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3D on the Move With Portable Design Apps


New advancements in mobile technology have made software available for phones and tablets that was previously reserved for the power of a desktop PC. In one of the latest developments in the field of 3D design, it´s now possible for engineers and designers to create at the moment an idea strikes them without waiting until they reach the office. Design updates can be made from wherever a designer happens to be, speeding up the design process.

One of the fastest-growing areas of mobile phone application development is in three-dimensional (3D) modeling software. This software allows the user to create representations of real-world objects that can be rotated and viewed from any angle.

Traditionally, 3D modeling and computer-aided design (CAD) software has been the domain of high-powered and specialized workstations. Increasingly, lower and lower levels of hardware have begun to achieve the ability to run this software as processing, memory and graphics capabilities continue to improve.

With recent advancements in the computing power available on mobile phones and tablets, this software is now offered in versions available for these platforms. Now architects, engineers, designers and artists can check designs while on the move. They can create early stages of their designs when an idea strikes them, wherever they are, rather than needing to wait until they can get to their full-sized computer workstations.

This software does not suspend the laws of physics, though. Tablets and mobile phones are still not able to replace dedicated CAD or 3D animation workstations such as those used by major film houses, game development companies or manufacturers. The mobile versions of these packages typically have limited functionality and features compared to their full-scale brethren. They will not have features that require intensive memory, processing power or graphics capability.

However, the extension of basic modeling and viewing capabilities to these platforms opens up a completely new world for the average individual who is interested in this technology. Designers and companies can also use this new aspect of mobile computing to create designs, and stay abreast of the design process, regardless of where they are.

Here is a brief look at some of the 3D modeling software packages available for designers to expand their possibilities, and for the average person who would like to explore this kind of technology.

Blender Pocket

Blender is open source free software for 3D modeling and animation that has a worldwide following, and is one of the most popular software packages in the industry. Though it is free, Blender is a highly capable package that offers the most advanced features available, and has a huge base of support by user communities and expert instruction. Blender Pocket is a port of Blender to the Pocket PC processor and runs on Windows Mobile. The primary limitation of Blender Pocket is in the size and complexity of the models that can be produced, due to memory constraints compared to desktop PCs.

SculptMaster 3D and iDough

These two packages are apps for the iPhone that simulate sculpting clay into shapes using your fingers. These shapes may be saved for export to full-scale modeling applications used on workstations. SculptMaster has a free trial version that does not save files and a low-cost version that adds file saving capability. The iDough app does not have a free version.

Verteo Studio 3D

Verteo Studio offers much of the capability of standard CAD and modeling packages for the iPhone. This package offers sculpting, as well as the capability to combine geometric primitives like spheres, toruses and cubes to create shapes that are more complicated. Verteo Studio also offers a choice of perspective or orthographic views. It can render finished output using textures to simulate materials for its models, and the models can be exported to standard workstation packages.


iSculptor brings many of the standard features of workstation packages to the iPhone including camera zooming and rotating, vertex editing, surface smoothing, extrusion and polygonal modeling. This package also provides for export to standard workstation packages.


AutoCAD is the dominant computer aided drafting package used by multiple industries including engineers and architects. The AutoCAD WS app is free for iPhone. It allows opening, viewing and editing of standard AutoCAD drawings online. This use of cloud technology allows a way to overcome limitations imposed by the memory of the phone.

CAD drawings can be incredibly huge, so the cloud offers a good alternative to allow engineers and architects to make modifications to drawings that are on the company network while they are traveling. This use of the technology neatly sidesteps the issues with phone storage capabilities, and leaves the most recent changes available on the network for the rest of the design team.

3D modeling technology for portable devices like phones and tablets is still in its infancy, yet shows incredible promise for extending the possibilities for professional designers and interested amateurs alike. As the abilities of these devices increase with advancements in technology, it may soon be possible for freelance designers to conduct an entire project from start to finish on a device that will fit in their pocket.

3D, CAD, design, mobile, phone, tablet, iPhone

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