Follow

We have been adding features for past few months to enable you – 3DTin users – connect with each other in better and more meaningful ways. We have added comment notifications – email and realtime, live chat, activity feeds; all to make sure that you discover more interesting 3D models and their cool creators. Continuing in the same vein we are happy to announce yet another community building feature – Follow.

This feature was requested by some of the most active 3DTin users. They wanted to keep posted if the 3D artists they admire created new content or recommended other’s content with ratings/comments. This is a very reliable way to discover new and interesting content every time you visit 3DTin.

So how can you follow other users?

Just click on their name and open their account profile, you can’t miss the big green “Follow” button.

 

Click it and now you are following the user. Next time you open the community window, you will see a unified activity feed of all the users that you are following.

 

I’m following @icevipergt and @Akin, so I see their recent activity in my community window in the above screenshot.

Isn’t that cool? What do you think? Let us know what more you would like to see.

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Measurement cues

Wednesday’s menu: New grid and some helpful eye-candy.

The measurement cues include display of dimensions of currently selected geometry. You no longer have to calculate the extents in your mind from the readings in the position bar. We do it automatically for you and show it in proper context.

Another visual aid that we’ve added comes into play when you move a geometry. A geometry can at any time move only in a single plane (the one that you are currently looking into). Sometimes it’s not obvious though. Therefore we have added motion lines which show the displacement of the geometry from its original position as you are moving it. This clarifies exactly which plane the geometry is moving in and by how much.

And what do you think about the new grid?

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DIY for kids

Do you realize that everything created in the 14 billion years’ history of Universe – stars, planets, mountains, plants, brain – was created by simple laws of nature; but only in the last few thousand years have things been created in a different way? From Wheel and Fire to iPhone and Porsche, everything has been intelligently designed by the human brain. The creative power of human brain is unprecedented in the 14 billion history of the universe. Imagine that!

If we don’t know what is our purpose in this world, we can at least be certain that by creating something unique and new we are bringing something to the world that didn’t exist before. This was one thought behind why I started building 3DTin instead of all the other kinds of software one can build in today’s world. I wanted to create a software that will help others to create something out of it.

If there is one gift we can give to our children to empower themselves, it will be to inculcate creativity in them.

The DIY movement that is gaining strength around the world in past few years is popularizing the ethos of Do-It-Yourself. There is creativity in all of us, only it’s hidden in varying degrees from person to person. The DIY movement is helping people discover the hidden creative selves inside them.

So when I learnt about diy.org yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to learn what they are doing to encourage creativity in kids. For starters they have designed one gorgeous website.

The idea is to gamify DIY activities for kids, thus prodding them into making something on their own.

DIY.org enlists a wide variety of skills ranging from Astronomy, Chemistry to Sculpting and Rapid prototyping. Each skill category has handful of challenges. Kids can pick a skill of their choice and a challenge that they would like to tackle. They can work on their idea under that challenge and post a photo or video of the final result to their profile. Kids can rate each other’s works which earns them points.

The part I like is that the challenges are not puzzles; but rather a suggestion of a tool or a generic problem description like “Grow a Bacteria Culture” or “Design an Object with CAD“. This encourages open ended thinking in kids. 3DTin features as one of the challenges under the RapidPrototyper skill set. Kids can design a 3D model in 3DTin and post a screenshot of it to their DIY account as a project.

There are already tons of projects that kids have posted. Take a look at this one “da vincis  katapult” or this “Erector helicopter“.

Go ahead and introduce your kids to DIY.

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From 2D to 3D

We are glad to announce today one more new way to create 3D objects in 3DTin.

Many 3D shapes are better expressed by their projections in 2D plane. Sometimes you want to draw a two dimensional figure and extrude it along third dimension. Sometimes you imagine a side profile of a figure in the form of a curve and would like to revolve it around an axis to create 3D solid. The new feature we are unveiling today is meant to help in such cases.

Here’s how you can get your hands on it. Click the new button added to the Shapes bar to launch the 2D editor.

 

The 2D editor presents you with a smooth curve along with bunch of control points (circled red). By moving the control points around you can change the shape of this curve.

There are two ways in which this curve can be used to build a solid.

First is Extrusion

 

When you hit Build, the curve is automatically closed and extruded along third dimension and a solid of specified thickness is ready to add to your main sketch. This is how the solid of above curve looks like.

