The Best Free 3D Program Ever? ShapeShifter

This is ace. Autodesk has created the simplest way into creating complex shapes for 3D printing yet seen. Beginners: you’ll love this, whilst it takes hours for even the simplest 3D design (CAD) programs to feel intuitive, here, within seconds, you’ll feel like a pro. The complex math art of 3D printing’s most renown designers is beyond Shapeshifter, but you are going to get amazingly close within a few clicks of a few sliding bars. To the experienced: Try this. It’s fun, intuitive and worth it.

Project Shapeshifter is a free technology preview from Autodesk Labs created to assist designers and makers cope with the task of modelling complex 3D printable geometries. It is built on top of a 3D Patterning Engine, which offers an alternative approach to generative design, avoiding scripting of any kind. This, for the majority of the world’s 3D printer users, is a real blessing, they don’t want to have to learn to code (nor self-assemble a 3D printer) to get their objects from their home factory.

Put another way…

def skein_monitor(self):

while(not self.stopsf):


wx.CallAfter(self.status.SetStatusText, _(“Slicing…”))#+self.cout.getvalue().split(“n”)[-1])




fn = self.filename


self.filename = self.filename.replace(“.stl”, “_export.gcode”).replace(“.STL”, “_export.gcode”).replace(“.obj”, “_export.gcode”).replace(“.OBJ”, “_export.gcode”)

of = open(self.filename)

Shapeshifter technology offers a simple slider based interface for shaping a 3D mesh object parametrically based on a selected topology. The 3D mesh object is automatically converted to a cellular shell where each cell can be populated with a selected component to form a 3D pattern. The populated mesh can be exported as .obj file for 3D printing at home or through a 3D printing portal online such as Shapeways; Sculpteo; Ponoko; Quick Forge; i.materialise or 3D Printing Model.

The required system specifications are suggested to be OSX, Windows 7 & 8, although the web interface is working more than happily on my old school Windows XP (why do people keep paying for endless upgrades? Beyond me) on Google Chrome browser, with an archaic graphics card and processor. Bottom line: it’ll work on your computer.

Shapeshifters features include:

  • Parametric Mesh Builder with more than 20 Degrees of Freedom
  • More than 30 pattern components
  • Share your design as a URL
  • Export design for fabrication (.obj file)

I’m going back to play with this now. You can watch some videos that summarise this wonderful little program here and here. This is so much fun!