While consumer 3D printing has reached a level of user-friendliness sufficient for most tech-savvy people, 3D modeling the designs is still a difficult task. CAD (computer-aided design) software has a steep learning curve, and it’s even trickier if you’re designing parts that will be 3D-printed. The task becomes even more complicated if you need to ensure that off-the-shelf electronic components fit properly. Now, new software may be able to automate that process and make 3D modeling more accessible.
Usually when you create a 3D-printable design that will house electronics, you start by modeling the overall shape of the enclosure. Then, you need to find detailed dimensions for those electronics and modify the design so they fit properly and can be mounted securely. This software, developed by The Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, automates the latter steps. It could dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes to model a design, and also make CAD for more approachable to novice users.
To use the software, the designer starts by modeling the basic shape and structure of their device. They then drop in electronic components, like microcontrollers or sensors, from a library of off-the-shelf parts. From there, the software will determine where the parts should be placed. It will also add mounts, and ensure that the components can actually be physically assembled as intended. It will even generate instructions on when, where, and how those components should be assembled. While it’s far from being ready to launch, this software has massive potential for makers and CAD operators.