Simplified design tools are helping makers take their ideas from 2D concepts and sketches into digital 3D models that can be readied for the production pipeline

Billy Crystal's signature Saturday Night Live character, Fernando, frequently reminded viewers that it's better to look good than to feel good – a sentiment that might work for Hollywood playboys, but is anathema to today's makers who hold form and function tight in both fists.

Crafters, tinkerers and DIYers around the world are leveraging new technology to service a fundamental human drive – to create things that both fulfill a need and delight the eye. That said, many makers today have great ideas and even the know-how to execute, but putting together a polished rendering that both inspires onlookers and facilitates industrial production may fall beyond easy reach. This places some innovators in a bind, given the rapid rise of 3D printing as the go-to method for mock-ups and prototypes.

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