Autodesk 123D software has many similar features of other CAD softwares, and while the company is one of the oldest in the CAD game, there are things that we are left wanting. It is a beginner software, great for those just diving in wanting to learn CAD for 3D printing and 3D modelling, but if you are a more advanced user it is probably not the right fit for your skill level.
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Autodesk 123D Software Review
If you remember one of the first reviews in our series of CAD software that was Tinkercad by Autodesk. Now, Autodesk is a very big company. They have been into CAD software pretty much as long as anybody. Maybe they were one of the first in the whole industry. I remember using AutoCAD in the mid 80s. When I was first trained on it, it was just a 2 dimensional program to replace paper drawing on a board. It got better since. They are one of the companies that have done it the longest. They have many different levels of software.
Tinkercad is a web based one. The next step up from that is Autodesk 123D software which has many facets to it. Today, I am going to talk about 123D Design. It is a very similar program. I have downloaded and used it. One of the big differences in the Autodesk 123D software is that it is not a web based application, where Tinkercad is. Autodesk 123D software is a bit different. It is a downloadable program that is available on Windows and Mac platforms. They have a specific version available for downloading to be used on iPads as well. It is free. This is a program that does not cost anything to download and use it. There are some restrictions that if you are going to use the free Autodesk 123D software version, it is not licensed and is not to be used for commercial use.
You do need to subscribe if you are going to use it on other reasons other than being for personal use. If you use the free version, you have all the same functionality of the program itself. The premium features have to do with some other aspects of it that are not the actual program itself. I went through it and they have quite a bit of tutorials and some videos available. I must say that when compared to our review last week of OnShape, OnShape is a much more robust program from my perspective. It has a lot more technical capabilities. It is a higher end program. They had just very well done tutorials and videos that are going to all different aspects of the software.
The tutorials and videos that are available from Autodesk 123D software are clearly from an earlier version from the program. They have not been updated with the new features and the other aspects of the program. I felt that they were lacking in that regard. It is certainly not as comprehensive. I respect the 123D program. If you want to go into in depth tutorials and instructions, this one may not offer you everything that you would hope it would.
Let’s talk about the program itself. It is very similar in how it works with Tinkercad. You are primarily building things from primitives that exist. It does have some parametric properties. You can go and enter in the radius and the height of it and it will change interactively with you. You can also start with lines and curves and make them the flat plain of the work-space and extrude them. You can also put multiple lines crossing each other and extrude only portions of it. You can add and subtract parts from each other. It still is a little more basic in its abilities and controls and also how you move and create objects.
It is another program that you are working in a 3 dimensional view and if you want to look at something on a plane, you got to orient the entire environment to be perpendicular to your view. You can see it flat and work that way. It does not give you the ability to view the front top side and perspective view all at once in different little videos. It is similar to OnShape in that regard. If you started with Tinkercad and you get through them and you start hungering for more, this is a huge logical step up. Downloading it on your local computer has some advantages and disadvantages.
Even if it is local on your computer, it is intended and designed to be interactively connected. When you get this program, you really want to have an Autodesk username, login, and password to sign in to their system. There are a lot of resources available to you. One of those is the sign bar feature. In the earlier videos, this is one of the things that tipped me of is that the materials are not up to date with the release of the software. It is really disappointing. These kits are there too. It took me quite some time trying to find this and figuring out where I was. In the latest update, they have changed it and it has another way to show it up.
There are stock components of models that you can use to build from to create new models. You can combine them together. You can create some of your own components and add to them. It is not completely parametric in the sense that the software is not continually saving a complete history to go back through time. You cannot branch off from where you are and continue on a new path and save it as a different sort of entity. It is not quite as smart as some of the other major parametric programs like Pinshape or Autodesk Inventors.
Understanding this program’s place in the 3D world has a place for it. It is a good program depending on your own particular needs and what you are going to do with it and how precise you wanted to work. There is a level of precision that is hard to achieve in 123D compared to other programs. It is trying to be a program that is a little bit easier to understand. It does have a lot of good capabilities for sure within this program. It is a good step up. If you have passed that beginner stage and you want to move up a little bit, this one is good for you.
If you are not in grade school or middle school, this would be fine for you. If you wanted to jump into CAD and start learning, you can jump to Autodesk 123D software. I would consider 123D a beginner program even if it is a step up for some users. I would still classify this as a beginner program.
Downloading and using this software on my Mac had good success in it. But in using the side bar in communicating with Autodesk about those stock model components, gave my computer a bit of trouble. It started crashing and it started taking down my entire hard drive situation. I don’t think we classify this as a virus, but there is something going on with the communication in Autodesk online resources. It fills my hard drive with so much information which caused the crashes. I have 50 GB available in my hard disk.
This is really not a program that I am going to use continuously. I use higher end programs and I am not going to change to it with this one. I am sure that the PC version and the iPad version do not have some of the same issues that I have experienced. Autodesk is a serious company and if there is a glitch in the Autodesk 123D software they are going to discuss it. I do think it is a legitimate program. It has rendering capabilities and materials. You can assign different objects. I call it primitive rendering. It is more cartoon like, but you can apply colors and materials. For early CAD learners and for students and teachers in the educational environment, it is perfectly acceptable to help see what your model might be before you go on in 3D printing it.
Autodesk 123D software has got some good snapshot and screenshots. They got some things built in to make it easier for you to use. All in all it is a decent program for a certain type of user. What kind of printer you are going to use depends on what you want to print. There are printers that are appropriate for some kinds of objects. Your skill level as a CAD modeller is a factor here. You also need to know what kinds of things you want to make. There is a good fit for a user of it. I don’t want to think often that I have said a particular program is the best or worst program. That is not the issue. It is more of who is the right fit for the software. If that fits you, it is perfect.
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