Tag Archives: CAD

Making 3D Printing Accessible: Interview with Tinkercad Founder

Tinker Towne

Kai Backman, co-founder and CEO of Helsinki-based Tinkercad, was interviewed by Wired magazine 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 interview.

What inspired you to create Tinkercad?

Tinkercad was born from a very personal frustration. In 2009, I started researching the new emerging 3-D printing technology and eventually bought my first printer by the end of the year. The device was assembled with great fanfare and my children eagerly looked forward to printed toys while my wife expected jewelry or at least some useful household items. Much to their disappointment it turned out that actually designing anything for printing was extremely hard with the software available. I would spend the evening learning one CAD system after another, only to get very little traction and forgetting most of what I learned before the next session.

In mid-2010 it had become clear the problem was more and more acute for a lot of people, so I quit my job at Google, Mikko my co-founder quit his job, and we started the company. We are still on the same road, our vision is to make 3-D design in general, and the design of physical items in particular, accessible to hundreds of millions of people.

On the Tinkercad Comunity

We let users choose how they want to publish their things and a lot of them use a Creative Commons license. This means the tinkercad.com site has a rapidly growing repository of interesting 3-D designs and an equally rapidly growing base of users.

Asked what Kai’s favorite 3D design is in the community, he pointed us to an historic train station on the Harlem line called Brewster Station.

Brewster Station Tinkercad

Below is a video walkthrough of Tinkercad that showcases how it is feature rich despite the fact that it runs in a browser.


Read the full interview at Wired.

Tinker Towne photo by kafkan used under Creative Commons license.

3D Printing Vending Machine: Print on Demand at Virginia Tech [Video]

Amy Elliott Virginia Tech DREAM Vendor

3D printers, such as the MakerBot Replicator, are currently priced at over $1,700 and out of range for the typical student. Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering has devised a unique solution to giving students access to 3D printers without the associated costs.

The folks over at Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering are taking 3D printing to a whole new different level. Enter DreamVendor, a set of four MakerBot Thing-O-Matics that is enclosed in a glass. It’s not really your typical vending machine, but boy, the DreamVendor does one special thing – it turns Computer Aided Design or CAD into a physical object. The DreamVendor is the brainchild of Dr. Chris Williams, Director of Virginia Tech’s DREAMS Lab, and student Amy Elliot, who led the design. “We wanted an experience where someone could walk up and use a 3-D printer without having to worry about anything besides loading a file and selecting ‘Print,’” Williams said.

In order to use it, you’ll have to insert an SD card that has your CAD design file stored on it. Then, the Makerbot Thing-O-Matic 3D printers will fabricate your design and dispense the finished product into the bin for your taking. Although the DreamVendor 3D machine may not appeal to all, it’s perfect for tech students and designers who want to quickly fabricate their own prototypes for their projects. To learn more about DreamVendor and how to use it, you can visit Virginia Tech’s DREAMS Lab.

Watch the video below as Amy Elliott gives us a tour of the DREAM Vendor.


Via Ubergizmo.

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

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.

Will 3D Printing Disrupt the Lucrative Toy Industry?

LEGO Star Wars kits are currently selling on Amazon.com for hundreds of dollars. Even small components come with a hefty price, such as a V-wing Starfighter that measures 9″ when full assembled and costs $20.

Enter 3D printing and open-source design package LeoCAD. If kids could design their own LEGO-style building kits and print them out on their home 3D printer, why wouldn’t they? Hey, even LEGO is training kids how to design online with the LEGO Digital Designer.

With the price of toys so marked up, it’s within reason to think that kids will turn to generics or pirated designs to fill out their toy chest after parents tap out the budget at retail.

Look back at the music industry. The only way to buy music in the late 90s was to purchase the full album at retail. Then Napster and other P2P sharing software came along and allowed consumers to download individual mp3 songs, albeit pirated. When iTunes launched with individual song pricing and a more reliable service than the P2P networks, consumers flocked to the legal alternative. The retail music industry died but the digital music industry was born.

Perhaps in the next 5 years we’ll see the retail toy industry collapse and be replaced by a digital successor. The question is whether we will see a digital toy black market in the interim. In our view, that will be up to the toymakers and their willingness to disrupt their current model.

Some references are from MIT Technology Review.

3D Printing Industry in Explosive Growth – $3.1 Billion by 2016

$3.1 billion by 2016 and $5.2 billion by 2020 — those are the estimates made by Forbes for the size of the emerging 3D printing industry.

Given that the field is nearly 30 years old, it looks like 3D printing is finally ready to hit an inflection point.

Forbes cites a quote from research by industry guru Terry Wohlers:

“Low-cost 3D printers affect both the professional and consumer markets. The increased sale of these machines over the past few years has taken additive manufacturing (AM) mainstream more than any other single development. 3D printers have helped spread the technology and made it more accessible to students, researchers, do-it-yourself enthusiasts, hobbyists, inventors, and entrepreneurs.”

But hobbyists and researchers are clearly not the only sources of growth. Here are some other examples:

  • Medical: Dental practices are employing 3D printing to construct perfect-fit crowns in tooth repair procedures.
  • Mechanical engineering: CAD models can now be edited in your web browser, untethering expert designers from their desks and expensive software.
  • Global: Consumers in the US and Europe are buying 3D printed goods based on designs created by individuals in China, South Africa and India.

Will 3D printing grow from a quaint hobby to a $5 billion market in 8 years? Most certainly.

Read more in Forbes.


Broad stripes and stars image used under Creative Commons from Jason Samfield.