a sensor would register impact and trigger the audio. My first thought was a Piezo sensor in the hand, but after some words of wisdom (and a high-five) I decided to go with an accelerometer that would determine when the hand was moved, thus activating the audio output.

The Mona Lisa started out on notebook paper, btw.

The first step is building the physical hand and then we'll figure out how the passerby will interact with it - table mounted seems the easiest, but wall-mounted would be a little cooler.  I considered using 123D Catch to create a model of my own hand and arm, but while messing around on 123D Creature, I found a really great model by Mark Dollar!  It's a bit cartoonish and big, so it should be perfect.



I downloaded the model and opened it in MeshMixer to open up the fingers a bit more for a proper high-five.  Then took it into Tinkercad to work on the cut out.  I think a 1" dowel is a fine way to make the 'arm'.  I also made a little hollow for the accelerometer.  


Once I was happy with the cutout, it was on to 123D Make to generate the slices for the laser cutter.  I wanted to keep it close to human scale, so I made it about 9" tall.  Once cut, the only tedious bit was the fingers (hopefully they'll withstand some trauma).  



Now I need to go shopping, look for next steps and more Sound & Music posts soon.



123D Circuits Contest Closes Tonight!

Just a few hours to go until the Instructables 123D Circuits contest closes!  If you haven’t already, check out the great entries so far and cast your votes for the winners.  Better yet, go to 123D Circuits and create your own entry, the prizes are AWESOME (like, oscilloscope awesome). 

There is still time! It’s free to design circuits, and you can get started with your 123D account.  We’ve certainly got our favorite entries, what are yours?

123D Make, Self Portrait as Kali

Self Portrait as Kali p1 

Anna Kaziunas France's sculpture "Self Portrait as Kali" was created from several photographs using the program ReconstructMe. She created two 3d models that were then merged with MeshMixer to create two sets of arms on a single torso. Both sets of arms are broken off at the forearms, as if the original scan were of an ancient statue that had been damaged over time. The final 3D model was sliced into 125 individual flat pieces using 123D Make, then routed on a ShopBot PRS Standard out of 1/2" MDF. The slices were then assembled and painted by hand.

The skull beads that make up the necklace and the belt were created from a 123D Catch scan of a single prop skull. OpenSCAD was used to import and manipulate the the skull scan into single and multi-face skull beads. The beads were smoothed with MeshMixer and printed on a first generation MakerBot Replicator. The beads were individually painted and strung as a belt and necklace, then used to adorn the assembled body.

123D Make cut outs of sculpture

This work has been displayed at the 3D Printed sculpture show "Bits to Its" at the Landing Gallery, in Rockport, ME and debuted in "Saturnalia" at the Candita Clayton Gallery in Pawtucket, RI. 




Sculpture Details:

Title: Self Portrait as Kali

Medium: printed plastic, routed MDF, paint

Date of Creation: 11/19/2012


32.5" tall

26.194" wide

12.228" deep


123D Make, Self as Kali

123D Make


Top 5 3D Printing Features in the new Autodesk Meshmixer


Autodesk Meshmixer free all-in-one 3D printing application

Autodesk Meshmixer free all-in-one 3D printing and more application.

Autodesk Meshmixer updated today with a nice all-in-one suite for 3D printing, making it the ultimate free sculpting, mixing, painting, 3D printing application out there. Most notably, when you are ready to print your multi-mesh mashup, you can click the "Print" button which loads an arsenal of simple analysis and layout tools to arrange, heal, and even print directly to a 3D printer. See the video below for an quick teaser of what is new.

 The integration with 3D printers is intended to make the process to 3D printing even more streamlined. The healing tools require no training at all and will make just about any model printable. If you want to save time and material, then you can give your model a wall thickness so that it's hollow inside. Also, the generation of support material is an artform in itself. Of course, the experienced Meshmixer users can still find their original re-meshing, sculpting and healing tools they have grown to love for that extra level of control.

With all that in mind, here are my Top 5 Meshmixer Features for anyone interested in 3D printing.

5. New feature: "Make Solid". Now you can mash a bunch of meshes together and use "Make Solid" to heal them all together into a 3D printable object. See my Danielle Steele-like book cover I whipped together below from some 123D Catch captures I downloaded from

Make Solid

Make Solid makes these 123D Catch captures watertight!


4. Automatic repairing (I counted 1 click!). Whether it be a messy, unprintable model or you just want a sanity check for 3D printing your refined creation. The addition of an option to automatically "Repair Selected" is an easy hands free way to make any model 3D printable. Find it in the print bed layout screen.

3. "Hollow with Wall Thickness" will save you time and material when printing. Essentially giving your model a wall thickness that you decide, making it a hollow print rather than a solid print with infill. You can visualize how thick your model is with the slick see-through representation.

