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Introduction to 3D Modeling & Design: Working in 3 Dimensions

A guide to using Tinkercad.

Introduction

This guide will introduce you to some of the basics of 3D design and working in 3D space. It will then walk you through a tutorial on designing simple objects in Tinkercad, a browser based 3D modeling program.

Digital vs Physical

Remember when designing that you can make anything on a digital canvas, but not every design can be translated to a 3D printable object.

A few rules of thumb to keep in mind when designing are:

  • The more detailed a model the longer it will take to print, and not all fine detail can be captured.
  • Models with complex geometry may not be printable. 3D prints are built by creating layers of plastic, one on top of the other. Material cannot be printed in thin air, so models with lots of steep angles, arches, and other 'unsupported' features, may be very difficult to print.
  • Prints require a certain amount of thickness and rigidity to hold their shape. Very thin or delicate parts may not be printable

Dimensions in 3D Space

All 3D models will have three measurements to them: height, width, and depth. These correspond to the Z, X, and Y axes.

These axes indicate both the measurement of the model and the direction in which it may move in 3D space. For example a model can be 15mm wide, and also move 15mm along the X axis.

You will need to keep all of these dimensions in mind when editing, especially if you want your object to remain proportional. Resizing one dimension without resizing the others, will result in a model that is skewed and deformed.

3D modeling software can use many different units of measurement, but it is suggested to work in millimeters (mm) when possible.

Images of a cat 3D model showing off the different axes on the workplane