Tinkercad loves 3D Systems. Credit: Corey Strange
Tinkercad loves 3D Systems. Credit: Corey Strange

There is not a free 3D modeling program out there that I love nearly as much as I love Tinkercad. It is just plain fun to use. Period. And free! So, if you have not tried Tinkercad before, let’s try it out together- right now.

First, go towww.TinkerCad.com. You will need to sign up for a free account which only requires your name, email, password and birthday. If you have Auto Fill set up on your internet browser, you will be done in 6 seconds.

After signing in, search for "Copy of Temple of Dendur" at the top of the screen. You may also choose your own search option.The search page for “Copy of Temple of Dendur” should look something like the image below. You may also click here (https://tinkercad.com/things/74PKXnGxMtG-copy-of-temple-of-dendur) if you can't bring it up.

After clicking the model you will see a screen like this...

Notice the button below the image that reads “Download for 3D Printing”. By clicking this button, you can download this 3D model as an STL file that you can drag immediately into your Cubify software and print straightaway. It is truly only a few clicks of a mouse. 

Also notice the “Copy & Tinker” button in blue. This enables you to copy this model to your own work station and play around with it, save it, or don’t- it is up to you. Once you have made the edits you want, the 3D print button is still an option. You can also save your chosen file to your personal account, edit it all you want and even post it to Thingiverse if you want other people to have a chance to work with it and 3D print it. Easy, right?! Are we having fun or what?!

Once you have clicked the “Download for 3D Printing” button, it will ask you what file format you would like to download it in: STL, OBJ, X3D, XRML or SVG formats. For greater explanation of these files types, read the * below.

I click “STL” since that’s what Cubify reads. From the Windows Downloader task bar I can click the file, “copy_of_temple_of_dendur.stl” and it will automatically open in the Cubify application. If that does not work for you, try clicking “Import” on the upper left icon bar of the software, browse for the file in the Downloads folder, and open it from there.

Do the usual dance of resizing and centering your object then print away. I chose to print my temple at about 83% original scale with supports on and raft off, using red ABS. My Print Mode was set to “Solid”. It took 19.5 hours to print and turned out like this. 

There was a lot of structural support (as you can see in the image below) which tried my patience during post-production but I think the final result was worth the trouble.

Back to Tinkercad- I strongly recommend doing their tutorials. They’re the most fun I have had while learning in a long time. You will see what I mean when you try them.

Good luck and have fun!

*Tinkercad can save to the file extensions listed below. This is an explanation of what each one is generally used for.

STL: Standard format read by Stereolithography (3D printing) machines. Uses triangles to map an object’s surface contours. Abbreviation for “Stereolithography”.

OBJ: Used by several programs on the Windows platform to read 3D models or accomplish other tasks. Abbreviation of “Object”.

X3D (for colors): Extension that supports multi-stage and multi-texture rendering in 3D computer graphics, mostly in open source software tools. Has been used in virtual reality applications.

XRML (for colors): Stands for “Extensible Rights Markup Language”. Used for writing software licenses across many different platforms such as Adobe, Microsoft, Xerox, Hewlett-Packard and others.

SVG: “Scalable Vector Graphics” format describes images in mathematical equations. They are written and stored as text files which means the images can be indexed, searched, compressed and scripted. As a text file, any SVG image can be edited by a standard word processor. Most internet browsers today have an SVG component and can search for related images using that information.