Using Tinkercad to design a 3D printable model

One thing I get asked all the time about my 3D printers is where do I get the models that I print? I follow Thingiverse daily to see what others have created but sometimes you need something very specific. So you have to create it yourself.

One method I’ve used is 2D extrusion which how I made the page keeper gadget for a coworker.

Another method is called solid modelling. There is a relatively new website, called Tinkercad, that gives you the tools to create 3D objects right in your browser, for free. It is built on the WebGL platform so requires a modern browser (and in some cases, modern graphics cards) to run it…I used Chrome as Safari doesn’t currently support WebGL.

TinkerCAD

TinkerCAD: addUsing a number of different shapes you can add or subtract the shapes to build up your design.

You choose the height and the size of the shape using direct numeric entry or a slider.

Choosing the workplane allows you change the level or angle you’re working on.

The measure tool allows you to create a positionable ruler to assist with measurements of your design.

The top left menu item, “Print 3D”, is how you export your model. You can either export it to an *.STL file (which is compatible with other 3d software packages as well as the software I use to print with my 3d printer) or you can send it to a 3d printing service like Shapeways.com if you don’t own a 3d printer. They’ll print it for you, in a number of different material options and ship it to your door.

Here’s their quick start tutorial that should give you a better idea of how it works:

I wanted to design a mount that would allow me to attach my GoPro camera to a remote control quadcopter. I couldn’t find a design on Thingiverse so I toyed with modifying some other GoPro mounts on there for the purpose but nothing looked like it would work any better than simply duct taping the camera down.

I also didn’t want to modify the quadcopter at all so opted to use the same mount point for the battery which already has velcro to hold it in place. I did find a mount online that someone designed and printed with a 3d printer who was selling it but there wasn’t any good detail photos of it so I had to come up with my own version and used my calipers to measure everything.

TinkerCAD

It took a few iterations before I found a design that worked:
Some prototypes

The final version (I had to print two of them):
Final version

Here’s the results of this mount attached to the quadcopter with GoPro camera installed:

Turned out pretty good! Now to design one that fits underneath the quadcopter for an unencumbered view.

Another cool thing about Tinkercad is that you are given a permalink to your design that you can share. Then others can make a copy of it and make other things with it. I did this with something I found on Thingiverse, a tool holder for my 3d printer, that was a cleverly designed mount for tools that are commonly used when operating the 3d printer. I thought the same object, minus the tool parts, would be great for mounting my webcam onto the printer. The creator of the tool holder had used Tinkercad to create it so it was easy to duplicate it and then erase the unneeded bits to make this:
Camera platform

So I made a couple versions, a big and small one depending on what you wanted to attach to the platform.

So far, I’ve been really impressed with Tinkercad. I’ve found it the easiest way to get designing something, without all the usual technical stuff. It did take a little getting used to and it was a little tricky to figure out the workplane stuff, but once I spent a little time with it, it got much easier. I also now have two different designs that I have successfully printed and are working great.

There’s also a newer beta version you can try out at labs.tinkercad.com.

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