MakeVR's interface uses two Vive controllers, one for menu commands, and one for manipulating objects. The software exports water tight designs for 3D printing. (Image source: HTC Vive / Sixense)
CAD is one of the most promising avenues for virtual reality (VR) in enterprise applications, both from the standpoint of creating virtual prototypes as well as the collaborative aspects. Now VR software company Sixense has partnered with HTC, makers of the popular Vive VR headset, to bring VR CAD design to DIY enthusiasts, as well.
Sixense's MakeVR software aims to close the gap between VR and 3D printing by creating a 3D, interactive interface where users can create designs and export them as standard object files for 3D printing.
"MakeVR on the Vive allows anyone to create 3D content as fast as they can think it up, then turn their virtual creations into physical objects with direct-to-3D printing," said Amir Rubin, Co-founder and CEO of Sixense. "Our partnership with Vive Studios in developing MakeVR and introducing a new kind of advanced creativity app using the immersion of VR is a win for makers, designers, and the 3D printing ecosystem."
The company was giving hands-on demonstrations of MakeVR at the recent VRLA conference in Los Angeles. Wearing a Vive and using a Vive controller in each hand users are able to navigate around a virtual workshop to build and alter objects. The demo showed off some basic functionality – creating shapes, adding textures, building simple objects, and duplicating objects. MakeVR also allows for scale adjustments, allowing users to make objects they create or the workspace as large or small as they want. You can make an object tiny enough to fit into the palm of your hand, or large enough that you have to walk around it. The software even adjusts the speed of your movement to coincide with your size relative to the object to add an additional layer of immersion.
The tutorial available was intuitive enough that even someone with no CAD experience can pick it up pretty quickly. “It's actually the more experienced users that have a learning curve sometimes because they're moving from a 2D to a 3D space,” Steve Hansted, director of business development at Sixense, told Design News at VRLA. “Kids and younger users who have grown up with this stuff you can basically just hand it to them and step back.”
MakeVR's industry standard CAD modeling engine supports .sab and .sat files. The software can't perform any work on .stl files, but it can export .stl files for 3D printing. The software engine also automatically creates water-tight models so that a 3D printer can print the files directly without any clean up to prevent printing errors. In addition to .stl, MakeVR also exports .sab and obj files – meaning creators can also import the models they create in MakeVR into other modeling tools or even game engines. For game designers the benefit is clear – being able to design objects for 3D while inside of a 3D environment. And for product developers MakeVR offers flexibility depending on the other software that may be used in the design workflow.
The version currently availing is a free-form modeling tool targeted at makers and DIY designers primarily. Sixense is planning to release a pro version later this year that will include more precision tools for enterprise and professional applications. MakeVR is also not the only product of this type available on the market, Minddesk, Autodesk, Solidworks, Virtalis, and Oculus are just a few other companies that have either released their own VR CAD programs or integrated VR functionality into their existing software.