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Any other engineers have trouble getting used to 123D design? Answered

I'm wondering if anyone else who has experience with professional CAD software has tried 123D and finds it difficult to use. I have ~7 years of experience using Solidworks in a mechanical engineering and robotics context. I recently tried to pick up 123D for use with my home 3D printer and find it absolutely infuriating to use. It feels like working with oven mitts on. But, I see screenshots of very complex models people have made all over the place. So, I'm not sure if:

- I'm spoiled from the use of "professional" software and need to lower my expectations for free consumer software. For example, I'm very used to full control over creating reference geometry like axes and planes, and creating everything from 2D sketches that are then extruded/revolved/swept (as opposed to 3D shape primitives) and having direct control over all of the dimensions the entire time. In 123D I find it difficult to do something as simple as create two rectangular prisms and put them a fixed distance from each other, or create a rectangular prism and then put a hole in it a certain distance from one edge.
- If this is just a difference between Autodesk and Dassault software - e.g. if I was used to using Autodesk Inventor instead of Solidworks, maybe I'd have an easier time picking up 123D.
- If I'm just being lazy/impatient, and need to watch more tutorial videos and give myself more time to pick up the software.

So, just curious if anyone else has a similar experience coming from using professional software (as opposed to a maker/hobbyist who had never used 3D CAD at all before).


i played with it for a bit, and had a similar experience, the novelty factor wore off very quickly. Ive used PTC prodesktop for years and have found it does 99% of what i what despite its age (10 years)
So somewhat disappointing.

I'm sure this being an old topic may not produce a response but ..... Back in the days of Floppy discs (ancient history here), I had access to AutoCad r13 at work. I loved it and learned as much as I could through a companion book (another ancient commodity) I bought at a book store. I studied the program and how to use it without knowing what I would do with the knowledge, but I loved it. Then I changed jobs. Fast forward many years to now being into retirement without the disposable income I used to have, I find myself wanting to get back into 3D modeling and making things with the invention of 3D printers. I too tried 123d but now have just switched to Tinkercad in hopes of finding a tool to design and make things.123d was for me to limiting in allowing me to design what I wanted to make. I looked up all the referenced programs above but all seem out of reach for a fixed income now.

Does anyone know of a free program that is worthy of creating or replicating items in 1:1 scale down to 1:24 in order to print them on a 3D printer?

Google Onshape, its a new program from the people who founded solidworks and then sold the compnay. Its free to use and you get 5gb of free storage (although the files are public)

Hi - people seem to keep finding this topic even though it is almost three years old! I've recently tried Autodesk Fusion 360 and am MUCH happier with it. It "feels" more like a real CAD program and the interface is much more intuitive. It's free for hobbyists so I would give that a shot.

For the record though, I haven't used 123D Design for a couple years, so have no idea if it has improved.

Thanks for the tips. I tried Fusion on my iPad and it didn't seem to let me create from scratch. Maybe I need to try on the desktop.

BTW, this topic is as relevant today as it was a few years ago. So long as these two programs exist and nothing better comes along. But I will try out Pro desktop. Thansk

IMHO the problem comes down to usability vs real accuracy and the creation of files that you can use in other programs.
When 123D came out I thought this is the only program I ever need.
Shortly after models got more complex and I realised dealing with them for changes is a total pain.
Then came the problem of using them in other program, even if just for 3D printing.
Creating a complex solid that is "watertight" and correct in terms of having no errors is next to impossible within 123D.
If it just the look you are after like for a 3D presentation no problem, if you want to create something real from it you are lost IMHO.

I reverted back to using Sketchup and although nowhere near being perfect for the job either it at least allow far easier editing and corrections.
Tinkercad is used a lot by other people and same is true for Solidworks in the professional range.
But if you are good at math and like formulas Openscad might be the thing for you.
If you here create a complex gear the right way you don't have to edit anything manually to make changes.
You change the diameter of one sproket and the coresponding one(s) change too with the right number of teeth to make it work.
A lot of editable models on Thingiverse are made this way.

Coming from Pro grade 3D modeling apps to 123D or MeshMaker, there's no comparison. And anyone saying otherwise hadn't used pro grade.3D apps extensively.

Despite that, people do use them. Personally, I walked away from them after a very short time because quite honestly, they lack quite a bit, and are a pain in the butt to model with.

123D Design is very powerful and quite good even for professional grade software, let alone freeware.

However, it requires that you put thought into what you want to design and how you want to reach your goal in terms of shape.

Instead of having an interface that requires years and years to learn the interface but holds your hand and does everything for you in terms of geometry and actual modelling without you needing to bother hardly at all about geometry and geometry concepts, it has a sparse interface with a short learning halftime but requires that you think about almost everything you want to do and how you're going to do it.

