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Blokify the @Cubify iPad app to get young pupils into #3DPrinting

Personally I'm not all that into games on computers or tablets, I see these devices as being more for “doing” things with. But a can see that these programs and apps have great appeal to youngsters. So why not use them as a way to introduce kids to designing an making with 3D printing?

Well that's just what 3D Systems and Cubify have done with the new app “Blokify”. It's available for iOS and Android. Here is the link to the Apple App Store.

The app is a bit like “Minecraft” in that simple blocks (bloks?) can be assembled into all sorts of structures… Castles, forts, etc. And then of course exported or in this case emailed as a .stl file.

Even for an oldie like me who has never played with computer games the app proved to be extremely intuitive to construct my castle…. A colleague of mine commented that even her 4 year old was able to use Blokify, so it doesn't really say much about my skill level :o)

Anyway, here is a screenshot from the Blokify app that I have exported and is currently printing on my CubeX 3D printer…. I'll post another picture when it's completed.

The app is free to download and comes as standard with a few different building bloks but it's an in app purchase to unlock some extra different bloks using “diamonds” as currency (note that as this is mainly an app for kids safeguards are built in to help prevent them running up big bills on your Apple store account)

Here is a quick picture taken mid print…. Love the texture that is showing up on the castle walls!

Anyway, I'm really impressed by how well this all works. So congratulations Cubify on a great app to encourage creativity in 3D printing for youngsters!


And here it is…. My first mini Blokify castle!


Building on Making Learning Irresistible -in D&T

On Friday I was given the opportunity to run a workshop for the North Somerset Learning Exchange… A primary school conference called Building on Making Learning Irresistible. My workshop was primarily to look at the implications of the new national curriculum for Design and Technology.

The first part of the workshop involved a presentation and discussion “unpicking” the key parts of the document and looking at how schools might change the activities they do with their children in the context of their school.

The second part was “hands on” with some of the newer technologies, 3D Printing, Robotics and programming, and CAD/CAM.

The conference happened to be taking place on the BBC “Children in Need” day. So the mascot Pudsey Bear inevitably made a few appearances.


Before finishing this post I must thank a few people for helping out with the organisation, loan of equipment and inspiration for the workshop…. Clevedon School Learning Hub, North Somerset Learning Exchange and Teach Design for all the organisation and admin. 3D Systems for providing the Cube 3D printer, Roland DG for providing the vinyl cutters, VEX Robotics for the loan of the VEX IQ Clawbot.


@Cubify Draw app for #3DPrinting with iPad

I stumbled across Cubify Draw app for iPad earlier today… Just had to download it!

My initial thoughts were that it is very simple… Perhaps too simple but maybe this will develop over time. I then went on to start thinking about how this could be used in schools. And my thoughts instantly went towards primary school age children. What a fantastic way to get them to doodle an idea and start 3D printing on a Cube or Cubex printer within minutes of getting started… And no complicated CAD to get involved with.

Being so simple it will be necessary to think carefully about what the kids can design but instantly I was drawn towards the idea of personalised bespoke biscuit (cookie) cutters and the like. (I must be hungry whist writing this for my mind to wander towards food again!)

Anyway, I've had an initial try out with the app and can't wait to try printing some objects.


Finding 3D components for #3DPrinting (with an iPad).

It's very time consuming to design every single nut and bolt (or similar standard part) when designing for 3D printing in 3D CAD programs. And building up a library of these parts is pretty futile as you never seem to have the exact part that you need saved to your PC.

There are loads of places on the web that these parts can be downloaded from but it takes quite a lot of searching to find them in the right format for your software… And students seem to find themselves easily distracted from the designing as soon as they fire up a web browser 🙂

But I think I may have a solution… Use an app on your iPad for finding the parts and keep your PC free for the designing! These two bits of kit can actually work very well side by side on your (or your student's) desk.

I have been trying out the app “3D CAD Models Engineering” by CADENAS GmbH …. There are literally thousands of parts in a huge number of catalogues and most of these can be configured to different sizes etc. And even better they can be downloaded (emailed to yourself) in the correct format for your CAD software…. All you have to do is open and save the email attachment on your PC.

So, here is the iPad app that I'm trying at the moment https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/3d-cad-models-engineering/id522705054?mt=8

… The app provides search facilities, QR code search, 3D previews, and even augmented reality views!

Another similar iPad app I have downloaded (but not yet fully explored) is GrabCAD. First impressions seem to indicate that the objects available from this app are more complete designs rather than component parts and it looks like selecting the parts/objects within the app redirects you to the safari browser and the GrabCAD website. So perhaps not quite as useful a pairing of iPad and PC as the CADENAS app provides…. But it's still a great way to search for things to 3D print when you have run out of ideas or don't fancy designing something yourself.