2. Analysis tools: Strength, Stability, and Slicing. This unique set of tools is perfect for visualizing how your printed model will look and perform before printing it. My favorite is the "Stability" tool where I can make sure my print will stand upright. Using this, I can push the limits of how I mix and sculpt, ensuring the printed object will not topple over!

1. Print direct to your 3D printer (Windows 8.1 supported). Windows 8.1 users will have the option to print directly to their printer, bypassing the need to go through another app such as Makerware, eliminating this extra step.

Don't take my word for it, try it for yourself...its free for Mac or Windows (32/64 bit) at its brand new page:

Conversation Hearts – with a 3D printed twist!

One of our Autodesk Pier 9 teammates, whose very relevant name is Audrey Love, got into the #LOV3D theme this month by putting together a wonderful project that leverages the Pier 9 makerspace and Tinkercad for art!

Every two years, the school Audrey received her degree from, University of Nevada, Reno - School of the Arts, hosts a Valentine's Day Art Auction. This year, she was invited to submit a piece for the Valentine's Day group show. This is her third time participating in the group-exhibition - she loves contributing to the show because all of the money raised through the auction supports the Sheppard Gallery's amazing programming.


Her goal was to make a piece that was reminiscent of one of those chalky-candy conversation hearts, but larger....and snarkier. She has limited experience with 3D design software, so she used Adobe Illustrator to create the "Whatever Forever" text, then imported it to Tinkercad. From Tinkercad, she was able to extrude the text and manipulate it's depth.


Using the heart-shape generator in Tinkercad, Audrey was able to make 2 different hearts: one would be a cavity that would be inset within another heart. She also transformed the text to be a hole, that would be 'carved' into the heart once it was printed. The end effect is a really lovely light-catching message embedded within the resin.

Audrey told me about the process of printing the piece:

"I have access to some really nice 3D printers here at Pier 9, and decided to use a special kind of translucent resin to print the heart. The piece is 3468 grams of translucent UV-cured resin 3D printed on an Objet Connex 500 printer. After the print came out of the machine, I took a lot of time cleaning it, and preparing it be shipped to UNR's Sheppard Gallery. The end result looks great, and I am glad to know that the proceeds from the piece are going to a good cause."

We are so stoked Audrey could ramp up her 3D design skills for such an awesome project. If you are in Reno or nearby, you definitely don't want to miss the chance to catch this wonderful collection.

3D print Chinese spacecraft with 123D

China's space program has been very active in the past year, and we wanted to help a broader audience understand and explore these achievements by making it possible to 3D print Chinese spacecraft models. We've put together a set of projects with all the parts needed to 3D print on a Makerbot or similar. 

All of these models were made using 123D Design, so you can modify and customize them easily. They're set up as Projects on our website, so you can easily download all the files at once.

With one exception, these models snap together using simple pin connectors - no glue needed. (The one exception is the main body of the moon lander, which is too big to print on a Makerbot.)

The first set of models includes the Chang'e moon lander and Yutu rover, which landed on the Moon in December. It's a really detailed model - you can articulate the solar panels, and the very elaborate ramp used to deliver the rover to the surface.

Click here to access the projects: Chang'e lander, Yutu rover.

Chang'e lander and Yutu rover

 We've also added a model of the Shenzhou capsule, used to put Chinese astronauts (or taikonauts) into orbit. You can print a variation with a connector that allows it to dock with the model of the Tiangong 1 space station. The Shenzhou and Tiangong can be made with folded or deployed solar panels.

If you saw the recent film "Gravity" starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, you may recognize the Shenzhou and Tiangong spacecraft - they play an important role in the film.

Click here to access the projects: Shenzhou capsule, Tiangong-1 space station.

Shenzhou capsule and Tiangong space station

Finally, we have a model of the rocket that is used to place all of these into orbit, the Long March 2F.

Let us know how these models work for you, and how you use them!

Autodesk 123D Catch makes appearance at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

Jacob Kok's Evolution

Jacob Kok's Evolution Collection

The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Amsterdam took place last week and 123D Catch made an appearance! Fashion designer Jacob Kok incorporated capturing his collection "Evolution'' in 3D on the catwalk with 123D Catch. Autodesk was more than happy to help Kok present in his collection in a new, digital form.

Kok: "By presenting my designs not only physically but also digitally, new dimensions are created to strengthen the experience of fashion."

Essentially, shooting a sequence of photos around the models donning Kok's collection enabled creating a digital version of the physical designs. Shooting captures of the models donning the collection required shooting them holding still such that the photos could be stitched together to create the digital model. 

Kok: "123D Catch enables you to see more of my collection than the visitors of my show. It’s interactive; you can spin the model around and zoom to see every little detail."

You can view and tumble around the 3D captures and see videos of the full collection at and at Kok's site.

Strike a pose!...and hold for a bit!...