By Andy Leer
So you’ve purchased your first 3D printer. Now what? Many folks head straight to sites like thingiverse.com or printables.com and start downloading pre-designed files. This is a great way to get started and really get to know what your printer is capable of while learning the ins and outs of the machine itself. But you probably didn't pick up a 3D printer just to print other people's creations. You want to create your own items. Maybe to fix something around the house, maybe to create useful objects for your desk, or maybe even to make neat products to sell on your Etsy store. But, it can be daunting. If you’re not sure where to get started creating your own prints, we’ve got some great recommendations for you.
Don’t be fooled by its kid-friendly appearance. Once you get the hang of Tinkercad, you’ll find you’re able to create usable, useful, and cool items quickly. Tinkercad takes the approach of modifying solid 3D shapes such as spheres, cubes, cones, and more. One of the best features is how easily Tinkercad can work with text, allowing you to quickly customize a model with whatever you like. Tinkercad has easy export to .stl, which is the file type needed for slicing models to send to your 3D printer. It also allows for the import of .svg files which can come in handy when trying to create more complex shapes. Best of all Tinkercad is free and web-based so you can access it almost anywhere.
Fusion 360 has become one of the most well-known and powerful tools for creating 3D models. Like Tinkercad, Fusion 360 is also an AutoDesk product. However, Fusion 360 is aimed at professionals. Unlike Tinkercad, the Fusion 360 workflow generally starts with the user sketching in 2D and then extruding to 3D shapes. The functions in Fusion 360 are what you would expect from a higher-end 3D CAD/CAM package. You have access to features such as 3D simulation and integrated CAD/CAM, meaning you can prepare parts for CNC as well as 3D printing, and more common features such as fillets, radiuses, and the ability to create interactive assemblies.
The final recommendation is a nice in-between, keeping the cost lower than Fusion 360 while offering more features than Tinkercad. One of the biggest draws for Shapr3D is that it can run natively on an iPad and works extremely well with the Apple Pencil. The visualization feature of Shapr3D allows you to get renderings of your design that you can export for presentation. Shapr3D runs about half the cost of Fusion 360 and there are versions that can be run on Mac/PC and iOS. Saving files to .stl is easy as well. And, as an added bonus, their site includes many tutorials that are directed at different trades such as jewelry makers, woodworking, engineering, and architecture.
If you're looking for more information about 3D printers, be sure to stop by your local Micro Center to talk to our knowledgeable associates - they'll be happy to recommend 3D printers and talk all about the programs they use to model, slice, and print!
Great tips here, thanks for sharing!
Guess it's time to finally stop relying on Thingiverse and other people for models and make my own, huh?
I use Shapr3D on my iPad for quick mock ups and it works great with my apple pencil.
I love the point brought up about the "kid-like" appearance of TinkerCad but also to not be fooled by it. I think it's actually nice that the interface is user friendly!
I couldn't agree more.
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