The traditional approach for designing a 3D representation of a real physical object is to use a CAD product on a desktop or laptop PC. Until recently, this was the best platform to use because of the resource requirements of the CAD product in particular, memory requirements, processing power and graphics needs.
WebGL and HTML 5 are just 2 of the components that have enabled a growing number of start-up companies to try and provide a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program in a web-browser. The front-end of the product can be built and run locally in the web browser, with the expected processing, memory usage and possibly some graphics capability provided via the “cloud”. I hope to discuss in a later article, how such a product can be architected, but in the meantime, lets take a look at Tinkercad.
Tinkercad is a web-based 3D modeler which was originally targeted towards the growing market of enthusiasts interested in using low cost 3D printers. These users are seeking something different from the traditional CAD system – something that is quick, easy to use (I’m not looking for an exciting “experience” I just want to get the job done) and most importantly not difficult to learn!
The user interface consists of 3 basic steps:
- Place a shape in your workspace. A shape can either “add” or “remove” material and you can work with pre-existing shapes or create your own.
- Shapes can be moved, rotated and adjusted to your exact requirements.
- Group together a set of shapes to build more complex shapes to create detailed models.
and there you have it. From the simple to the more complex:
The application runs in a web-browser and to get started, simply visit the website at
Register for an account and get building.
Other interesting points worth a mention are:
The writer can define parameters which are made available to the user. Parameter values are used to adjust the dimensions of the defined 3D shape.
The geometry kernel, is a major par of any CAD system and Tinkercad uses a custom in-house built kernel called Gen6. This has been designed to run in a cluster of servers (in the cloud) utilizing potentially thousands of CPU cores, that allows computations that may take minutes or hours using other geometry kernels to execute in fractions of a second. Learn more at:
Then, Tinkercad recently announced (in March) that they were closing down.
They stated their intention to concentrate on a new project called Airstone – an interactive simulation environment (powered by a supercomputer) providing real-time 3D design and physics simulations for product designers and engineers.
A couple of months later (May) Autodesk stepped in and acquired Tinkercad
Autodesk has purchased all the core technology necessary to operate Tinkercad, so its good news for users of the system.