3D printing is known for producing unique and custom items. I have found that 3D printing can also be used to replace esoteric and out of production items.
My father brought home a case with two cable tension gauges in it. The custom foam that held them in place had long ago wore away, and he wanted a holder that was more durable than foam. I was tasked with producing a holder that would last. I also wanted to test the new Beta version of TinkerCAD by AutoDesk.
We decided that NinjaTech SemiFlex would be the best material for this. SemiFlex would pad the gauges and retain their shape in the case. In looking at the application, Kanesis Hemp Bio Plastic PLA would work as a good packing material as well.
When I get design jobs, the first thing I do is lay the object out on paper and just sketch out what I want.
This helps plan out your commands in CAD, and gives you an idea of what geometries and shortcuts you can take.
For this gauge I plan to start with a block 100 mm wide x 220 mm long x 40 mm tall, and use TinkerCAD Beta to draw the whole project.
TinkerCAD Beta condensed some of the controls from the old version, which makes finding the basic shapes you need cleaner in the UI. The tools used are still the same with align, group and un group commands used to play with the geometry.
Creating the tool holder in TinkerCAD was easier than the earlier version, given that I was not worried about the exact geometry.
Building the holder required a few steps, which is typical of all CAD programs. The hardest part was building a positive form of the tool in the work space, which I would need in order to produce the negative space in the holder itself.
It is tricky in TinkerCAD to get asymmetric shapes to align the way you want, which is an issues with the original and Beta version.
Beta has moved many of the controls from the menu in the old version over to a few buttons, and beta is missing the export to 3D printing services that the legacy version has.
TinkerCAD beta does have a cleaner interface and controls from the current version, and with more practice can be as intuitive as the old version. I did find that some of the shapes were more hidden in the menu as a result of streamline the UI. I don’t know if the lack of ability to share to printing services is left out on purpose or not.
Most disappointing was the lack of a camera zoom command in Beta. The old version had a zoom command that let you zoom in on fine details, which you need. Beta needs to return that feature immediately to improve user experience.
Building 3D in TinkerCAD is great for quick prototyping and for applications where accuracy is not a huge concern. I’ve used it multiple time to edit and repair other files and this was a fun exercise to get it to fit a custom object.
Over all the Beta version of TinkerCAD has a streamlined UI that is more appealing, but AutoDesk sacrificed some functionality in doing so. The lack of camera zoom and exporting to a 3D printing service are the two most glaring issues with Beta.
UPDATE: 12/19/16: I was using Firefox to run TinkerCAD, but I found out from other users that the Zoom camera function does work sporadically in Chrome. When I have shown this to students on Chrome books, the zoom is jerky at times.