So... during this period between the announcement of the SketchUp sale from Google to Trimble to the date when the sale closes, I've had some time to look into some other design apps I've been hearing about. And yesterday I spent a while poking around with Tinkercad, which is great fun.
IMO, there are two main great things about Tinkercad - it's easy to use (and FREE!), which is great for those who find SketchUp overwhelming (such as kids in elementary school), and whatever you design can be easily sent to a 3D printer, like MakerBot. How cool is it for a kid to design a little robot and then get to actually hold it in hand? (Of course, you don't have to print anything, it's also fun just to design stuff!)
Here are a few interesting models I found on their "things" page:
Here's a 3D birthday card which was printed:
I hate to compare Tinkercad to SketchUp - they are both 3D modelers but with different focuses. But here's my comparison anyway:
- SketchUp is certainly more robust, can be scaled to any size project (tiny mechanical parts to entire building complexes), and the design features enable much more detailed modeling.
- Tinkercad provides fewer tools but they are quite easy to use: drag in some primitive shapes, make some easy changes, add decorations, holes, etc. The printing export is simple, and if you don't have access to a 3D printer, you can send your model to one of Tinkercad's partners to have your model printed and sent to you.
To get started with Tinkercad, their very fun website has Lessons - short, guided, tutorial projects that walk you through the 8 or 10 steps to create something.
I think 3D printing is the way of the future, with more and more of these machines popping up in schools, libraries, and labs. It's becoming way more fun to be a kid these days! If the 10-year old me had been able to model and design my own toys (a large number of years ago), I wonder what sorts of things would have piled up in my basement....
Anyone can design anything in 3D! http://www.3dvinci.net/