Autodesk's new app lets kids design their own toys

3D printers can build anything from prosthetics and musical instruments to Hershey chocolates. But, even as the technology continues to make strides with materials (metal, concrete, etc.) and takes on full-fledged architectural projects, it seems to move further away from the reach of children. Tinkerplay, a new kid-friendly 3D printing app, makes it quick and easy for all age groups to design and experiment with minimal assistance.

The app is the brainchild of Autodesk, the company best known for its flagship AutoCAD design software. It's an evolution of Autodesk-acquired Modio, an iPad app that worked with desktop 3D printers. Like its predecessor, Tinkerplay eliminates the need for additional rafts and support materials which tend to complicate the process for at-home designs. But new features and functions allow kids (and older humans) to choose from the pre-loaded character templates or create their own versions from modifiable parts. Users can drag and drop parts to create characters or create their own complex little parts with customizable textures and colors for a new design. For the latter, connectors available with the larger Tinkercad family can be employed. In the end, the printer processes similar color parts that can be snapped up together for a ready-to-pose figurine.

The app, available on iOS, Android and Windows, is an addition to a growing list of 3D printing tools that encourage at-home experimentation. But it also engages a more pertinent audience –– a generation that learns to swipe screens and tinker with gadgets before they can walk.

[Image credit: Tinkerplay]