Well, maybe a little more difficult than that…
My “day job” is being the IT department for a specialized engineering, design and manufacturing business. In a very simplified nutshell, we design and build huge cranes, primarily for off-shore work in the petroleum industry, but not limited to that. As such, we are heavily invested in AutoCAD. And, by that I mean, we couldn’t really function without Autodesk products any more. So, I try to stay in touch with what’s going on in their world. That personal imperative led me to contact with Autodesk 123D.
This is actually free software, reviewed at the link above, that will let you design and prototype relatively simple 3d objects. It can import things from AutoCAD, though, if you’ve got a lot of AutoCAD files, like we do. What’s more interesting, however, is that this software has links to Autodesk’s 3D printing services. So, if you don’t have a 3D “printer” of your own, you can get an estimate from Autodesk on producing a 3D prototype right from their software! How cool is that?! You can essentially do a 3D “print preview” and they’ll give you a quote on actually producing whatever 3D object you just created on their free software. And, it seems to be relatively reasonable, too!
What’s even more interesting, I think, is that there’s an add-on which allegedly takes a series of high-resolution photographs you provide it of an object and then creates the 3D model for you! Now, I haven’t tried this out yet, but I can think of a number of small statues around my house that I would love to have recreated in ABS plastic. Oh, right, that’s pretty much the only material available through their service; various forms of ABS plastic. Essentially, the only options are color; white, ivory or black. Or, if you want to use their more expensive “high-resolution” service, a single color option; a kind of funny greenish color. Still these can all be painted like any other plastic model, so there is that.
In any case, I can think of any number of uses for a service like this. Low-end architecture models, for one. Game pieces. Custom replacement parts for various bits and pieces of electronic equipment. Really, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination, budget and the strength of the ABS plastic!
But, the software itself is free, so why not go download it and try it out? If you do, please, leave your experiences with how well it works in the comments.