Tag Archives: Tinkercad

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.

Top 10 Countdown: Most Popular 3D Printing Stories in May 2012

Amy Elliott Virginia Tech DREAM Vendor

Here are the top 10 most popular stories On 3D Printing brought you in May 2012.

10. 3D Systems acquired FreshFiber for 3D printed electronics accessories.

9. We wrote an editorial analyzing the space of 3D printing creators and consumers.

8. We reviewed SketchUp, Tinkercad, and 123D modeling software.

7. The fashion runway was 3D printed in Belgium.

6. The Motley Fool weighed in on public 3D printing manufacturers.

5. We featured companies exhibiting at Maker Faire Bay Area 2012.

4. Why Google sold SketchUp and what it means for 3D printing.

3. A 3D printing vending machine surfaced at Virginia Tech.

2. This New House: constructing and printing WikiHouse.

1. We featured Brad Feld as a premiere venture capitalist looking at 3D printing investments.


Thanks for reading in May!

Maker Faire Bay Area 2012: Highlights and Headlines

Maker Faire 2012 Art

Maker Faire 2012 took place in San Mateo, CA this weekend. Visited by over 120,000 people, Maker Faire featured exhibits ranging from robots to 3D printing to electric cars to art installations. Here are some of the highlights that made headlines.

TechCrunch: In Which The Maker Faire Restores Your Humble Correspondent’s Faith In Humanity

The maker movement has hit an interesting flux point; its amateurs and enthusiasts, much like the computer geeks of the 1970s and 1980s, now stand on the verge of watching their hobby erupt into big business that will reshape the way people everywhere live.

Make: Maker Faire 3D Printer Census

While walking around the Maker Faire grounds this morning I took a quick census all of the 3D printers. All told I saw 55 3D printers on the fairgrounds, 23 of which were unique designs. That’s not including the CNC machines or the stock of three dozen or so Replicator, Up! printers, and Printrbots for sale in the Maker Shed. I’m impressed!

MakerBot: Maker Faire Emergency Averted By Tinkercad And MakerBot!

Here’s the scene: a middle school boy goes to a fantastic summer day camp, Galileo Learning, in Hillsborough, CA. He builds a great go-kart as his final project. But when Galileo transports the go-kart to Maker Faire, the steering wheel is dangling by a single bolt. Missing a nut!

San Jose Mercury News: Maker Faire explodes into the ultimate DIY project

Maker Faire has exploded into the ultimate do-it-yourself project: In only six years, the once-intimate weekend gathering is now attracting massive crowds and exporting the experience around the globe, from Chicago to Cairo.

SF Gate: Maker Faire: Festival of invention and creativity returns to Bay Area

It’s mad science for the masses. A celebration of the do-it-yourself-mindset. A place where you go to play with robots, see a giant metal dragon breath fire, turn old computer parts into cool sculptures, and watch Coke react with Mentos mints, sending geysers of soda shooting the air over twenty feet high. Think Burning Man for geeks and kids with a dizzying array of DIY projects and science demonstrations.

PC World: Maker Faire 2012: A Gallery of Creations

That said, one of the big themes at this year’s event is the fusion of digital and tangible, with recurring favorite 3D printers taking center stage.

Patch: Eye-Catching Creations at the Maker Faire

Outside, an even more jaw-dropping world of larger-than-life displays were set up in a festival-like atmosphere, such as a two-stories-tall metal dragon that actually breathed fire, and all manner of decked-out homemade vehicles, animatronic figures and more.

And finally, neon robot land sharks!


Maker Faire photo by Kiet Callies used under Creative Commons license.

Why Google Sold SketchUp and What It Means for 3D Printing

Google Sketchup at Maker Faire

Google acquired upstart SketchUp in 2006, made the product free, and drove tens of millions of users. Now Google is selling the SketchUp product and staff to Trimble, a company best known for GPS technology.

On the SketchUp blog, John Bacus, Product Manager, SketchUp wrote:

In its time at Google, SketchUp has become one of the most popular 3D modeling tools in the world. With over 30 million SketchUp activations in just the last year, we’re awfully proud of our accomplishments. But there’s still so much we want to do, and we think we’ve found a way forward that will benefit everyone—our product, our team and especially our millions of users.

That’s why I’m sharing today that the SketchUp team and technology will be leaving Google to join Trimble. We’ll be better able to focus on our core communities: modelers who have been with us from the beginning, as well as future SketchUppers who have yet to discover our products.

Why Did Google Sell SketchUp?

The simple answer is focus. As founder and new CEO Larry Page wrote in his 2012 update to investors, ”Since becoming CEO again, I’ve pushed hard to increase our velocity, improve our execution, and focus on the big bets that will make a difference in the world.”

SketchUp apparently is not included in Google’s big bets.

Good Move by Trimble

Google made the investment to turn SketchUp into a popular software platform. Trimble can capitalize on that brand. Trimble announced in a press release that SketchUp would “enhance its office-to-field platform”.

Trimble will also continue to partner with Google on running and the SketchUp 3D warehouse, an online repository where users find and collaborate on 3D models. And Trimble will keep offering a free version of SketchUp.

“SketchUp and the corresponding 3D Warehouse provide an important element of our long term strategy by enhancing the integration of our field presence with the wider enterprise,” said Bryn Fosburgh, Trimble vice president.

Did Google Make a Mistake?

Google’s move is surprising to those who believe 3D printing is at an inflection point and will be a disruptive force on our global supply chain by empowering a new generation of product creators.

We reviewed Autodesk 123D, Sketchup and Tinkercad and later featured Anarkik3D, a crowdfunding hopeful. Although SketchUp was not necessarily the best design software for 3D printing, it was one of the most popular free 3D design software packages on the planet and inspired many people to get into design. Google has now lost that audience.

We have previously suggested that giants like Amazon would get into the 3D printing field. It would surprise us if Google stayed out of the industry altogether.

Perhaps SketchUp was too technical of a product for the mainstream. Should we prepare for a new 3D modeling software from Google? A web-based 123D of their own? Or perhaps a different play.

Impact on 3D Printing?

Not much today, as summarized by Fabbaloo:

Is this a big change for 3D print operators? We think not so much, because SketchUp just isn’t the best tool for modeling solid objects. It doesn’t even output the STL format used by all 3D printers unless you install a special plug in.

But the long term impact depends on whether Google re-enters the 3D printing field with a new product.


Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid, used under Creative Commons license.

Top 3D Printing Headlines from Last Week: $1.4 Billion Merger, The Economist, GWiz Fab Lab, 3D Design Software

A roundup of the top news On 3D Printing brought you from April 16 to April 22.

Monday, April 16

Tuesday, April 17

Wednesday, April 18

Thursday, April 19

Friday, April 20