Designs in 3D - how do you do it?

Not thinking about taking the plunge with a 3D printer as simply don’t see the need.

However, I occasioanlly want to put a design in my head down on paper/screen - for example, our tortoise enclosure. I want to design it with brumation piy included, etc and just really want a drag and drop design program. Mac, Windows or online I don’t really care. Just needs basic shapes for what I want, but be nice to view from different angles etc

Any of you 3D printer folk that clearly must be doing some CAD type work recommend something that would do the trick? I’ve tried a few of the online CAD type progs but they are way too complicated for me :slight_smile:

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It’s easy and you can design things like this

Diolch - I shall give it a go.

The design you show is way more complicated than I need, but if it does that easily then my needs will hopefully be straightforward.

That was someone else’s design, I just tweeted it :wink:

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Sketchup is pretty easy to get to grips with.

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I shall also take a look - thanks.

I recommend sketchup too, think they have a web based version.

It’s not drag and drop per se, you’ll still have to draw and “extrude” your shapes - but the interface is a bit more intuitive I feel.

I actually use fusion 360 for my modelling, but I like sketchup when I’m basically… sketching woodworking or landscaping projects.

I use Sketchup a lot for my railway modelling 3d printing needs and anything else that comes along. I’m still using the free 2017 version, before they forced it to go to a web based online version. This way I can use it anywhere with or with out a net connection.

Many of my friends swear by Tinkercad but I couldn’t get on with it myself, and as for Fusion360… my head expolded although I know of other folks who think it the best think since sliced bread!!

It’s horses for courses, whatever floats your boat, and any other similar phrases, but they all have a fairly steep learning curve.

Tinkercad is ok but as I’ve found out already it is limited.

For eg - max workspace size is 1000mm which means you then have to start messing with re-sizing everything to fit. I’ve also found it is ultra easy to “accidentally change” a size and that puts everything out of whack.

So will take a look at Sketchup as well.

Tinkercad is great I took I used often. GUI is great once you use it a few times.

If you want simple OpenSCAD is also great. If you do any complex excel work or programming. E.g. Cylinder - cube to give a shape. I use often.

FreeCAD is a tool I use at times. Hard learning curve but best end results.

Hi Philipy,

Can you convert your .skp models to something useable, e.g. a .stl file?


Hi Ximi,
Yes it’s easy. There is a standard plugin in Extension Manager (In the
Windows tab ) called “STL Import Export” which, when installed, gives
you the option of " Export stl…" in the dropdown File menu. Click that
and choose ASCII , save it wherever you want and then import to your slicer.



There are basically two options;

  1. A CAD app that allows 3D drawing. These are usually quite complex for “non-experts” and have a steep learning curve. However, you can draw anything with them.

  2. Object based apps. These are a bit like Powerpoint but for 3D so can be quite familiar to the non-expert user. These can be limited compared to a full CAD app, but if you think out of the box, almost any shape can be modelled with a series of “full” and “empty” shapes and quite complex models can be described.

There are plenty of the first type out there that are free to use for beginners. If you find one that suits you and you can get the model you want descibed then great. Otherwise, stick with type 2 as they are easy to learn and you can get good results quickly.

Don’t get too hung up on sizes, as you can just as easily tell yourself a cm is a metre. It just limits your granularity on measurements.