New free MakerBot PrintShop iPad app lets you design, modify, and print 3D objects

MakerBot's new free MakerBot PrintShop app for the iPad is designed to get users going with its Replicator 3D printer – and it really is only for beginners.

The MakerBot PrintShop app, available for free in the Apple App Store, combines the ability to actually create custom 3D prints, together with access to what the company calls a selection of "handpicked" designs from the Thingiverse, MakerBot's online respository of designs. Users can then make modifications to those and save them in their own personal Thingiverse cloud for later use.

The real thrust of the app, however, combines three tools: Type Maker, Ring Maker, and Bracelet Maker. As with the Thingiverse designs that MakerBot selected, the idea is for beginners to be able to take pre-configured templates and modify them, giving them the opportunity to print custom 3D objects without getting frustrated. With tools like Type Maker, for example, users can print out 3D signs and nameplates, warping them and sizing them as they wish. They can then print them out using the more than 20 MakerBot PLA filament colors.

"With the introduction of MakerBot PrintShop, we believe we have finally provided a piece of software that helps bring 3D printing to the masses," said Bre Pettis, the chief executive of MakerBot, in a statement. "We have removed the obstacle of not knowing 3D design to be able to 3D print. MakerBot PrintShop takes that challenge out of the equation and makes 3D printing fun and easy, as well as accessible for all ages and skill levels."

MakerBot's app is one of the first to design and control a 3D printer from the iPad, although somewhat similar apps have debuted before. Sculpteo was one of the first to bring 3D printing to the iOS world, launching an app in 2012 that allowed you to snap a virtual selfie and essentially stick your face on a vase. In 2013, Printrbot launched the Makrz app for the iPhone, allowing users to search for and share open-source 3D printer files, and then download them to a Dropbox account.

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