Project Shapeshifter by Autodesk. Source: Autodesk
Project Shapeshifter by Autodesk. Source: Autodesk

Anyone can create a 3D object with this fun, free online application.

Project Shapeshifter by Autodesk might be the easiest way to manipulate and design a 3D object. With this free, online application you can choose a template and then use a variety of controls and patterns to customize its shape and style. According to Autodesk, “Project Shapeshifter is a free technology preview from Autodesk Research.IL group created to assist designers and makers cope with the task of modeling complex 3D printable geometries in a simple way.”

Shapeshifter Controls

A basic heptagon tube with a bottom is the shape that you’ll start with when you open the application. From here, you can change the number of segments, height, taper, thickness, add or remove the bottom and more with the standard controls on the right side of the screen. There is also an advanced control section where you can further tweak your creation. Most of the feature controls are operated with a slider, but you can also enter a number for exactness.

Basic mouse controls include:

·         Left button – rotate object

·         Right button – pan object

·         Mouse wheel – zoom in/out

You’ll also notice a menu bar along the top of the screen. Here are the options available in this menu:

·         Download Model – Opens a window where you can name and resize your model. You can also choose to download an OBJ or STL file of your model.

·         Share Model – Creates a URL you can share with others so they can see your model. Currently, this is also the only way to save your model. If you share the model and save the URL, you can always go back to that original model, even if you change it. 

·         Templates – Choose a template to start with. Options include a vase, bowl, ring, bracelet, plate and candlestick.

·         Randomize – Applies a random set of features to your model.

I twisted, altered, and added designs to the basic heptagon until I ended up with a starfish-shaped basket. You are limited to certain shapes because your object is based off of the main template, but there is a lot of flexibility in what you can create.  The application is fun and easy enough that a child could experiment and play with the design.

After my starfish was complete, I exported the STL file and printed it on both the MakerBot Replicator 2 and Cube 3D printers. Both prints turned out well.

The strength of Autodesk’s Project Shapeshifter is that a person with little-to-no knowledge of 3D design can create an object, export a file that is ready to 3D print, and hold the object a few hours later.

If you don’t have a 3D printer at home, send your file to a 3D printing service such as WhiteClouds. We’d be happy to 3D print your creation and mail it directly to your door.