Traditionally CAD software was usually something that only design professionals and students learned to use. But in the last few years the rise of virtual reality and 3D printing technology has started to inspire a whole new generation of amateurs and hobbyist 3D designers. Unfortunately for them, most advanced CAD software is prohibitively expensive for a single user, and cheaper or less expensive options tend to be limited in what they are capable of. But this growing interest in 3D design has encouraged new startups and software designers to start developing lower-cost, easily accessible options that have all of the features of professional software sans the steep price.
While there are several popular and high-quality 3D design software suites on the market today, typically the company to beat is Autodesk. The Northern California software developer has several design, drawing and CAD programs available for a wide variety of industries and users. But a couple of former Autodesk software developers have launched a new startup called uMake, and they are looking to take on their former employer in a big way. While a startup looking to take on larger, more established companies is hardly anything new, most of them don’t have $5.2 million in startup funds or the support of Apple behind them.
We first got a look at uMake when it was featured in the Apple keynote introducing the iPad Pro and the Pencil stylus. The app seemed almost tailor-made for the iPad Pro, so it was little surprise that when it launched on iTunes in early November it was quickly featured as an editors’ choice. Using an iPad Pro or any wacom tablet, users can easily sketch a simple image and uMake uses depth-detection algorithms to turn the sketch into a 3D design. The resulting 3D object can then be wrapped in textures, images or even imported logos.
The uMake app is ideal for on-the-go designers and mobile technology, a feature that is going to be increasingly important to the next generation of designers and 3D artists. The program is almost comically easy to use–which doesn’t mean that it lacks the same design power of other programs, it’s just far easier to learn how to use than your typical CAD program. And of course by being entirely cloud-based, any designs that are being worked on can instantly be shared with other users, or easily sent to other programs where the uMake 3D sketches can be used in other applications.
Here is some video of uMake being used with an iPad Pro and Pencil:
“On desktop you may find similar approaches but it’s not that common and can be expensive. We truly believe in the mobile platform, We know the desktop is important and will stay for years but less people will use it, and significantly the children of today will use it a lot less 5-10 years from now,” uMake co-founder Evi Meyer told Techcrunch.
The San Francisco- and Israel-based company was started by former Autodesk employees Evi Meyer and Erik Sapir, who designed uMake to fill in what they call gaps in current design software. Gaps like 3D printing, amateur makers and the growing market for easy-to-use CAD software are all areas where more established programs tend to be harder to use. While many of those software suites are working hard to fill in those gaps and make their software more user-friendly, attracting inexperienced users is an uphill battle when they also have to worry about not alienating established users.
The uMake app is free to download, and it has tons of features that allow for easy, uncomplicated design with an intuitive UI and features designed to work with new design software users, not against them. There is also a $14.99 a month “pro” option that unlocks more robust tools and features that make the program a nice alternative to more expensive, industrial programs. While it likely isn’t a Fusion 360 killer, Autodesk should still be a little worried about their loss of casual design users, because it is pretty obvious that uMake was created with that exact market in mind. Discuss this cloud-based software in the uMake forum thread on 3DPB.com.