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3D Printing

A guide for PPLD's 3D printers

Where to Start?


Learn Tinkercad


"Tinkercad is a free, easy-to-use app for 3D design, electronics, and coding. It's used by teachers, kids, hobbyists, and designers to imagine, design, and make anything!"


Why Tinkercad?

Tinkercad is not what anyone would call a "serious" 3D modeling application.  But they don't see that as a bad thing!  What it lacks in sophisticated tools, Tinkercad makes up for with accessibility.  The software is fun, easy to set up, and available on any device with an internet connection.  Its simple, colorful interface and library of premade shapes enables you to slap together a model in just a few minutes.  If you've never used a 3D application, or you want to get started with 3D modeling right away and you're not looking to do anything too complicated, Tinkercad is an ideal place to start.

1) Access Tinkercad and set up your account

If you're a first-timer to Tinkercad, the best place to start is by going to and signing up for an account.   Although you can access Tinkercad through your smartphone or tablet, we still recommend using a computer with a full keyboard and mouse when learning to 3D model.  

2) Learn the basics

Once you've got your account set up, you can get a quick start by trying out some of the beginner tutorials below:

Learn How to Use Tinkercad: Found in the Learn section of the website, under 3D Design, these tutorials, lessons, and projects are built right into Tinkercad and will guide you through interactive exercises that cover all of its key features.

Build It Scotland: BBC Scotland's maker initiative has created an easy-to-follow series of printable tutorials that covers Tikercad's basic features.  Great if you're looking for an option available in PDF. Want the ultimate in-depth Tinkercad learning experience for beginners?  Access with your PPLD library card and search for the Learning Tinkercad course.

3) Mimic a Design

Sometimes the best way to learn is by watching others.  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 daily work or home space that look like something you could 3D Model.

Look for simple physical objects like a pencil, a paper tray, a phone stand, or pieces from a board game.  

Ask yourself a few analytical questions about how you'd go about constructing it.

  • Can I divide the body of the object into a few geometrical shapes?
  • Which parts need to be modeled first, and which parts are better left towards the end of the process?
  • Are there any parts that are too difficult for me to model right now? (For example, a water bottle might look easy, but can you model the threads that keep the lid screwed on?)

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 Tinkercad, 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.