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Wed, Nov 7 2012 0:03:57 UTC

Tinkercad review

Most 3D modeling applications are big software which require a lot of system resources. But last year, a company decided to see if it was possible to design a basic 3D CAD software that would run through a web browser. They succeeded, and Tinkercad was born. Tinkercad is CAD solution which allows anyone to create 3D models through an intuitive interface, without having to download anything. Here's a short review of some of the features it offers, and how good the result is.

The main purpose behind Tinkercad is to create models that will be used for 3D printing. We know that 3D printing is something that is quickly becoming very big and well known. With home printers like the Replicator 2, anyone can print any model they want in their own home, and end up with physical objects. But for those who may not be 3D modelers, or have a computer powerful enough to run CAD software, that may be a problem. Also, you may not want to buy an actual 3D printer if all you need is a single model printed out. These are the things Tinkercad solve pretty nicely.

First, Tinkercad can be used for free with the most basic plan. You will have access to the editor, and can play with all of the tools and figures. After that, the site offers various payment plans if you want to do serious work using the web app. The personal plan is $19 per month and provides additional features like lessons, 3D mesh importing and scripts. There's also team and business plans available. Once your model is done, you can either download it locally, or use various 3rd party 3D printing services to print it for you.

The editor itself is fairly powerful and very easy to use. In fact the ease of use may be its most important characteristic. Video tutorials are integrated in the interface, as well as hints. The work area looks like any other modeling software, and you can move around using your mouse buttons, as you would expected. In the toolbar, you have access to all the usual primitives like a box, sphere, cylinder, text, torus, and even holes to do boolean functions.

While all the basic functions of an editor are there, don't expect anything more advanced. In fact, that's pretty much where Tinkercad stops being useful. You can't do any kind of NURBS modeling, or sculpting, or even texturing, because the goal of the project is to create models that will be used for 3D printing. If that's your goal, or even if you just need to model a quick item really quickly and don't need to do anything more complex, then Tinkercad is a great solution. It's also a great demonstration of what can be done in a web browser, and it's not hard to imagine that someone could go beyond what's available here and add even more powerful functions.

* Easy to use interface
* Everything is done inside of a browser
* Direct support for 3D printing

* It's only a basic modeler
* Payment needed to import a 3D mesh

The company behind Tinkercad is constantly improving the app, with the last update being less than 2 weeks old, where they added a new Inspector function which gathers all the things you can tweak for each shape into one place. If 3D printing is something you're interested in, or just want to create a 3D model without leaving your browser, then you may want to check out Tinkercad.

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