Model of a Steam Engine

Alibre Design” is a program for designing three-dimensional objects. It recently won the “Editor’s Choice” Award at the 2010 MAKE magazine “Maker Faire.” The Personal Edition of the software costs $99, and it’s billed as the first inexpensive 3D design program. By way of comparison, high-end 3D design programs cost several thousand dollars.

You can send the designs out to a machine shop to be made or use the services of a liquid plastic modeling tank. These use intersecting lasers to harden points in a bath of liquid plastic and thus form full three dimensional shapes. The objects can be quite complex. In fact, objects can be made in this way that cannot be made in any other way. Tutorials at make it clear that it helps to have some experience with computer-assisted design (CAD) programs.

There is no trial version of the $99 program, but you can download a free trial of the $500 “pro” software. The two are similar but the pro version lets you create a 3-D rendering of your model.  Both versions have small scale zooming. You can focus down to a level that’s practically microscopic. If you click “customer success” at the web site and then click the “gallery” button, you can see some examples of the kind of toys, computer cases and machine parts people are making. A new website,, is a sort of Facebook for inventors and the people who might want to hire them.

One Response to “MAKE A COMPLEX MODEL”

  1. As a lifetime inventor and product developer as well as a successful businessman, I appreciate easy to use technology that comes at an affordable price. Many times inventors are cash strapped and cannot afford the expensive programs oout there- this looks like it fills a need.
    I will check it out…