I’m always on the lookout for new software for creating new parts/objects and especially software that is both "powerful" and yet intuitive to use… especially for students to use. And even better if it was "free". Ok so there are other options available such as Sketchup, AOI etc but I’ve never been really keen on these for one reason or another. The other day I came across Autodesk 123D and although it wasn’t released I signed up to be notified when it became available… today I received the email and promptly downloaded and installed it. Being a Creo elements/Pro (Pro/engineer) user I think it’s going to take some time to get up to speed (it looks like Autodesk inventor user will get up and running very easily)… BUT… I quite like what I see so far…. sort of like "Sketchup with attitude".
I think you need a fairly decent PC to run the software (my old laptop is groaning a bit under the demands of the program) but it does seem to produce good .stl files. There is also a library of free standard parts (nuts, bolts, bearings etc) and you can purchase ready-made models. It’s early days yet but it looks to be worth a try so if you are interested have a look here www.123dapp.com/
It is also worth noting that Autodesk 123D is geared towards "3D Making" with links to "Techshop" and "Ponoko" but even more interesting is the link to 3D Systems… AND Bits from Bytes machines!!!! www.123dapp.com/make
Anyway, here is a screenshot to have a quick preview