123dApp.com was a resource that allowed users to join the Autodesk 123D community, where they could design, create, and share their 3D printed creations with other members. The website provided its users with an opportunity to browse through thousands of models created by other makers for inspiration. It also allowed visitors to download the 123D suite for free.
Today, if you try to access 123dApp.com, you will be met with an offer: “Buy this domain.” This means that its owners have abandoned the site, and the domain can now be taken over by anyone who has the money to purchase it.
What could have happened to a website that once told visitors they could “Download 10K+ free 3D models”? This is the question we want to answer in this article by following the site’s history, the products it offered (we mainly focused on 123D Design), and the reviews left by its users.
The History of 123dApp.com
The American multinational software corporation, Autodesk, established 123dApp.com in 2011.
When 123dApp.com was established, the company indicated that its “mission [was] to provide access to the tools to help you take your concept and make it [a] reality.” It told users, “This is your home for useful tools for making things; for giving shape to that idea you have, exploring it, and most importantly, making it.”
A press release announcing the availability of Autodesk 123D on iPad, Mac, PC, or a web browser quotes Samir Hanna, vice president of Consumer Products at Autodesk.
Hanna says, “We believe that everyone is creative, and we intend to put easy to use design software in the hands of millions of people so they can create real objects, have fun doing it and then fabricate the things they want and need, just the way they want them.”
123dApp.com allowed users to download the 123D suite for free. The suite included tools like 123D Design, 123D Sculpt+, 123D Catch, and 123D Make. The site also provided a place to access the latest tools and information about 3D printing.
To make a software product that could create physical objects from designs using 3D printing technology, Autodesk collaborated with three companies: 3D Systems, Ponoko, and TechShop.
The main advantage of Autodesk’s 123dApps.com is that it made it possible for users to connect with various other 3D-related services, including 3D printing and laser cutting, and a community of other makers.
The tools offered by the 123D suite enabled users to create and edit designs without the need to first acquire intricate computer-aided design (CAD) skills. The tools provided rudimentary shapes and sample models that users could begin the design process with.
One of the most popular applications in the 123D suite was 123D Design. Over the years, Autodesk was adding new features to 123D Design. For instance, in the second half of 2013, the company introduced a new version.
Describing the new version, Tatiana of the 3D platform i.materialise.com says, “You can now round and bevel edges, create a shell … or pull faces out of any part. Adding, “It all makes it so much easier to 3D print!”
123D Design added more features in 2015. A 2015 article published by the engineering content website Engineering.com reported that “The new version adds some features and fixes some bugs, as one might expect in any new release.”
Engineering.com adds that one of the most impressive features introduced in the new version was the alignment tool. The same source says that even though alignment can look like a simple process, it can be tedious when you are attempting to align many items.
Here are some details about the other apps in the 123D suite, as described by Wired.com:
123D Sculpt: This iPad and Android app allowed users to sculpt on their tablets or PCs.
123D Catch: Allowed users to generate 3D models from photos of an object.
123D Make: Made it possible to convert 3D objects into a format suitable for laser cutting.
Victor Anusci wrote a review of 123D Design published by All3dp.com. Anusci writes, “Part of its free of charge 123D Apps collection, Autodesk’s 123D Design is a powerful yet relatively simple to use 3D creation and editing tool that can work seamlessly with most 3D printer models in the market.”
Anusci adds that the main strength of 123D Design is that it uses “a simple and intuitive graphical user interface.”
In a review published by the education products and tools review website, CommonSense.org, Mark Chen, a researcher and Director of Pepperdine University’s Gameful Design Lab gives 123 Design a rating of three out of five.
For Chen, the strength of 123 Design was in pedagogy. Pedagogy focuses on the ability of a resource to promote student-centered learning and allow learners to gain conceptual understanding or think critically.
In terms of pedagogy, Chen concludes that the app allowed “Students to learn design by experimenting.” Adding, “Commenting on creations allows students to gain feedback for future iterations.”
What Then Happened to 123dApp.com?
In November 2016, Autodesk discontinued the download of 123D apps. In a statement, the company said, “Beginning in November 2016, we began to let you know that the apps will be turned off to new downloads and eventually retired by March 31, 2017.”
For those who wanted to know if they could still use the apps, Autodesk indicated that existing users could continue using the apps but that the functionality of some apps would be limited over time, while some apps would continue to work with no problems.
But why did Autodesk decide to discontinue 123dApp.com? A statement posted on Autodesk.com says that the company had come to realize that the portfolio of apps had become too complex.
In a parting note, Autodesk told users, “We are making some changes to simplify our Autodesk portfolio and workflows for people everywhere who love to make things.” Adding, “We are consolidating these tools and features into key apps such as Tinkercad, Fusion 360, and ReCap Pro.”