 

This is a very powerful technique. It opens doors to creating any arbitrarily shaped objects and putting them together into really interesting models. You can increase the number of control points up to 30, which lets you add more and more details to the curve.

 

The second option is Revolution

 

When you hit Build, the curve is revolved around the shown axis of revolution and you are presented with the final solid to add to your sketch. You can imagine this curve to be a side profile of the final solid. When added to sketch the above curve looks like this.

 

You can use this trick to create objects like Pots, Vase or any other shape that is circularly symmetric.

We are very excited to see what you make of this new way of building 3D shapes. Head over to 3DTin and try it now.

(The objects created with revolution can be little too heavy and sometimes with some undesired artifacts. We will fix that aspect in future. For now we wanted to deliver the new feature to you to get your early feedback.)

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Visual Transform Cues

I am glad to announce a new enhancement in 3DTin editor that will make it more intuitive to apply transforms, i.e. rotation/scale/shear operations.

You can see the Visual Transform Cues in following screenshots or try them out yourself.

Protractor for Rotation transform

 

Directional arrows for Scaling

 

Directional arrows for Shear

These new visual aides will give you hint about the direction and/or magnitude of the transform that you are about to perform. You will also be able to change the planes of transforms by simply clicking the X,Y,Z buttons, instead of having to cancel the dialog and reorienting the view.

We look forward to your feedback.

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Premium feature: Symmetry and Super Symmetry

We are glad to announce a new feature that will exactly halve your efforts while building symmetric models.

Long back we had implemented a mirror tool that was used to draw cubes symmetrically. After we added support for template based geometries, we didn’t get a chance extend that functionality to new geometries. Recently we found many 3DTin users building symmetric models. It occured to us that we can make their task remarkably easier if we allow a mode that automatically mirrors all the operations that users do in the other half of the model. Thus was born the idea for this new feature. Since this feature is mainly useful for power users we are offering it as a Premium feature.

There are two different ways in which this feature can be used.

1. Symmetric Add

In the left bottom corner you have seen the mirror icon (Club). In a regular sketch you can toggle it into two modes.

When the Symmetric Add is ON, for any geometry or cubes (voxels) that you add to the model, a mirror image is automatically added for you. In the past this feature was limited to cubes, but now it is available for all kinds of geometry. The mirroring is only restricted to add operation in this mode.

2. Super Symmetry

When you create a new sketch, you will now be prompted for which kind of model you want to create – Regular or Super Symmetric.

If you choose “Super Symmetric”, 3DTin assumes that you are building a completely symmetric model and it mirrors each and every operation you perform automatically.

Here is a short clip explaining how that looks.

As you can see, not just adding of geometry, but also all the subsequent operations – moving, rotating, grouping, aligning – are exactly replicated in the mirror image.

We very much hope that this new feature will help you make more awesome models with less amount of effort.

Note that you cannot add any asymmetric features to the super-symmetric model. But that can be easily worked around. You can build all the symmetric parts of your model in one sketch, then create a fresh regular asymmetric sketch and import the symmetric sketch into it. Best of both the worlds.

You will have to be a premium user for all the symmetric effects to actually take effect. If you are not, you will see a preview of the mirror geometry being added, but it won’t be actually added when you click.

Give it a try. We look forward to your feedback.

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Soon going WebGL-only

Last year when we collected stats about how many of our visitors have WebGL enabled browsers, the number was around 55%. Nearly half of our visitors didn’t have WebGL back then. For all those users 3DTin automatically used to fallback to Canvas 2D backend and offer limited set of 3D modeling features.

The world of web browsers has come a long way since then. In past couple of weeks when we collected the same stats, we found that now nearly 92% of our visitors have WebGL enabled browsers. This is a huge boost. My guess is that the growing popularity of Google Chrome and its support of WebGL on machines without graphics card has contributed to this tremendous rise in WebGL users. Whatever might be the reason, the result is very promising.

In the light of these new numbers, it seems to be the right time to drop Canvas 2D backend support. We will be doing that in next few days. The users visiting 3DTin through non-webgl browser will see an error screen that will inform them about WebGL upgrade. Note that, all your models from the past are safe and sound on 3DTin servers, you only need a WebGL enabled browser to access them.

This will help reduce 3DTin javascript code that downloads into the browser. It will also simplify our data structures and make the WebGL backend more efficient.

Do let us know if you have any questions.

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