3D Modeling and Design for 3D Printing: Tinkercad, Sketchup and 123D

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3D printing is a revolution in manufacturing, substituting personal fabrication for mass production. And for this revolution to be fulfilled, there needs to be supporting software (priced at the appropriate FREE) that enables mainstream adoption.

There are 3 contenders in the race for 3D modeling software juggernaut: Google Sketchup, Tinkercad, and Autodesk 123D. Of course there are traditional professional software packages that cost thousands of dollars, such as 3ds Max ($3495 MSRP also by Autodesk), but how will 3D printing go mainstream if the software is not cheaply available?

Popular Mechanics recently published a feature on the change in 3D modeling software to adapt to the emerging 3D printing revolution:

Thanks to an influx of easy-to-use software, 3D modeling isn’t just for engineers toiling endlessly on CAD programs anymore. New tools built with ordinary people in mind make it possible to design whatever parts or prototypes you can imagine, and bring them to life with the power of 3D printing.

Read more: How to Get Started 3D Modeling and Printing – Popular Mechanics

We agree. Empower the common designer with free software!


3D Printing image used under Creative Commons from Dylan.

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8 Responses to 3D Modeling and Design for 3D Printing: Tinkercad, Sketchup and 123D

  1. Ok, for this revolution to really be fulfilled it has to include everybody who wants to access 3D printing. You fail though to acknowledge that part of this mainstream who also want to access 3D printing are non-CAD users who are ARTISTIC rather than techie or engineering types. Problem 1: the three packages mentioned, Sketchup, TinkerCAD and 123D are all engineering biased and constrained to geometric constructions and protocols and do not particularly support artistic work and more sculptural forms. The article you quote from: How to Get Started 3D Modeling and Printing – Popular Mechanics mentions the ‘overabundance of options’ and the ‘pro-level modeling and rendering suites, finicky engineering tools, and simplified-to-the-point-of-uselessness art apps’. And these are the issues for people in the arts and applied arts so problem 2: there are very few pro-level applications for the way they work (engineering type packages are too prescriptive) and, problem 3, those there are have very steep learning curves and are expensive.
    There is supporting software for this group that does already enable full mainstream adoption. Have a look at Anarkik3D’s Cloud9 3D modelling set up (www.anarkik3d.co.uk). Although it is not free ($800 approx) it comes bundled with a 3D haptic (virtual touch) device to make working (and learning) easy and fluid especially for organic forms. You can use your creative talents from the start, learn and gain skills as you model, and the objects created can be 3D printed. It is probably as easy to use, perhaps easier, than TinkerCAD, Sketchup and 123D and therefore more inclusive.

    Anarkik3D currently have a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo (www.indiegogo.com/anarkik3d) to raise the capital to develop it to next stage. It is already being used by both professional artists and designer makers in their work as well as school children.

  2. on3dprinting says:

    @Ann Marie – great points. Thanks for mentioning Anarkik3D and commenting from the perspective of a designer and artist. You are right that the 3 free software packages mentioned were all engineering oriented.

    We enjoyed watching your crowdfunding video at IndieGoGo. Your product vision is very innovative and inspiring. Please send us a message on Twitter (@on3dprinting) or Email (ideas@on3dprinting.com) if you would like to collaborate on a future blog post or feature.

    Are you considering launching a free version of your software without the 3D haptic controller?

  3. [...] Similar to TinkerCAD, Sketchup, and 123D, the Anarkik 3D Design studio can be used to create designs that can be manufactured using 3D [...]

  4. I also share the view that the 3D printing will be popularized by the software. Just like traditional printers are quite boring if you don’t have any software to draw, write or publish. The machine turns magical when you see your own creations come out of it.

    We’re in the beginning of this technological era, which makes everything so exciting. Comparing back to the traditional (paper) printing: desktop publishing software and, let’s say, painting software serve different audiences and needs. It’s interesting to see 3D software players aim different segments and creating solutions for detailed needs —as we can do abundance of things with 3D printing.

    We have the Anarkik3D haptic device at our work shop and I must say it’s very cool to play around with. It’s interesting and unique tool for creating organic and artistic shapes. (Plus it looks something out of an sci-fi movie, which is always a big bonus)

    I’m an interaction designer at Tinkercad. I believe the key to the 3D printing revolution, in addition to software, is the ability to learn 3D design. A whole new world opens up when you’re not afraid of creating 3D shapes —thanks to 3D printers.

    The abundance of under 15-years-old Tinkercad users makes me super happy. The playfulness and exploration of these kids (still years away from choosing whether to study engineering or not) show that 3D design can be a skill we all have. Not only for those highly trained. We’re seeing amazing learning curve on the complexity of 3D models in the Tinkercad community. When technical constrains are hidden and playground is all you see, creativity bubbles up.

    Like Ann, I believe these kids, with playfulness, growing 3D design skills and good tools, will make the next industrial revolution happen.

  5. [...] reviewed 123D, Sketchup and Tinkercad and later featured Anarkik3D, a crowdfunding hopeful. Although SketchUp was not necessarily the [...]

  6. [...] last week. Tinkercad allows mainstream consumers to design 3D models in their web browser for free, competing with traditional professional software costing thousands of dollars. Below are some excerpts from the [...]

  7. [...] 9. A review of 3D modeling software Tinkercad, SketchUp, and 123D. [...]

  8. 3DmodelerDy says:

    All in all talking about 3D printing I can say that this is the best innovation for now. Because it opens wider opportunities to all of us. Now 3D printing is maybe costing too much, but in the future, after about 3-4 years when this thing will be available for everyone I think people will no go to fix theirs broken things but they will create another one.

    The side that everyone can use different material to print model shows us that it is really universal thing. If we now can create real guns just from  weapons 3D model, that some time ago was 2D model.. to cookies to eat for a Christmas..or clothes for fashion shows.. 

    Also more and more people are talking about  3D printing use for medicine. I think this is extremely important to our lives.. to change them or make easier. I think that in the near future we will know how to print real heart with all of  its functions and use it for people as an implant. or are there printed it yet ? Hope this innovation goes far..

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