Getting Started with 3D Printing – Lets make something

OK, it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post. I’ve decided to do an instructional post to break things up a little. One of the projects I had my physics students work on last year was an engineering/design problem. I simply asked them to create an accessory for their cell phones. This idea was not original to me, but I honestly can’t remember where I got it from.


In order to actually make their own accessories my students needed some sort of program to create a 3D model. Our school doesn’t currently have drafting or CAD classes, so I was left with only a few options. We have no CAD software and even if we did, my students wouldn’t know how to use it.


I settled on cloud based solution, Tinkercad, for my students. Tinkercad is very simple, which also means it lacks many functions you’d expect in a traditional CAD program. It is also run in the cloud so it can be slow at times, but on the plus side if your computers have Chrome there is also nothing to install. This can be a huge plus in an educational environment. I use Tinkercad at least in part for almost all my 3D printing projects.


The basic idea behind Tinkercad involves building models by joining together simple shapes. Shapes can either be solids or holes. It seems like this would be a difficult way to create anything, but as it turns out you can create some very useful models with this very simple idea.

I originally found this phone stand on Thingiverse. I like it because it holds the phone up a little higher than most of the ones I’ve seen. I’ll show you how easy Tinkercad is to work with by recreating it. We’ll talk about the phone case in a future post.

If you have students create accounts for Tinkercad please steer them away from using their Facebook or Twitter accounts. In the past I’ve had a few students create accounts at home using their Facebook credentials. We block Facebook, so they were unable to access their accounts at school.



Go Back to earlier parts in the series: Part 1, Part 2, or go on to Part 4