Web based 3D / CAD for kids: Tinkercad & 3DTin (Bonus: Origo, a 3D printer for 10 year olds)

Posted on Apr 29, 2012 by kjarrett 7 Comments

Bouncing around the web recently looking for tools to possibly replace Google Sketchup (which was recently SOLD), I came across two free, web-based 3D/CAD programs every school (and school kid) should know about: Tinkercad & 3DTin.

DISCLAIMER: as a Google Certified Teacher (and lover of all things Google), I truly hate to see Sketchup go. Kids love using it in our school. I spent last summer tutoring one of our 5th graders on its use (he’s absolutely an engineer in the making). Heck, I used it with my 4th graders this past week, blowing kids’ minds by showing them how it was used to help create the “Uncharted” video game series. I love getting kids excited about technology and the future … but I digress.

Tinkercad – like Tinkertoys, ‘cept digital

This powerful tool for 3D modeling is being wildly embraced by the 3D design educational community because of its ease of use and ability to interface with devices like 3D printers. Its simplicity means reduced features (you can’t import scaled vector graphics (.SVG’s) or anything for that matter) but the tradeoff is the user interface is super simple. Check out the tutorial video:

You might also like this archive clip from Make Magazine’s Live Show #17:

Let’s be honest: Tinkercad is very different from Sketchup. The latter was designed to quickly and easily create 3D buildings in Google Earth, not to be a full-featured 3D rendering program. Tinkercad seems well suited for middle and high school “maker” style labs where kids learn real Computer Aided Design skills and can apply the knowledge as they move on to professional design tools. Districts can embrace Tinkercad because it’s free and runs in a web browser (WebGL is required, so, you’ll need Chrome or Firefox, since Microsoft doesn’t support it.)

3DTin – no metal required

I am not even sure I recall how I came across 3DTin (not that it matters!) Some might say it looks like a more “serious” version of Tinkercad. Its user interface is therefore more complex, but it still remains very simple. One nice feature is the ability to import other people’s models, as shown above. This makes it easier for people like me with no design skills to see how complex items come together. Check out this quick video tutorial but be advised, the computer-generated voiceover may creep you out:

So, what do you DO with these apps?

You design stuff, sure, but you PRINT with them! There are already expensive 3D printers in many schools but for home use, check out Origo, the 3D printer “for ten year olds.” Brilliant!

But WAIT, there’s MORE!

Big software companies are moving their tools to the web with amazing speed. Check out AutoCAD WS, allowing you to open and edit AutoCAD programs on various mobile devices. Or, how about Autodesk Homestyler, the free tool for designing home spaces in 3D. Both are free.

Is this a great time to be a ten year old, or what?

Hope this helps,

-kj-

 

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