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3D Printing with Autodesk 123D, Tinkercad, and MakerBot Paperback – 16 Jan 2015
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About the Author
Lydia Sloan Cline (Overland Park, KS) has been happily using Autodesk products since AutoCAD version 1.0 was released. She went from plotting her ideas on a flatbed table with pens in robotic arms to sketching them with modeling software and 3D printers. Lydia works for architecture firms, teaches college, judges competitive technology events, and wants you to join the huge community of makers and creators. She is the author of three textbooks: Architectural Drafting for Interior Designers; Drafting and Visual Presentation for Interior Designers; and SketchUp for Interior Design. She teaches Autodesk 123D and MakerBot classes for Johnson County Community College.
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I worked through the 123D Design tutorials in parallel with the software's shortish (56 pages ... some of which was an advert for other 123D apps) manual. At the end of this process I felt I had a basic competence and that I knew what kinds of things could reasonably be achieved in the software. Unfortunately, I also discovered that 123d Design is just not powerful enough for what I wanted to do. It might be worth explaining how I decided 123d Design was not powerful enough ... I could not do (in a good way) one of the steps in a tutorial. The description of the step began with the word 'finesse' and that proved to be a clue that the reason the author was not explaining more carefully how to do something was because there is no good way of doing it ... you have to fudge. I confirmed this by checking the author's finished design. I then switched to Autodesk Fusion 360 (free for non-commercial use) which I learned with the help of the following book Autodesk Fusion 360 Introduction to Parametric Modeling: Autodesk Authorized Publisher. In some ways 123d Design is a cut down version of Fusion 360 so the experience of learning it was not a complete waste.
123d Meshmixer appears to be a real gem. Meshmixer is good for repairing 'broken' meshes so that they can be 3d printed. Its good for making basic edits on meshes like drilling holes in a model. Its also helpful for certain matters to do with the practicalities of 3d printing such as adding support material where a printer would otherwise be trying to lay down material in mid-air. This book covers all these things in workman-like fashion. However Meshmixer has a great deal more functionality which I will bundle up in the term 'sculpting'. I would have appreciated more help from the book in getting started with sculpting. For example, on first playing with them it is unclear what the intuition is behind the behaviour of each of the sculpting brushes and while the book can get you playing it does not provide any of the needed intuition. Well, the software is quite feature-rich and the book is trying to cover a lot of ground.
The Tinkercad tutorials appear slightly misdirected ... there are already a sequence of built-in tutorials in the software. Most of the Tinkercad section adds little to these built-in tutorials which are themselves of high quality. Perhaps, I should point out that the software is a moving target and so in fairness to the author she can be made to look to have got it wrong because Autodesk has changed the product.
Speaking of which, if you try to use 123d CNC you will encounter a screen indicating it is unavailable pending a rework.
I have not done the Layout or Catch tutorials (yet) and so won't comment on them. The same goes for the 123d Make tutorials. Likewise I have never used a Makerbot nor a 3d printing service bureau and so am not commenting on the corresponding sections of the book.
If you plan to use the 123d software I think you will probably want a copy of this book. Its not perfect but in the world of consumer 3d printing where things are mostly held together with string and duct tape and powered by rubber bands it is well worth owning.
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