Last week Shapeways, one of the newest and most interesting consumer-oriented 3D print services, launched a new beta of their user-friendly "Shapeways Creator" software. It is their answer to the difficult question of enabling laymen to design their own 3D objects without having to learn complex 3D software (which Shapeways also accepts, if you are so inclined.)
Their approach is quite straightforward, and we believe this could be a good model for addressing non-technical users. The Java application simply focuses on tweaking a basic design selected from a library. At this time, the beta seems to have only a single model available, but evidently more are coming.
The model provided is a "Light Poem", which is really cylinder with walls made from a sentence composed by you! Control buttons allow a choice of font and wrapping style (spiral or rings), and a choice of material. Of course, the final stage is to order the item. As you twiddle the design, the Creator automatically recalculates your price and posts it at the top of the window. Too expensive? Just undo!
A video of the creator process may be seen here.
It certainly seems extremely easy to use, but we think there's something deeper involved here. The model they chose to present had certain customizable features, but a different base model would have different tweaks. We imagine a very large library of base models in the future, each with differing options that makes sense for specific models. In other words, meta-models! Could this be the way to the hearts of 3D consumers?