Here's the link to the GrabCAD app https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/grabcad/id518400211?mt=8


Year 9 D&T CAD/CAM and #3dprinting

Some of my current Year 9 (12 years old) D&T projects are really progressing. Here in the photo are a couple of projects that are nearing completion of the practical work. These are the designs that have been 3D printed using one of the Bits from Bytes 3D printers (Hopefully more pictures will follow when some of the other projects are completed)

The students chose the area of D&T they wanted to specialise in for a 10 week block… And this group chose CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Design / Computer Aided Manufacture). The students were set a task to design and make a “Bespoke USB Stick”. They have done most of the design work using CAD software (Creo Parametric, 123D Design or Inventor) and some have been very experimental and instead of designing using PC programs they have used the 123D Design app on their iPads…. Perhaps some of the first students to do this!

All the students in this group have chosen to record their work in an e-portfolio… Ok, not a real e-portfolio but using PowerPoint on a PC or Keynote on their iPads. Using the iPads has been very successful so far, it has meant that students have been able to photograph their paper based sketches and add them straight into their portfolio and screen shots of their work on PCs has been emailed to themselves for inclusion too…. As well as doing some of the actual design work in 123D Design.

It is really impressive how the students in these groups have embraced the use of new technologies (3D Printing and iPads) and incorporated this into their projects… Well done year 9!


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.

D&T iPad apps

Ok, so not really about 3D printing but my school blog is “locked” for updating to a new platform/hosting service. My school has just launched into a new project for students to bring portable devices into school… Mainly iPads but other devices are allowed. So students setting up new iPads face a bewildering number of apps, here are a few suggested apps that I have tried out over the last year or so. The star rating is based on usefulness, price, etc… But just a guide! There are many other apps available.
Autodesk Forceeffect … Free *** Study the effect of forces on structures https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/autodesk-forceeffect/id476321600?mt=8

Forceeffect Motion … Free *** Study the effect of forces in motion https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/autodesk-forceeffect-motion/id512045820?mt=8

123D Make Intro… Free *** Design 3d designs for laser cutting https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/123d-make-intro/id513915986?mt=8
123D Design… Free *** Simple 3D CAD https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/123d-design/id567821620?mt=8

123D Sculpt… Free (model export £6.99 in app purchase) ** 3D sculpting https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/123d-sculpt/id446119510?mt=8

123D Catch… Free *** Scan objects in 3D https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/123d-catch/id513913018?mt=8

Sketchbook Express… Free ** Sketch, draw etc https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/sketchbook-express-for-ipad/id410871280?mt=8

Pixlr-o-matic… Free ** Another photo edit app https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/pixlr-o-matic/id450263811?mt=8

Other apps
D&T app … 69p per subject or £1.99 for all 6 *** D&T textbook, revision etc https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/design-and-technology/id363449581?mt=8

Moodboard Lite… Free (limited) or £6.99 ** Create design mood boards https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/moodboard-lite/id369796813?mt=8

iDT HD…. Free*** D&T “dictionary” https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/idt-hd/id383058247?mt=8

Neu.Draw… Free *** Vector drawing https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/neu.draw/id392532294?mt=8

iDesign… £5.99 ** Vector drawing https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/idesign/id342790226?mt=8

iDraw…£2.99 ** Vector drawing https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/idraw/id363317633?mt=8

Adobe Photoshop Express by Adobe…free *** Photo editing https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/adobe-photoshop-express/id331975235?mt=8

Magic Plan… Free ** Create scale room plans https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/magicplan/id427424432?mt=8

Creo view mobile… Free *** Viewer for Creo 3D designs https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/creo-view-mobile/id560549930?mt=8

3D CAD Models Engineering by CADENAS GmbH… Free ** 3d cad models (downloads) catalogue https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/3d-cad-models-engineering/id522705054?mt=8

Idea generator…£1.99 * Random ideas generator https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/idea-generator/id293258418?mt=8

Ohm work… Free ** Resistor colour codes https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/ohm-work/id406539017?mt=8

Design Museum Collection … Free *** Iconic designs https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/design-museum-collection-for/id510964197?mt=8

Dexigner… Free *** News of what’s going on in the design works https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/dexigner/id319785197?mt=8

Arduino Companion… Free * Arduino reference https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/arduino-companion/id501635254?mt=8

Spacecraft 3D… Free ** Augmented reality 3D spacecraft https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/spacecraft-3d/id541089908?mt=8

Maplin … Free * Electronics catalogue https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/maplin/id434388627?mt=8

Screwfix catalogue… Free ** Hardware catalogue https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/screwfix-catalogue/id531135973?mt=8


123D Design

At last a free 3D design app for the iPad that can be used for 3D printing!

Autodesk have just released the 123D app for the iPad and at first sight it appears to be quite useable. Designs can be created from simple primitives and modified by stretching, rotating, shelling, chamfering, rounding etc. The design can be saved to the iPad for further editing or exported to the cloud. The designed object can be downloaded to a PC (or mac?) using the 123D design program…and saved as an stl file for printing!

The iPad app is truly intuitive to use… I was creating printable objects within minutes. Best of all it’s not necessary to be a CAD expert in fact anyone with a little experience using Trimble (Google) Sketchup will in their element with this app.

I’m pretty certain that this will open up new possibilities for students to be designing and making with iPads and 3D printers. I can’t wait to try it out with students to see what they produce… iPads paired with our RapMan, BfB3000/3D Touch printers look like being a fantastic combination for student creativity.