My Quest for the Perfect 3D Modeling Software for Makers - Part 2 - Tinkercad

The goal of this quest is to find 3D modeling software that is inexpensive, user friendly, precise and inspiring. In part 1 of this series I looked at SketchUp and 123D Design. Someone suggested TinkerCad so I gave that a whirl.

Program Price Pros Cons


I can’t tell if they have a paid option or not.

Web-based: You are always using the latest version – nothing to install.
Great user experience. Looks beautiful and easy to figure things out on my own without much help.
Unlike 123D Design you can resize objects to exact dimensions without having to use a factor. See my part 1 post for details on that issue with 123D Design.
Amazing tutorial experience. They teach you the app by bringing you step-by-step through using what they call “quests”.
Shape generator JavaScript SDK. Looks like a cool community idea for sharing shapes.

Web-based: You need an internet connection to use it and I found it to be on the slow side.
Functionality is limited. I didn’t find an option to round corners, loft, combine, tweak, etc.
Can’t select edges of objects and tweak. Everything is done by combing objects that are available in their toolbox.

Overall Tinkercad is great for the beginner. I’m pretty sure their target demographic is someone just ramping up on 3D modeling who wants to learn some basic concepts. It would be great for my 4 year old, but it’s something I outgrew pretty quickly. They have some progressive ideas like the tutorial walkthroughs and shape generators (shapes that you create in JavaScript and can share).

The tutorial experience:

To find Shape Generators go to the right menu select Shape Generators and then Your Shape Generators

The twisted polygon shape generator has params defined in main.js and the pane to the right is the consumer experience. You adjust the parameters with sliders. Very cool idea! (I personally don’t have a need for it at the moment, but I can see the potential). It’s great if you know JavaScript and want to contribute shapes back to the community.

While this isn’t a software I would personally select because I need to be able to tweak a lot more than what Tinkercad provides, it still has a lot of value and was really fun to learn.