Autodesk has been making headway with various announcements leading up to next week’s Autodesk University in Las Vegas. A little over a month ago we saw the release of their Project Miller preview, which is aimed at optimizing and validating designs before hitting that heavy ‘Print’ button to send a file off to a 3D printer. Their latest technology preview Project Shapeshifter comes in the form of a 3D modeler that allows new CAD users to develop complex geometry out of common primitive shapes with very little effort…essentially creating a generative modeling experience of sorts without having to dive head-first into Grasshopper. Let’s take a look at how quickly we can put together a vase and export the STL for a ceramic 3D print.

Great for Noobs + Pros Might Find it Useful

While professional CAD users would understandably want (and need) more control for their various projects, Project Shapeshifter presents an interesting platform for new CAD users and those just looking to explore basic shape patterns. Existing 3D modelers of the sort (TinkerCAD, 123D Design, etc) offer great options for new users, but their use is primarily limited to the addition and subtraction of various primitive shapes that could grow old after a few uses. With Project Shapeshifter, Autodesk is exploring the possibilities of making these primitives slightly more exciting through offering advanced controls and more room to create more organic shapes…something that seems to be more along the lines of T-Splines or Grasshopper in an elementary and straightforward package:

“Project Shapeshifter is built on top of a 3D Patterning Engine which offers an alternative approach to generative design, avoiding scripting of any kind. The commands (design operations) used throughout a design sequence are captured separately from the object geometry, allowing repeat, alter, or apply to any given mesh object. The commands pattern includes a parametric object builder, subdivisions, transformations, offsets, and population information. 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 locally or through a 3D printing portal online.”

Currently, Project Shapeshifter is available for free until the end of January 2014.


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.