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Open a computer aided design program like AutoCAD, and you are met with a blank screen. New software from 3D Systems, maker of the Cube 3D printer, makes the experience more akin to working with clay: You start with a lump of material and then mold it into your desired shape.
The user can use different virtual clay-inspired tools to pinch, texture and remove material. A paint tool can be used to add color. You can also import existing designs and mash them together to create hybrid shapes.
This isn’t going to revolutionize CAD for the inexperienced 3D printer, but it might make it a little more familiar. Molding clay-like material lends itself to organic shapes free of the precise lines on which CAD programs rely.
It would also be a great match for systems like zSpace, Leap Motion and Haptix that provide ways to interact with programs in 3D. Instead of smoothing virtual clay with a virtual pen, you could smooth it with your actual hands. Or you could always just make something out of real clay and then digitize it with a 3D scanner.
3D Systems is selling the software via its website for $129. A 14-day trial is also available. We’ll be highlighting how computing and connectivity are changing the creative process at our RoadMap conference in November in San Francisco.