Creating and Finding 3D Designs

There are many different software packages capable of creating 3D models, each suited to a certain application. These include the open source program Blender and the industry standard modeling software Autodesk MayaAutoCAD, and Fusion 360, which have free licenses available for educational use.

If you’re just getting started with 3D printing, we recommend the following resources: 

Creating 3D Models with TinkerCAD

TinkerCAD is a free web-based CAD (Computer Assisted Design) program developed by Autodesk. Its simple and intuitive software environment does a fine job of introducing the basic concepts involved with and inherent in working with a 3D design space, many of which may be unfamiliar to our patrons.

With TinkerCAD, you can easily create, adjust, and combine primitive 3D shapes (such as spheres, cubes, etc.) to create custom 3D objects. Once a project is complete, it can be shared online or exported as an .STL file to be used in 3D printing. 

Downloading Existing 3D Models from Thingiverse

There are many online repositories where users upload and share their own creative works, which are then able to be downloaded, manipulated, and/or printed for free or for a small fee.

We recommend Thingiverse for both the breadth of its collection and its focus on freely available objects. 

3D Scanning

In addition to 3D printing—which essentially creates a physical end product out of a digital file—we also offer 3D scanning tools to streamline the opposite process: creating a digital replica of an existing physical object which can be readily shared and modified. 

For small objects less than 10 x 10 x 10in, we have a Shining 3D Einscan-SP desktop turntable scanner which stitches together photographs of an object from multiple angles to form a 3D image. This easy-to-use scanner is kept in the Rose Makery. 

For larger or more sophisticated projects, we also have some Artec handheld 3D scanners. These have structured light sensors which bounce a high-powered light off of an object in a specific pattern and use the reflections to create a very detailed 3D model. These scanners require much more expertise to use effectively, and so are available by guided appointment only.