Tinkercad screenshot of its own name. Source: Corey Strange/Tinkercad.com
Tinkercad screenshot of its own name. Source: Corey Strange/Tinkercad.com

Tinkercad is a free, web-based 3D modeling application owned and operated by Trimble.

Created in 2011 as the first browser-based 3D modeler, Tinkercad’s specialty is introducing people to modeling software in a fun and practical way. In 2013, Tinkercad was acquired by Autodesk who added it to their line of consumer-based software.

How it works

Tinkercad’s operations are handled by a Gen6 conglomerate of computers who work together to render models quickly. The work station is comprised of very simple yet flexible set of tools. Geometries can be grouped together in masses and voids to create very complex shapes; simply drag-and-drop your chosen shape then stretch and pull it into place and shape. The intuitive operating system enables users to begin creating immediately. Tutorials are designed to be fun, encouraging and helpful. Because it is so easy to learn and use and has a high resolution, it is great for all levels of modeling knowledge, from beginner to advanced.

Exporting

A great feature of Tinkercad is its ability to export in many useful file types. Below is a list with explanation of each abbreviated extension.

STL: Standard format read by 3D printers. Abbreviation for “Stereolithography”, the first type of 3D printing invented. Use this file type to send a model to your 3D printer.

OBJ: Used by several programs on the Windows platform to read 3D models or similar tasks.

X3D (for colors): Supports rendering of 3D graphics, mostly in open source software tools.

XRML (for colors): Used for writing software licenses across many different platforms such as Adobe, Microsoft, Xerox, Hewlett-Packard and others.

SVG: “Scalable Vector Graphics” format describes images in mathematical equations. They are written and stored as text files which means the images can be indexed, searched, compressed and scripted. Most internet browsers today have an SVG component and can search for related images.

Sharing

In addition to exporting in various formats, one can also share one’s designs via Thingiverse, the free 3D model hosting service. It’s like Facebook with digital models. One can also pull any model from Thingiverse into Tinkercad to edit, tinker and repost. Since all information is automatically stored in the cloud, Tinkercad is accessible anywhere you have the internet on a PC. Note: Smart phones can be used to browse designs but not to model.