The 3D Boat Designer In Your Pocket.

Designing boats is about to go mobile.

One of our most interesting side gigs is collaborating with the next generation of younger yacht designers. Two of our most promising Web student collaborators are Cassio Neres, a teaching assistant up at The Landings School in Southern Maine. And a naval surveyor named Matthew Knoll who has a terrific idea for a 30-foot swamp racer/chill boat he’s self-designing down in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie.  

While both are working on their designs that we will be sharing in full detail when they are ready, we got an excellent question from them last week. What did we think of a new set of new mobile apps and software that might change the process for studying and developing naval architecture.

Here are four of the most interesting. While none of these are anywhere near perfect, by all means take a look. They might change your thinking about 3D objects, dealing with complex hulls and shapes.

They might help you think through your dream boat in a new way.


Gravity Sketch is a touch-pad based 3D sketching app, currently in beta, that anybody can use.

Gravity Sketch

Billed as the “Most Intuitive Design Tool,” Gravity Sketch is not worrying about overstating its importance. But there is no denying that London-based Gravity Sketch has caught some mobile app lightning in a bottle. Essentially, an easy-to-use 3D modeling app, it works on any tablet. That means you sketch in 3D with your fingers. Not bad.

This app turns holds the promise of turning any smartphone into a 3D sketch pad. Since it is aimed squarely at the techno illiterate, Gravity Sketch allows anybody to visually explore ideas in the context of a live setting or existing 3D model. We very much found it an intriguing way to play with a new idea or have a meaningful chat with a client.

This app is still in beta. So expect bugs. It is software after all. But the future of mobile-oriented design apps might just start here.


AutoDesk Remake is powerful still image manipulation tool with a free license for amateurs and tinkerers.

AutoDesk Remake

You can’t remember exactly which gritty nihilistic Sci-Fi flick you saw it in. The handsome main dude who scanned complex objects with just a few clicks and instantly turned them into life-like 3D objects. We can’t remember that movie either. But that takes nothing away from the big idea behind AutoDesk’s Remake photo-to-3D scanning package.

Remake helps you turn images snapped by your smartphone into a robust 3D file you can do stuff with. You do need to master a few steps: Snap the photos first, then upload back to a legit personal computer. Then fire up Remake. And the AutoDesk app does the rest. The company offers a free-to-amateurs license. And we found the tool reasonable to use.

Remake is not perfect. But certainly crushes the apps we tested that attempted the same picture-to-3D trick in the phones.  You still need a PC to pull that one off.


3D Slash opens basic 3D modeling with simple shapes to any Google Docs user. It’s pre-installed in Google’s word processing software.

3D Slash

If you are stuck in “WTF mode” about 3D modeling, 3D Slash is for you. Based on dead simple assembly blocks, 3D Slash cuts out any of the complexity around generating simple virtual forms and shapes. The results tend to look more like Minecraft than an elegant Fife-designed yacht. But we liked this tool for figuring out the basics of form and function for a given volume. And it is surprisingly handy for getting a feeling for what is going inside a given shape.  

3D Slash is so simple and powerful that Google just dropped the app into its Google Drive offering. Meaning this thing can be used by any team to get any model into shape. Fire up a free Google account, you have the perfect way to demo 3D modeling.

It’s an important step for our industry that what we do can happen inside a spreadsheet or word doc.


Smoothie 3D


More of a passionate home built project than a professional software app, Smoothie 3D makes up for low style points in its way-slick functionality and fun factor. Basically, it is a live image manipulation tool that can help you make 3D models from absolutely anything, for absolutely nothing. The prospect is sort of mind boggling, actually.

We found this tool a relatively painless way to take a flat image, and model it in multiple dimensions. In many ways, it is almost too powerful for a no-cost app. By all means, donate to the creator of this free tool, Trun Cao, who we believe developed it.

What was starting about this app was how it straddled the worlds of professional designer and amateur tinkerer. Boat nerds doing complex design will use this app. So will Twitter meme geeks. Either way, this is an app worth trying. Slick stuff in a surprisingly low-tech package.