Hark! 2013 is upon us! In many ways, the previous year seemed a turning point for where we’re going while simultaneously lacking any sort of drastic, earth-shattering changes. However, there’s plenty of fat, tech-laden fodder on which to speculate for 2013 and that’s exactly what we’re going to dish out for you folks. In recent years, acquisitions have taken over innovation, mobile has taken over technology, 3D software has been repackaged versions of old ideas. Tempting as cynical pessimism may be, we’re actually excited about 2013. Really excited. Why? Glad you asked.



image: etsy
  1. More options for those in the know

    The public visibility of manufacturing tools and services is shining a spotlight on design and engineering. Even if you think scanning and 3D printing is old hat, the public is still excited, and those of us who know the industry are in a great position to capitalize on that excitement.

  2. The startup is you

    Massive open collaboration and community sites (e.g. Quirky, Local Motors, the venerable Kickstarter and newcomer Upstart) are also rapidly contributing to the public visibility of design and engineering. Designers and engineers are sure to be in high demand once again or… go about it all themselves. We expect publishing personal projects to be as commonplace for ‘designgineers’ (our word) as blogs are for writers.

  3. A love for handmade goods

    With crowdfunding and every which way to share online, along with the displeasure of making becoming more automated, more will seek out the quality and sophistication that comes with handmade goods. You’ve seen it for years in sites like Etsy, but other sites like Fab, Dawanda, Folksy and icraft.ca are picking up steam.

  4. Creative Intelligence (CQ) is the new Design Thinking

    Instead of a systematic approach and list of process tricks that force a system-centric focus and denude creativity, the focus will return to creativity. Coined by Bruce Nussbaum in a new book on the topic. What was set in place by Design Thinking is expanded even further with Creative Intelligence, particularly in the context of social engagement. He defines CQ as “the ability to frame problems in new ways and to make original solutions… not a psychological approach of development stages and individual genius.”



  1. Machine to machine (M2M) control

    Controlling your house from your phone. Notifications about your cars location and fuel economy. It’s already happening, but will become even more prevalent in 2013 with more devices and machine able to communicate and learn.

  2. Wearable interaction devices

    Google is pushing ahead strong with the Google Glass project with developers getting first versions in the beginning of 2013 and consumers likely seeing them in 2014. Apple is also reportedly working on an iPhone smartwatch that could be on the list of deliverables for 2013.

  3. More multi-touch in the office

    You may have picked up a new Windows 8, all-in-one multi-touch computer for the home at Costco over the holidays, but with hardware and Windows 8 upgrades looming for business, the touchscreens, which are already reasonably priced, will begin to adorn the desktops of touch-hungry employees.

  4. Windows Pro Tablets become a Pro-level mobile option

    This will be a big game changer for those who have long desired a more mobile, professional computing solution. Pro version Windows 8 tablets will hit early 2013 with the computing power to keep you going while in the office, shop, field or stream. Third party tablet developers are already revealing product lines to make you mobile on the new system with many more being revealed at CES 2013.



image: Tinkercad
  1. Consumer-accessible design tools

    Big engineering CAD vendors watch out! Sketchup and especially web-based tools like Tinkercad will continue to grow in influence. Thinking about the current generation of children and the up and coming designers and engineers of the future, these tools and complementary websites will be critical in how teachers and parents introduce design concepts to children and how hobbyist, tinkerers and 3D professionals make from home.

  2. New cloud subscription pricing models

    The Age of the Cloud is upon us: all ye skeptics repent! Expect to see more and more web-based and web-desktop hybrid applications, especially in the CAD/CAM world. Also expect huge growth in cloud storage solutions like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, etc, as well as integration applications helping you manage your cloud storage more effectively.

  3. More mobile interaction

    We’ve seen apps that allow you to interact with your CAD data. We’ll see more. With the increased use of tablets this year, users will also seek out ways to interact and collaborate with other people and their models. We’ve longed for more startups in this area. Perhaps this is the year.

  4. The rise of mesh-nurbs modeling

    SubD and Direct Modeling tools will continue to proliferate. Yawn. Playa’s been runnin’ that shiz since like the 60’s. CAD is soooo 2012. What’s next? Finer control over meshes, more organic solid modeling. The mix of both. The introduction of Luxology’s Power SubD-NURBS, Autodesk’s Fusion 360 and Geomagic’s Spark is just the beginning. The large CAD companies are making small steps, but we’re looking again to the startups for something spectacular.



image: Unfold
  1. The growth of fabrication services

    The vision of “a 3D printer in every home” is doomed: just as consumers would prefer to use big, high-quality photo printing machines at the local drug store rather than own an expensive, cumbersome, and rapidly-obsolete consumer inkjet printer, we think that consumers will prefer to use services like Shapeways or Ponoko to have their designs printed. Home 3D printers will remain a relatively small niche. We expect a big player this year… Amazon 3D Printing Service?

  2. More material options + decreased Cost

    Your closets filled with plastic filament. With the rise in popularity of 3D printers, the availability of materials will of course become deeper and cheaper. We’re already seeing a growing list of suppliers for ABS and PLA options and we expect this to continue. Other materials we hope to gain popularity this year are resins, with the entry of new 3D printers from 3D printer patent-holding paper print industry companies.

  3. Community Printer Sharing

    Even if you prefer fab shops and services, many will opt to have their own 3D printers and likewise, set up community sharing or small, private garage fab sites for fans of extruded polymers to use as needed. Some will go as far as to ship a shared printer or drive it 100 miles so they are able to experience the joy of creating objects in the home.

  4. More laws on making

    Look out! With intellectual property and items bordering legality of easily manufacturable parts in question, legislation will be introduced to control the manufacturing of goods. Some laws will pass, but more than likely these will be futile efforts with more focus put on sites and individuals that provide 3D printable objects. Some sites are already updating Terms of Service and taking action to prevent any unwanted activity and yes, 2013 will set the stage to come.



image: Tobii
  1. More acquisitions

    Why create when you can acquire? Acquisitions will continue of course. Where? The project collaboration space is hot – GrabCAD, sunglass.io, TeamProject are all players with well developed systems. App companies and developers – with the talent and success in a lot of iOS and Android app development houses, it’s likely we’ll see more 3D software companies snatching up whoever they can.

  2. Eye-tracking

    We know that many of the 3D software companies have been researching and experimenting with eye tracking. Tobii is a big player in this space with fresh integration to Windows 8 already announced this year. Expect those 3D software developers to already have the API’s in house, testing and integrating them into the software you use.

  3. New UI’s

    With M2M interaction, touchscreens, Kinect sensors and eye-tracking there’s no doubt that user interfaces will adapt to how people use the software. This goes for devices as well. Expect to see improved UI’s from mobile to desktop, with Apple modernizing their look and other software getting a Microsoft Metro makeover.

  4. Better coffee machines in office

    Your employer will realize you are an integral part of the business process and put the appropriate super-automatic coffee machine(s) in the break room to make sure you know you’re appreciated… could happen.


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.