Big Tinkercad update: now import 2D and 3D models

tinkercad import

TinkerCad is one of the coolest 3D modeling programs on the web and it just got way, way cooler. They’ve added the ability to import both 2D SVG and 3D STL files. This is great news indeed for the first browser-based 3D design platform for the masses. Although it’s free, it’s very powerful. Yet, even with such power it remains easy to use and easy to learn.

Here are some technical notes I found in a Google Groups discussion this morning, penned by none other than Kai Backman, CEO and cofounder of Helsinki, Finland-based Tinkercad:

  • We can import any STL file independent of how broken the geometry is. All files will be turned into proper solid shapes in Tinkercad. For really broken files the solid might not be exactly what you think you had but we try to do a good job of approximation.
  • There is currently a limit of 25k triangles on the input mesh. As the feature bakes over the next few days we hope to increase that limit significantly.
  • Given the above you can now use Tinkercad as a really robust mesh repairer. We always output watertight and non-intersecting meshes with a high quality of topology and triangle size. If you have a bad STL file, just import it and export a new repaired STL file.

The final destination for many of the 3D models in Tinkercad are the upload-and-print 3D printing services. What have they had to say about this? i.Materialize weighed in with, “With the release of the import feature, we can’t wait to see all the crazy mash-ups and modifications people will come up with.” And Shapeways said: “This will make it SUPER easy to customize an existing 3D model to 3D Print at Shapeways, whether it be your own file you have created in another software, or a downloadable file from Shapeways, or other 3D model repositories like Thingiverse and GrabCad. You can also grab multiples STL files and mash them together, add text, geometry, anything…. AWESOME.”

And what does an imported 3D model look like in Tinkercad? Here’s one such model:

For anyone with no experience who wants to start learning about 3D modeling, Tinkercad is a perfect place to start. They’ve set it up so users are guided through the 3D design process through “lessons,” which teach the basics before moving on to more complex modeling techniques.