Mobile 3D Printing? There are lots of apps for that.
As more people get 3D printers in their homes, offices, and schools, the demand for simple, user-friendly 3D printing mobile apps will skyrocket. Right now, there are no standout apps in the category. Below, however, you'll find a list of interesting 3D printing apps worth downloading—if only to experiment with them, and to learn more about the possibilities of this powerful new technology.
All apps are free unless otherwise noted.
iOS (iPhone & iPad)
123D Creature Show: A free "creature creation" app; use it to build, sculpt, paint, render, and yes, 3D print your very own crazy-looking character. The process is so simple, everyone can be a designer. Start by picking a creature from their library; then, drag your finger to move and bend its body parts. Put the finishing touches on your creation by adding a background image, tweaking the lighting, and choosing a photo filter to make your ultimate customized look.
123D Catch: Use your phone's camera to create 3D models of the people, places, and things around you. Friends, pets, buildings—you can automatically turn anything into an interactive 3D model. Make sure you take enough photos to give full, 360-degree coverage to the object.
123D Make Intro: Take your 3D models and transform them into real-world creations made from a variety of materials: cardboard, wood, metal, and more. Choose the material, determine the size, and the app does the rest—converting any 3D STL or OBJ file into a cut pattern based on your specifications.
Thingiverse: Gives you easy access to the Thingiverse.com database on your phone. Thingiverse is a site to share and download free 3D files designed to be printed on your own 3D printer at home; a product of Makerbot, one of the largest manufacturers of personal 3D printers (now a subsidiary of Stratasys, the industry leader in professional 3D printers). The app makes it easy to browse photos of models and save your favorites. If you're a designer, you can also use the app to upload photos of your prints and share them with the community.
Cubify Draw: Simply put, the app lets you scribble on your screen and 3D print what you draw. Trace images from your photo library, get help from the app to autocomplete shapes, or go wild in freehand mode. When finished, the app transforms your drawing into a ready-to-print 3D model. Customize its size and shape; then, turn your model into a pendant, keychain, sign, holiday ornament, and other interesting designs.
Doodle3D: Similar to Cubify Draw, but specific for iPads; if you can scribble on a piece of paper, you can design 3D prints with this app. It's designed to make the entire printing process, from design to finished product, as simple as possible. All you need to do is draw and hit "print", then watch your 3D printer do the rest.
3D Cloud & 3D Push & Printables & Fablab Inc: A list of apps with the singular purpose of letting you view 3D STL files on your phone. Some apps have more features than others, such as the ability to view STL files stored on Dropbox and GDrive, attached to an email, or located on websites such as Thingiverse.
3D Printing by Solid Technologies: Designed for current customers of Solid Technologies, but free for anyone to download and play with. Use the app to calculate the cost of a 3D print job, convert unit measurements, and request quotes for rapid prototyping.
Blokify: Think of it as Minecraft meets 3D printing meets your mobile phone. The app lets you create block-based models in free-form mode or through a guided building experience. When you're finished making your model, you can either 3D print it at home (if you have a 3D printer) or buy one and have it mailed to you.
3D Printler: The app is less a 3D printing tool and more a marketing tool for the rapid prototyping services of 3D design company, 3Dprintler Inc. That said, if you're someone who has ideas for 3D products, but you're not a CAD wizard, this app could be for you. The user interface makes it easy to contact 3Dprintler Inc with any or all of your 3D design concepts. You give your contact info, add a description, upload screenshots, and they'll get back to you with a quote.
Monstermatic ($2.99): Made for kids, but fun for all ages. Customize 10 different monsters, each with its own personality and "Mr. Potato Head" style swappable parts (horns, eyes, hats, and more). There are some interactive bells and whistles that let you talk and play with the monster you make. That's not the best part, though, because that comes when you use the app to order a real-life 3D print of your dreamed-up creature.
Freakin' Sweet Knots: Create woven, knotted jewelry and have it 3D printed on-demand by Shapeways. Customize ring size, weave style, and the final printed material. Final price varies depending on size and material you choose. Plastic: $2 to $4 plus shipping (many colors); stainless steel: $12 to $20 plus shipping; bronze & brass: $30 to $60 plus shipping; silver & gold plated brass range: $50 to $80 plus shipping. Freakin' sweet.
Sculpteo: The Swiss Army Knife of 3D printing apps; you can use it to make 3D Objects your own, browse 3D designs, and buy and share objects from your personal collection. Customize and create your own vases, mugs (designed with your own mug/face), cups, rolling pins, and even a "personalized eating utensil to distinguish taste and scent" called a Zozio.
3DPCase: Powered by Sculpteo; the app lets you customize and create iPhone cases in a variety of patterns, shapes, etc. Use your own photos to design cases with that extra personal touch.
XYZ Workshop: More a promotion piece for the company than an actual robust, interactive app. You can view photos from XYZ Workshop, shop their online store (powered by Shapeways), get up-to-date news about the company. Hint: click the "More" tab at the bottom for additional options, including a portal to download a range of free 3D files.
Thingiverse: During CES 2014, Bre Pettis, founder of Makerbot, announced an Android version of their popular iOS Thingiverse app. In late January 2014, Makerbot delivered on their promise and finally gave Android users the taste of mobile 3D printing they've been waiting for. For the whole story on the Thingiverse, check out the iOS section above.
GCodeTouch3D (Beta): Looks to be Android's first "fingerpaint and 3D print" style app, similar to iOS's Cubify Draw. Using the touchscreen, you first paint a 2D layer with your finger, and then the app converts your drawing into a 3D object. Unfortunately, the current beta version doesn't let you transform the design; for now, you're limited to increasing the object's height.
GCodePrintr: I haven't had the chance to test this app yet, but it seems like a powerhouse tool with positive user ratings (4.5 stars out of 30 total reviews). The app enables you to load a gcode file on your Android device and then print it, which is cool enough. But here's the kicker: you can also use the app to control your 3D printer from your mobile phone. Works with many 3D printers, such as RepRap, Printrbot, Ultimaker, Makibox, Solidoodle, Robot3D, Multec Multirap, and more.
3D Printers: Gives you info on the "nine most popular consumer 3D printers and DIY Kits" (their words, not mine). You can compare price, performance, dimensions, nozzle size, etc. App is always updating key details: price, shipping times, and more. Prices range anywhere from $199 to $3299.
3D Printing: Gives you daily news about the 3D printing industry, the "third industrial revolution" in the developer's words. Also includes photos of 3D-printed objects, videos, along with info about events and seminars.
3D Printler: For the whole story on this app, see our iOS section above. Here's what the developer's site has to say about the app: "If you need help turning your ideas into fully functional and printable products, contact us today. We can work one-on-one with you to make your vision a tangible reality. Our open and transparent 3D design services give you full control over your design with our experts by your side the entire time ensuring that the process goes smoothly from start to finish."
3D Printing Cost Calculator: Exactly what it sounds like; the app lets you calculate the actual cost of a 3D printed object made of PLA or ABS plastic. You input the type of filament, the cost of the filament spool, and the amount of filament used (in mm). The app outputs the total cost to print that part. Simple, but useful.
3D Print Preview: View 3D STL files stored on your Android device; the app lets you view your own objects or those downloaded from websites such as Thingiverse.
3D Printing Forum: Access the 3D Printing Forums directly from your Android device. The community covers all aspects of 3D printing: hardware, software, scanning, modeling, and of course everything related to the 3D printers themselves (repairs, mods, and more).
Are there any 3D printing apps you know that aren't included on this list? Tell us in the comments below.