First, the app. See below for the broader explanation and further plans!
Summary: This is for designing boxes and printing out the plans for them. The white frame is an A4 page. Follow the help in the app if you’re confused. Enjoy!
I really like playing with computers and finding out what they can do. Between the power of a modern machine and the wonder of the Internet there’s a vast array of possibilities. But ultimately, if a computer’s outputs are only a monitor and some speakers, all we can do is make coloured pixels or make some sound. That’s starting to change, though. People have built machines that can take a design from the computer and ‘print’ the finished object out of materials in the real world. On top of that, there are services like Ponoko and Shapeways. They take your design, print it out and post it to you for the cost of the manufacture and shipping. If you want one of these machines for yourself , there are even free designs available for the Makerbot and the DIY lil’ CNC, so it’s possible to dabble in the field without sinking tens of thousands of dollars into equipment.
One major point that this movement fails to take into account, though, is that Time Is Not Money. Not quite. That’s why when you offer a service to the public and they ask how much it costs, you need to think about the cost in minutes as well as in dollars. While digital fabrication opens up amazing possibilities, people still need to understand quite a lot in order to do anything useful with it. That takes the kind of time that a lot of people don’t really have. Even if fabrication costs can drop into the single digits of dollars, it’ll only be ‘cheap enough to use’ when the time it takes to put together an order can be measured in minutes instead of days.
That’s why I’m building Housifier, a website and a set of tools to make the act of creating designs as easy as it can be. Toward that end it’s still an experiment – there are trade-offs between control and simplicity, striking a balance between Do As I Say and Do What I Mean. The first app will be a close relation of the box maker on this page, but it’ll allow you to make snap-together boxes like my Arduino enclosure – from there I’m hoping to get more elaborate shapes composed, though some of the math is a little difficult. It’s going to be fun!