3D Printer

This page has tips, links and resources for students learning how to create 3D models.  Check back frequently as more awesome content will be added.

Getting Started

Every month or two there is a 3d printer event after school.  Watch NewsViews for announcements.

Students are welcome to plow ahead on their own and create 3d models for class projects using TinkerCAD.com.  Do the tutorials, ask Mr. James a few questions, and you will be productive in no time!  Check the tips for successful projects and common errors to check for on your models.

For help modeling a specific item for a class project, students may schedule time for 3d modeling office hours with Mr. James most days after school, excepting Wednesdays.  Just send an email to pjames@st-johnschool.org to schedule a time.

For all hands-on events including office hours, a parent or teen sibling or buddy must accompany all students below grade 5.  I’ve tried this with some younger students, and they really need a full time helper to operate the software.

Sign up for events here.  Here is the orientation content with everything a student needs to know to get started, posted here for review.

Submit a project for printing

We also have a new 3D Printer Problem Bank to match needs for custom fabrication with students ready for some challenging and truly useful work.  Our first project is to make a maximum occupancy sign for Egan hall.  A group of three St. John students are on it!

Tips, software, and other resources

TinkerCAD is the recommended starting place if you don’t know where to start.  They have good tutorials and there are a ton of TinkerCAD “how to” videos and articles on the web.  Many projects can be completed entirely in TinkerCAD.  If you don’t know where else to start, it could be all you need.  I also appreciate that TinkerCAD’s website has measures in place to comply with federal laws protecting the privacy of our students under age 13.

TinkerCAD keyboard shortcuts.  A must-have reference.  Otherwise, how will you ever remember that to move an object up in the Z axis, you hold CTRL and press the up arrow key.

A nice TinkerCAD lesson or tutorial that walks through each step of making a rocket ship.

If you are interested in 3d printing your own fashion designs for jewelry, accessories, etc., check out the KiraKira YouTube channel‘s TinkerCad project tutorials.  Sadly it looks like their fashion-focused 3d modeling IOS app and website with more free classes are defunct.

Using your Seattle Public Library card number and PIN, you can access the comprehensive and ad-free Lynda.com online course on TinkerCAD.  Get started here.

If you have a picture or drawing you want to import into TinkerCAD, make it just big bold black marker on a white piece of paper.  Crop your photo using Preview or whatever photo editor you prefer.  TinkerCAD can only import pictures in the svg file format.  Convert the picture to the svg file format at this website.  Use the Import button in TinkerCAD to import your picture.

There are dozens of other 3d modeling software sites and applications available to achieve the goal of going from your idea to a .stl file for printing.  The website All3DP has a good list of choices.

Thingiverse and My Mini Factory have many models to download and use as the basis for your project.  Thingiverse is all free.  My Mini Factory has a mix of paid and free content.  My Mini Factory includes the cool Scan the World project, a collection of 3D models scanned from famous sculptures and other objects from around the world.

See Mr. James’ profile on Thingiverse for projects he finds interesting including simple machines, math projects, and Lego EV3 Robotics projects.

If you want a more artistic experience, try Sculptris, which is an application you need to download and install, or SculptGL, which is the simpler browser-based version for model sculpting, like shaping clay with a set of virtual tools.

If you want to customize your supports or try generating tree supports, check out MeshMixer.  MeshMixer is also good for doing mashups or remixes of other projects.  TinkerCAD can get bogged down and slow when you import complex objects.  MeshMixer can be much faster, but it has a little bit of a learning curve.  Mr. James uses this and can show you the basics.

Make Human is free software to create 3D models of people, similar to how you might design your avatar in a video game console.  If you can design an Xbox avatar, you can make a model of a human in Make Human.

Photogrammetry is the practice of generating a 3D model from many 2D photos of an object.  Here is a good “how to” article with accompanying YouTube video from Prusa Research.  A bit of an advanced topic, but after watching that video you will have all the steps, and the outcome can be amazing.

The Museum in a Box project is an interesting application of 3d printing.  We can build one one!  They have done this for the British Museum and the Smithsonian, and it really doesn’t look that complicated to build.  If there is a teacher who wants to partner on this project, they are taking applications for a “build your own” pilot program.

I get a lot of great ideas from the All3DP website.  Here is a list they made of 3D print projects featuring Arduino microcontrollers.  One if the items on their list is the Otto open source robot that can be 3d printed.  Another open source robot with printed parts is the Vorpal Hexapod, which is programmed using Scratch.