Google’s Blocks Has Nothing to Do With 3D Printing, or Does It?

A 3D watermelon model, designed in Google Blocks

Google announced a new online tool called “Blocks” for creating 3D objects. 

I’m always instantly attracted to announcements about new 3D tools as they may make life easier in creating 3D objects, which are typically made with tools so complex the vast majority of folks will never be able to use them. 

This drastically affects the usage of 3D printing, as you need something to print if you have a printer. Creating things yourself is one way of getting those objects to print, but so far it’s been restricted to trained users of mostly difficult and expensive 3D CAD tools. 

Then Google announced “Blocks”. They describe it as: 

Today, it takes complex software and a specific skillset to create compelling VR and AR experiences. That software also requires building 3D objects on a 2D screen—something our brains aren’t wired to do. It occurred to us that creating the objects while in virtual reality could make this easier. So we developed Blocks, a VR app for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift that lets you easily create beautiful, 3D objects in no time.

Ok, this is a bit different than the typical 2D approach to creating 3D objects. It may even work, if enough people end up with the appropriate VR equipment. 

However, the goal of Blocks is to create virtual content, not real, solid object designs. In fact, I don’t believe there is a way (yet) to export Blocks VR objects into something you could 3D print, say an STL file. That could happen in the future, but it’s not exactly in Blocks’ playbook as the focus is on VR.

Maybe Google Blocks has little to do with 3D printing? I think there is one angle where it could provide a great deal of benefit, and that is through exposure and familiarity. 

If Blocks is as easy to use as they say, then many more people will be using it to create 3D content. And every one of those people is what you might call “3D-enabled”. From there the journey to full solid 3D modeling is a bit shorter. Those with Blocks experience may find it less intimidating to learn a proper CAD tool, so we may find more people with CAD capability years after Blocks is deployed. 

And there’s always the possibility that Google may choose to update Blocks to be more compatible with 3D printing by providing precision measurement capabilities, additional creation features and the ability to export 3D content – or even send it directly to a 3D print service for production in real life. 

Via Google

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