There’s a whole industry of specialists selling highly skilled 3D modeling services. Which is great if you’re a gigantic games studio seeking to populate your next big first-person shooter franchise. But the demand for 3D modeling is likely to broaden considerably, in the coming years, with the rise of consumer-focused 3D printers.
A lot more people are going to be curious about how to design 3D objects in order to print them, and that relative mainstream is going to need far simpler tools if they’re to be capable of personally creating the things they want to be able to print.
So step forward Mixed Dimensions (MXD), a Jordanian startup now relocated to Silicon Valley that’s aiming to simplify the 3D design process by building browser-based 3D design tools for the mainstream, plus a cloud platform for sharing and browsing 3D objects, and locating related services.
“Today all design tools require the user to learn a lot of 3D concepts which are difficult by nature and our approach tries to make it as simple as drawing,” the startup tells TechCrunch. “Hence, users can simply draw and elevate shapes into 3D.”
MXD has built an HTML5-based viewer tool for viewing, sharing, converting existing models and printing them. And a Unity-based 3D object editor, which allows modeled content to be exported to Unity player, NACL, iOS and Android, with webGL also coming soon.
MXD’s editing tools are demoed in the below video — and as with anything that claims to simplify complexity, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating:
The interface is designed to work with touchscreens as well as PCs — which MXD says makes it “one of the early if not the first to enable that”.
“If you don’t have a touch screen, we offer a ‘pencil’ function, which you can freely draw and make it 3D. Also, with other 3D software packages, the user needs to utilize additional software packages to get the design ready for printing. MXD has technology that generates 3D printer instructions directly on the fly. Not only it checks files, generates the G-Code but also repairs files not ready for printing,” it adds.
MXD is launching its tools today, in private beta — and also announcing just under $1 million in seed funding, raised from a group of Venture Funds and Angels in the U.S., Europe and the Middle-East, including the Badia Impact Fund, which backs Jordanian startups, and Ecosystem Ventures.
MXD went through Alchemist Accelerator last year. That incubator is also participating in its seed round. MXD has previously taken in a “small” angel round from unnamed investors.
The new funding has already been directed to team expansion and for filing patents. MXD says it’s planning for a Series A round to be completed by this summer.
As noted above, as well as making 3D object viewer and editor tools, MXD is building a marketplace for 3D models, where its users will be able to share, buy, sell and print 3D models. 3D printing services will also be integrated into the marketplace, so users can select an object and send it to a service such as Shapeways or Sculpteo to print it for them, as well as being able to print locally on their own 3D printer (if they have one).
So MXD is building an end-to-end offering — from the creation of 3D models, to sharing and browsing them on its cloud platform, to printing them out or finding associated services. It names Autodesk and Sketchup as its main competitors, but says this end-to-end approach sets it apart from existing 3D-focused players.
It also argues that its marketplace differs from existing 3D object markets such as Thingiverse by ensuring that all 3D models are “100% printable” — because it automates model fixing and generates the required G-Code for 3D printers.
All models on the MXD marketplace can also be edited online, via a direct link with its editor tool. Plus, it again points to access to associated 3D services — such as ‘find a local 3D printer’ or ‘look for a designer’ — as a differentiator.
MXD’s business model is three-fold: a freemium model for using its tools that scales from free to very high end pricing, based on features and services; a 3D services revenue stream where MXD takes a cut on each model printed on the services used by its users; and an API embed for enterprises.
This will offer MXD’s tools to enterprises and businesses as an embed, allowing them to offer their customers the ability to personalise and print products directly from their own website.
All that’s to come though, with the startup just kicking off its private beta today. The startup tells TechCrunch its product will exit beta by early summer — so it will be hoping to be able to start scaling its 3D marketplace in the next couple of months.