Home » Uncategorized » Designing, prototyping, 3D printing… and augmented reality.

Designing, prototyping, 3D printing… and augmented reality.


3D CAD is fantastic and students using it can use it to design their products with relative ease. Even better if they output their designs to 3D printers or CNC machines. But there are times when visualising the designed object in the “real environment” can be difficult. Visualising the object “in situ” before committing to printing or machining can be useful in determining whether the design is correct, suitable for purpose or “looks right”.

Ok so it is possible to “Photoshop” an image of the CAD design into a photo of the environment but wouldn’t it be better if this could be done in 3D?…. With augmented reality this is possible and using an iPad and a suitable app relatively easy to do.

The photo attached to this post only shows half of the story… Its not possible to show a 3D scene using 2D media! The object (a model 3DTouch 3D printer) is 3D, moving the iPad around this virtual object does actually allow you to see it from above, sides, front, back, etc.

Yes the object viewed using augmented reality is still a “virtual object” but as a method of “testing” ideas before actually prototyping or making the object is another tool available to designers… Used in isolation I’m not certain how useful augmented reality actually can be, but as a first check in an iterative design process I can see some potential for some students in some design projects.

I have a feeling that teaming augmented reality with 3D printing could be a powerful combination. I hope to try this out with students soon and intend to get them to design objects, test them with augmented reality and modify their designs before 3D printing them.

If you fancy giving it a go then you might be interested in trying the iPad app “Augment” https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/augment/id506463171?mt=8 For a free app (at the time of posting this) it is really powerful, a range of 3D formats can be imported (.stl, .3ds, .obj etc) and of course these can be designed in CAD or downloaded from sites such as Thingiverse. Imported objects can be scaled, rotated, moved, photographed etc. And to get you started there are a number of lovely sample files available in the app too.


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