Best resources for learning CAD wrt 3D printing
February 28, 2015 8:29 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to take a stab at learning how to make a 3-D printed item from the ground up.

I know nothing of CAD or how to relate that to files for a 3-D printer, etc. I'm very computer literate, if that helps- I just have never delved into this particular area at all. The items I want to make are small and relatively detailed: think on the level of an HO scale model train or finely-detailed architectural building.

I have 2-D drawings of the items I want to make and a basic knowledge of how they can be divided into parts if need be- I just don't know where to start or what to ask.

Hive mind, be my guide and lead me to understanding!
posted by pjern to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Autodesk Fusion 360 has a free license and good video tutorials.
posted by Sophont at 10:07 PM on February 28, 2015

I teach my Middle School students how to use Sketchup, and we then print their results on our schools 3D printers. Sketchup is fairly easy to pick up and tutorials are all over the place. Depending on detail level it should work fairly easily for you. To get file formats you can use on a 3D printer you'll need some plugins (which one depends on your printer) but there is a built in extension warehouse in Sketchup (as well as a full model library) where I have always found what i needed.
posted by dstopps at 5:55 AM on March 1, 2015

Shapeways has some good tutorials and supports lots of different programs (both free and non-free). They also have tools that will analyze your designs and tell you if they'll have problems being printed, and tools that'll help you reduce costs by removing material from interiors of your model. You can learn a lot without incurring any costs.
posted by at at 7:21 AM on March 1, 2015

123d is also good.
posted by KernalM at 9:06 AM on March 1, 2015

I'd suggest Tinkercad for easy browser based 3D design.

It's free, simple, and intuitive. I compare it to building a house in The Sims. You make shapes, adjust their size, can easily make holes or add shapes together, and there are a ton of useful pre-loaded shapes (e.g. country outlines, letters, numbers). It can be precise with measurements, but without seeing your designs it's hard to say if it would be robust enough.

There are also a fair number of tutorials it'll run you through upon sign up.

If Tinkercad isn't full featured enough, though I'd still recommend it as a tool to get your feet wet, I'd second the recommendation of Sketchup. It's certainly got a more architectural bent, which may suit your purposes.
posted by sazerac at 9:39 AM on March 1, 2015

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