For instance, it has no express functionality in its interface explicitly for making spirals *at all*. And yet you can make spirals with it just fine by using the circular pattern tool, the project tool, the move tool and the loft tool.

However, you actually have to think about how you're going to do it by manipulating geometry and using geometry concepts in your head instead of having the interface just do it for you without you needing to bother at all how you're going to subvert some other tool to actually make a spiral. The same with what you describe.

What you explain is quite easy to do with the software once you are aware of all the tools it provides and what they can each do.

If I had to go with anything I'd go with the first one... I'm a 13 year old student with maybe a year of cad experience. Honestly I just feel like you can't really DO anything in 123d programs... I think the only one I geniunly like is 123d catch... IDK. I mean I was about 12 when I downloaded autodesk inventor and it just kind've clicked... I didn't even know the 123d programs existed. I think the one reason why 123d programs can't compete is their lack of a sketch editor, and restricted, more accurate movement. (it just kind've feels flimsy to me) I'm just curious... Also watching tutorial videos won't improve the software... The one reason I do like 123d is because it is easier to rotate objects... But that's where my enjoyment ends... Why did you start looking into 123d? Everyone else out there: If your looking to learn legit CAD use autodesk inventor fusion. It just a slighltly simplified version of the pro version.

I looked into 123D because I was looking for a free program. I'm not a student anymore so I can't get free downloads of their professional software. Enjoy that while it lasts :-).

Problem with Autodesk 123 was constant lock ups so I swapped to Tinkercad. Autodesk now own Tinkercad....Which now is either out of service or locks up....So whats the connection I wonder..?

Some people seem to confue this simple piece of software with a serious designing tool.

Sure you can create the most complex shapes and objects with it, but it's main purpose is for beginners that want to design something easy in a short time.

Someone with an engeneering background will run from one hurdle into the next until giving up on the design.

Soemone that just bought a 3D printer and has no clue about 3D dsign will find it useful and would need weeks of training on professional software - if he would be willing to pay for it.

Anyone with a professional background should consider professional software for the job.

A surgeon would not use a kitchen knife for the operation for the same reason ;)

I agree completely - in hindsight (since I posted this almost a year ago), I guess my complaint is that the way 123D design is presented makes it look like it's supposed to be a full-fledged parametric CAD program at first glance. In reality, as you said, it's a beginner-level tool and not for serious or professional design. This is in contrast to Tinkercad which, with its brightly-colored interface and the fact that you can only work with 3D shape primitives and not make sketches at all, is pretty obviously a beginner-level program, and you wouldn't mistake it for anything else.

I think the confusion and the frustration along with it for professionals is simply caused by the marketing behind the product.

When it started it was nothing more than a test if the concept of web based design could work.

But the community jumped right on the train as even kids could now create things - simple like their Lego bricks.

Instead of making the program better in terms of functions and ease of use more products to support each other were developed.

All based on the same concept, just check what creations are made from cardboard with the simple design tools...

We now have to see it as a whole suite and that becomes even more obvious when you try to import or export to more professional file formats.

Have not checked for a long time but I am certain if not already available people willwork on converting tools for import and export.

The idea of an extreme simple and intuitive user interface is good, but without professional tools and options included it will be nothing more than a toy for professionals.

I tried to design a more complex part that should replace the air filter on my chain saw.

And mind you I already was used to the program at that time and "designed" a few things for my printer...

Let's say it that way to be polite:
After three days of trying to get all measurements correctly, especially the placing of the screw holes and getting the angles right, I gave up.

All the shaping and manipulating options are useless if you can't properly define where and how to apply them.

Changing an angle by 3° for one part that was already shaped to fit means you have to totally redesign other parts as well - including the massive task of placing them correctly.

Being unable to measure things properly or to lable them just makes it worse.

I ended up using the original filter, some gloves and fibreglass.

Two hours later I could mount the pipe for the external filter and remove the old one that was used as a mould.

A bit of drilling and sanding and it was done - all up in less than 5 hours without wasting endless amount of filament for test prints....

As normal regular person(with an engineering background) I found it infuriating to use and just shelved it after multiple crashes.  I couldn't see how that tools palette interface or having so many things hidden and objects shifting/resizing unintentionally when the mouse moved elsewhere could be intuitive. 

Haha, ok - I'm glad I'm not the only person who chose to use the word "infuriating" to describe it. I just wonder if I'm permanently tainted by an engineering/CAD background though - maybe the software is really easy to pick up for someone who has never seen or used CAD before? No way for me to know firsthand.

