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3D Printing

A guide for PPLD's 3D printers

Learn Onshape


Onshape is the first and only full-cloud 3D CAD system that lets everyone on a design team work together using any web browser, phone, or tablet.  Using full-cloud CAD, engineers, designers and manufacturers get secure and simultaneous access to a single master version of their designs without the hassles of software licenses or copying files.



Why Onshape?

Onshape is a  free, professional, and fully-functional CAD software that runs in your browser, meaning your designs are always saved in the cloud, and you can use it anywhere without an installation.  

However, for the free user, there are a few restrictions.  Free accounts cannot keep their designs private, and signing up for a free account requires a phone number and an organization name.  These privacy issues may keep people from using it as their primary modeling software unless they are willing to pay $100/month to upgrade to the Professional level.

Even with these restrictions, it is still a good tool because the developers of Onshape have created a simple, seamless, integrated learning experience for serious 3D modeling.  

Some people call Tinkercad more of a "toy" than a "tool", but if you haven't had 3D modeling experience, Fusion 360 can be intimidating for first-time users.  Onshape lands in that "Just Right!" range, simple enough for casual users, but with all the features you need to become a professional if you choose to.  Their integrated tutorials mean that you don't have to hunt for demos on YouTube or browse complicated manuals. 

Even if you don't like your documents being public, it may be worth giving Onshape a try just for the learning process.

1) Access Onshape and set up your account

Onshape is browser-based, so no matter what device you're on, you can get started by going to and registering for your free account.  Although you can use your smartphone or tablet, we recommend using a computer with a full keyboard and mouse when learning to 3D model.  

2) Learn the Basics


The best part about Onshape is that all instructional material required to learn the basics is built right into the software.  You'll be presented with the option to go through the tutorials as soon as you set up your account.  When you want to access them again, you can always find Tutorials and Samples on the left-hand sidebar of your documents browser (see image to the left).






You may also find it useful to refer to the text version of Onshape's manual (especially if you prefer to learn by reading, rather than watching a video).  You can find up-to-date documentation on all of Onshape's features through the Help link at the top right corner of the workspace once you've created your account and logged in.  



Here are some resources you might find useful in addition to the built-in tutorial:

Intro to CAD Video SeriesThis series of videos guides you through the 3D modeling process from start to finish, and demonstrates the various tools available.  There are also quizzes and case studies for a more rigorous and guided learning experience.

Onshape Video Library - Featuring demonstrations of modeling workflows, useful tips, and past webinars, this repository is a wealth of knowledge that you'll find useful whether you're a beginner or an expert.

Cadsessions Beginner Tutorial - If you want to hit the ground running with a faster, leaner introduction to modeling in Onshape, try this YouTube tutorial series by Cadsessions.  Here, the goal is not to introduce you to every feature in Onshape, but simply to get you up and running with the basics as quickly as possible.

3) Mimic a Design

To get a better idea of the modeling capabilities of Onshape, it's often helpful to see what people have made, as well as the thought process that goes into how they made it, and what tools they used.  

Here are a few example modeling exercises that you can follow along with:

4) Replicate a physical object

Once you've become familiar with all the functions of the software, the next step in your 3D modeling journey is to plan out more complicated designs without help from a tutorial.  The best way to do this is to look for objects around your work or home space that look like something you could 3D model.

Onshape is capable of modeling functional mechanical objects.  Try modeling a hand tool like a screwdriver; office supplies like a tape dispenser or paper clip; a phone case; board game pieces; or a mounting bracket for a digital camera.

Take some measurements of the object and draft it out on paper if you think that might help.  Then see how far you can get trying to replicate it.  Remember, this is just practice, so it may take some patience, and it doesn't have to be perfect.  If the object doesn't work out, try something easier and come back to it when you've gotten some experience with simpler objects.  

5) Create an original design

Look for a problem you want to solve, an idea you want to express, or an item that needs to be fixed with a replacement part.  

Map it out in your mind or draft it on some graph paper if you need to visualize it first.

Try out a few designs in Onshape, print them out, and see if they work or if you need to go back to the drawing board.  Don't be afraid to make mistakes! Iteration and improvement are important parts of the design process.