123D Design Vs. Rotary Tool. What is better?
(*Of course, in my country we don’t say “Blimey!” but something ruder. But I think you get the point)
Let me introduce myself: I'm Mario Caicedo Langer, from Colombia (not "Columbia"). Former Colombian Navy Officer, BsC in Naval Sciences, maker focused in trash art and upcycling. You can see my Instructables profile here. My skills: I can transform almost every piece of e-waste and plastic trash in something useful, decorative or funny. My weak point: the only design program I used in my life was... Paint. Yes, that Paint. So 123D would be my first experience with a CAD program.
I have to be honest: I'm not a big fan of CAD programs. Yes, they are awesome. But I am an old school maker who loves to use his rotary tool and his screwdrivers to build stuff, at risk of his own hands. I thought CAD programs were reserved for industrial designers or engineers, even one like 123D Design, developed for the DIY community.
A few weeks ago, on a Friday afternoon, I finally decided to take a look the 123D Design installed in my PC. So I started to play with the program. When I got stuck, Randy Sarafan gave me some useful tips. Two hours later, I finished some kind of robot arm. At night, I had finished a "chicken legs" robot. On Saturday morning, I had a futuristic motorbike. On Sunday, I was at the beach in San Jose, eating Deep Fried Twinkies, but that’s not important. By Monday, I had my fourth project ready (not my best work, but still) for the "Show and Tell" meeting at Instructables. I finished my instructable on how to make a transformable robot, my first 3D printed project. And right now I'm working in a futuristic jet.
I'm not saying "Oh! I'm a genius! You’d better make a movie about me! (In this case, I want to be interpreted by Ryan Reynolds or Samuel L. Jackson)". No. What I'm trying to say is that, sometimes, we have the tools at reach, but we are too lazy, too coward or too old fashioned to try them. And Autodesk is giving a great tool to the maker community. It's a friendly program (I don’t know how it could be friendlier. Telepathic commands, maybe?) and you can learn it in one weekend or less. It doesn't matter if you are a professional designer or not, you only need two things: the will and visual-spatial ability. And you only get the second thing by being curious about all the things around you: touching, dismantling, cutting, breaking, attaching, opening, destroying and rearming stuff. And, if you are a maker, you are on the right way.
123D Design is an awesome program (and honestly, the only one I learnt), I love it and it's free, but it has two aspects to improve. First, fonts could be very useful. What if I want to 3D-print a plaque with my name? Second, I don’t know if it’s because of my computer, but sometimes the program crashes and, if you didn’t save your progress, you will have a very bad time. So I got the habit of saving on my computer every 4 minutes. That’s all.
AT THE END
Right now, I’m asking myself “Myself, what do you prefer: a carpal tunnel syndrome for using your computer or a severed hand syndrome for using your jigsaw?”. Then I remember my wise mother telling me “Mijo, don’t say those barbarities because there is no idle words”. Resuming, what is better for a maker, CAD/CAM or traditional crafting?
I believe there is no competition, because both are complementary. It’s all about what do you want to do, how do you want to do it and what is the best option for your project. There are a lot of things you will never achieve without a computer. But there are a lot of things a computer won’t be better than the human hands, too. And building stuff with your very own hands is a very rewarding experience. So, it’s up to you!
Because for me, 123D Design became just another tool in my toolbox. A powerful, fantastic and awesome tool in my toolbox.