I'm a newcomer to 3D design/printing, but I have 40+ years of engineering design experience in everything from assembly language to C#, and have created several very successful 3D design GUIs for specialized scientific fields. In the last month I have created some 30-40 3D designs in TinkerCad, and ZERO in 123D Design, even after several serious attempts to learn the user interface. IMHO, 123D Design is a seriously user-hostile interface - it seems to me the creators of 123D Design simply threw everything under the sun into the app, and came up with the GUI in the 10 minutes remaining before the release deadline.

I have gone through the videos many times now, and I have had great difficulty getting the current version (1.5.23) to do many of the operations shown in the videos - even simple things like non-uniform scaling of a rectangular sketch don't seem to work (or maybe it does, but I cant figure out HOW, thanks to the GUD (Graphical User Disaster)).

Case in point - I can't seem to create a square sketch, except by creating an arbitrary rectangle and manually editing the dimensions (with another non-intuitive trick) to the same value. Every other application on the planet uses SHIFT-drag for uniform scaling - but not 123D Design :-(

Funny how this forum topic resurfaced somehow (I first posted it 11 months ago). Anyway, I haven't tried using 123D design recently to see if it improved at all, but it looks like the answer is no...

To summarise your post:
"Is it terrible?"

My answer:

To be honest, I'm an 10 year user of Inventor, and I, too, would describe my experience with 123D as "infuriating." What you said is exactly right ...it's like working with oven mitts. The interface seems very limiting, and I find it frustrating to know that I can make almost anything I think of in Inventor, but in 123D, I feel handicapped by the differences. I like parametric modeling, and find it difficult to transition into solid primitives.

It's good to know that an Inventor user had the same difficulty. Thinking about it more, I think what's frustrating is that 123D taunts you with a glimmer of parametric modeling, because it does have a 2D sketch mode with extrude/revolve/sweep capabilities; as opposed to only working with 3D shape primitives (like TinkerCad). I actually found TinkerCad easier to use because it isn't trying to be something that it's not (a fully parametric 3D modeling program), and it wasn't advertising itself as such - so I knew the limitations of what I was working with. My initial response to all the 123D marketing was that it was a full-featured CAD program that I could use at home - so my expectations were set way too high. Instead, I got a product that's in this awkward in-between stage.

Of course, I guess you can't blame Autodesk for not creating a product that's equivalent to Inventor and then giving it away for free. But, I'm not asking for the power to design jet engine assemblies here. A decent parametric program that's sufficient for "typical" home/maker uses (like designing an Arduino or Raspberry Pi case, or a simple angle bracket with screw holes in the right places) would be nice. Fingers crossed for future versions?

And to respond to your comment about crossing my fingers for future versions, I have no doubt that many features will improve with time. After all, Solidworks and Inventor today have far more capabilities than their original counterparts. That said, do I think it will ever compare to my experience with Inventor? I highly doubt it. I've become accustomed to the way Inventor lets me model, and I have no real desire to step away from that. Now, if Autodesk did something similar to Adobe, and offered all of their products for a monthly fee, rather than a MASSIVE upfront cost (to an individual user) then I'd be more than happy to branch off and try some of their other products, like Alias, Maya, 3DS Max, Mudbox, etc. Until then, though, I can't justify the time involved in learning, same with 123D.

It seems to be the difference between long-term CAD professionals and short-term hobbyists. Looking back, I remember learning AutoCAD in high school. It was simple, fairly straightforward, and you could create a lot of things, even with the most basic version. I then proceeded to using Inventor, and I remember how tough of a learning curve it was to transition into its capabilities. Inventor, and other parametric modeling programs, is like re-learning to ride a bicycle forwards, after having gotten comfortable riding backwards for so long. I feel like 123D is a step in the opposite direction again... It's like riding a bike upside down, still facing forwards. Possible? Yes. But not without some serious handicaps. If it were the first time doing that, it'd feel as normal as chewing, but when you're already used to gravity pulling you in one direction, switching becomes a paradigm shift.

After using 123D to try and model some stuff, it was like a breath of fresh air to go back to Inventor and model the same parts in a fraction of the time. Admittedly, I probably haven't given 123D the chance it likely deserves. I feel like a whiny kid everytime I complain about how the interface is different than what I'm used to. But it just feels broken, when I can't easily locate what I perceive to be simple, everyday-use functions. And I feel the same as I'd feel if I got someone's old lawnmower for free, when I still have a perfectly good brand-spanking-new one at home. If it didn't work the way I wanted it to, I'd garage it and move on with life. After all, why handicap yourself with a free tool that only functions at half-capacity, when the tool you paid for does the job infinitely better?