3D modeling, as a blend of artistic feel and scientific understanding, is the 'black hole' in the process of truly bringing 3D printing to desktops everywhere.
While the creation of a 3D printed objects looks deceptively simple as you watch a printer at work, until you've tried to create or modify a 3D model on your own, you're likely unprepared for the level of software ability you need to make the results satisfying.
As the price to bring home a 3D printer drops like a stone and 3D printer hardware becomes far more user friendly, it's still a stretch to design and create a 3D model with existing software packages.
But now there's MakeVR, a 3D printing and modeling application that uses a two-handed user interface designed for interacting with 3D virtual models. What makes MakeVR unique is that it's a solution that is based on motion tracking hardware with purpose-built software that eliminates traditional menus and operations, and uses "natural hand gestures" to manipulate objects and tools.
Sixense's MakeVR solution uses the company's STEM System controllers for simplicity while leveraging a high-performance CAD engine. What you get is a way for neophyte modelers to create and refine relatively complex models. The entire process is made simpler yet when you import free 3D objects from the various public libraries like Thingiverse and grabCAD.
The system really jumps into overdrive when used with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset which allows designers a stunning simulation of three dimensions.
Sixense has already gotten the cash to develop their STEM controllers via a still-active Kickstarter campaign and recently announced plans to seek funds via crowdfunding to further develop their MakeVR software down the road.
Paul Mlyniec, the development lead for MakeVR, says the software is the keystone on the way to fully democratizing the process of 3D printing and design for the masses.
As an art student at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1970's, Mlyniec focused on three-dimensional painting as a medium and developed a method for artists to "mark up space by floating brush strokes in the air with a wave of their hand." He went on to earn a degree in Computer Engineering in 1984, and over the course of the next fifteen years, began working on 3D virtual reality software.
Mlyniec and company presented Sixense's 3D printing and modeling package at Maker Faire New York 2013 on September 21 in the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows, Queens, NY.
"MakeVR is powerful yet simple, giving users a creative experience based on Sixense's innovative two-handed interface," Mlyniec said. "It gives you a natural, intuitive and fun way to create, share, and print 3D models. The idea was to build a medium that lets non-technical people make technical works."
Incorporated into MakeVR, a 3D CAD engine which can import models created in a variety of 3D design applications can be used to combine objects created locally in MakeVR for 3D printing or sharing to service bureaus. MakeVR also exports objects in the industry standard .STL format for use with 3D printers like the Form 1 and the MakerBot Replicator 2.
3D Printer World's Editor, Mike Titsch, was recently treated to a MakeVR demo by Sixense's VP of Marketing, Steve Nguyen and CEO Amir Rubin. "It is 3D modeling software taking advantage of a virtual reality interface with a ton of potential applications from medical, to robotics and gaming," said Titsch. "But, don't let the interface steal all the thunder. I saw external objects imported and introduced into a boolean workflow that included cutting and merging operations leaving perfect topology, not the polygonal mess we sometimes see with lesser software. The resulting Mcor Iris prints looked terrific. The fact that the software user did everything by waving some wands around in front of the monitor was a wicked bonus."