It’s no news that both software and hardware manufacturers across the globe are racing to come up with the ‘killer app’ that simplifies the 3D printing process. By making additive manufacturing ultra-accessible, it is hoped they will finally make the breakthrough to the mainstream consumer audience.
For the software developers, the focus is on design. The everyday consumer faces a roadblock when it comes to 3D printing, as they may either lack the skill, inclination or time to become good enough at Computer Aided Design to create their own 3D printable objects. So, while they can still download other people’s files from Thingiverse or Shapeways, they don’t get the full, DIY-experience of 3D printing.
If you can either simplify or do away altogether with CAD, however, this roadblock is eliminated.
Already, we have seen companies offer users services that allow them to sketch 3D objects or scan them in a very simplified manner. Now comes Leap Motion’s Free Form app, which takes this idea in a new direction, allowing users to sculpt and craft their 3D printable objects by hand.
Free Form utilises Leap Motion’s motion sensing controller, which connects to your computer and allows it to track and respond to your hand movements and gestures. While previously this has been used to good effect in gaming and education, Leap Motion also wants to apply it to design.
Users either upload their own objects or work on a pre-designed piece. They simply move their hands and fingers above the controller and the object on the screen changes in response.
Free Form also offers users a selection of brushes, materials (including glass, clay and plastic) and shapes, among a vast arsenal of tools and features.
The app essentially reduces the object to a lump of moist clay, which the user can manipulate in an entirely hands-on, intuitive manner. The big difference is, unlike clay, this creation can be saved as an STL file.
What makes Free Form interesting is the breadth of its potential appeal. The easy-interactivity and quick responsiveness make it simple enough for a child to use and intuitive enough for a grown-up with no 3D design experience to pick up in seconds. At the same time, the sophistication of the technology will appeal to many practised artists and designers looking to explore all the possibilities of their craft.
Best of all, the app is free to download from Leap Motion’s Airspace store.