11 February 2014

Designing 3D Models on iPads

We still haven't found a web based 3D design software we like a lot, but there are two great iPad apps that are pretty easy to use - Cubify Draw and Blokify

Cubify Draw is free. There aren't any add-ons to be purchased from within the app. The thing I like about it is its simplicity. This app allows the user to use her finger (or a stylus) to draw, then create a 3D rendering of the drawing. The drawing must be a continuous line; if you lift your finger to draw another line, your first line disappears. You can pull your drawing to make it taller and choose to fill in your shape or leave it as a shell. If left as a shell, you can choose between three levels of thickness. If your line doesn't connect, you can choose to automatically connect using a straight line between the two ends. 

Another nice feature of Cubify Draw is that it allows you to open an image in the background. You can then trace over something in the image to create your drawing. This might be something you'd do with a cityscape, for example. 


Unfortunately, there's no way to edit a drawing. I do wonder if there might be a way to edit the drawing using other software. The file it emails to you is an .STL file. I'm sure it's possible, we just haven't made it that far yet. 

CubifyDraw is great for making simple shapes, but it can definitely be used for more complicated designs. One of our students recently designed a bee by retracing lines she'd previously drawn. I believe she was inspired by our recent Skype chat with Dr. Towell. The mascot at Howard Payne University is the yellow jacket, which is something we're not too fond of in Athens, Georgia. 

I was a little worried pulling it off the platform since some of the lines were pretty thin. I'd like to have this student recreate the bee and see if there's a way to go over some of the lines in order to make them thicker.

Bee designed by Yami (5th Grade)


The other app we've been using is Blokify. Blokify is another free app, but there are additional features that do require payment. I'll get to that in a moment.  

We introduced Blokify by having students create something with a certain perimeter. After spending just 15 minutes or so working on the challenge, students had figured out how to add a row of blocks, delete a row of blocks, and undo/redo moves. 

Like Cubify Draw, this is a pretty simple app. It's definitely more complicated than Cubify Draw, but it's a great app for younger students and those who are new to 3D printing. My four year old even had fun making a little castle.

In Blokify, the user chooses from a selection of free block designs to build their 3D model. A block is placed with a simple touch of the finger. Much like deleting apps from an iPhone or iPad, the user holds down her finger to get rid of a block. 


A neat feature of Blokify is to order your design. A simple print might cost about $5. Users can choose the colors used to print their design and then have their print mailed to them. 

Unlike Cubify Draw, Blokify does have in-app purchases. In addition to ordering prints, users can buy more blocks, more kits, and more building environments. The other kits are Space Platform and Pirate Sea. The colors of the blocks don't really matter since that depends on the color of the filament you're using, but the design of the block does show. 

Our students started out making castles and other types of buildings, but we did have a few students who explored other ideas. One student wrote out his name in block letters. Another designed a face that looks like it could have come straight out of an old Atari video game. 


Castle by Malaysia (5th Grade)

Face by Dre (5th Grade)

The one downside to both of these apps is that you can only email your designs. CubifyDraw has an option to upload your creation, but several attempts resulted in failure and so far, their customer support hasn't been able to help. It would be nice to have DropBox or Google Drive as an option.

We've had a lot of fun exploring these two apps. Our next goal is to find a web based software that we like. I'll leave you with our first three student designed prints in the hands of their makers:





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