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3D: Design and Print for FREE!

December 14, 2017

Create your own designs for a 3D printer - from home or at Studio NPL.

Tinkercad is free, online 3D drawing software that allows you to design pieces to print on a 3D printer. With a free account, you can save your work automatically “in the cloud” and come on by a Studio NPL location to print it out. It is a simple software to learn, and includes fun and easy tutorials. Check it out at home or at a Studio NPL location near you!

Easy first project; design a keychain:   

Get familiar with the tools. In the top left corner, you will see arrows, these can be used to change your view so you can work on different parts of your models. Try turning your board around, flipping it upside down, and pressing the “home” button to return to your home view.   

The home, navigation arrows, and zoom

On the right side of the screen, you’ll see a variety of tools, click on the cube, the “A”, the number “1,” and the star shape. These are some of the pre made shapes that you can use to build your design. Once you click through all of them and explore, click on the cube to begin your design.

Menu of shapes and other tools

Drag a cube onto your build plate (the blue square).  Notice the small white boxes that appear in the corners. These will help you shape and resize the box. Hold “shift” to keep your proportions and pull one white box down to flatten your shape out. A millimeter ruler will appear, try flattening the cube out to 3mm high.    

Notice the white boxes that appear.

Drag the center white box down.

Now pull the box out to create a rectangle – you can always resize it if it is the wrong size! Click the “A” in the tool menu. Find the letters in your name, and drag them over on top of your rectangle. The black cone that appears over the center of the letter may be used to lower or raise the letter or shape.

Layout and adjust your letters.

When you are ready to add a hole for a keychain, select the column shape and place it on the rectangle. Use the black cone tool to pull the shape down and through the rectangle (this is the only time a shape should be visible under the build plate). Click the “hole” tool to create a negative shape. (*You can also use the hole tool to punch out your letters if you prefer to have them as cut-outs)

Add a hole to the keychain.

Complete keychain hole.

Your project will be automatically saved in the Tinkercad website, which you can open at any Studio NPL site. If you’d like to download it for 3D printing select “Design” and “download for 3D Printing. You’ll select “.stl” file when you are prompted.  

Save your design.

When you are all through with your design, come to a Studio NPL location at the following libraries to get help or print a keychain for yourself (all free)! Like 3D design? Join us for one of our workshops and polish your skills!