Autodesk has unleashed a new design app for children (and, let's be honest, adults too).

The makers of AutoCAD and the Spark 3D printing platform basically want to make it easier for people to design their own 3D-printed stuff, so it's released Tinkerplay. The new app lets you create anything, such as a toy or figurine, from scratch. If you don't want to design straight from your imagination, you can use character templates to customise things like a robot or ninja.

When using a template, simply drag the parts together and snap them into place on screen. Tinkerplay, which is now available to download for Android, iOS, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone, is based on Modio, an app that Audodesk bought in 2014. It features full multi-touch support, and your final designs can even be made into your own STL or .thing file, so that you can turn it into an actual 3D-printed item.

Tinkerplay is unique because it's part of a growing trend, in which some tech companies want to make 3D printing not only user-friendly but also more accessible. This app caters to one aspect of that vision by allowing you to freely design items or parts for 3D printing. Even if you don't have access to a 3D printer, there are online services, including Shapeways, which let people order 3D prints of their own designs.

From what we can see in published screenshots, Tinkerplay's interface looks simple. You just select the parts you want, then add them to your project, and the design immediately appears on the screen before you. The app also lets you move your design to different backgrounds, like the desert or space, and you can even rotate it to see what it looks like from all angles.

Autodesk Tinkerplay is a free app.

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