Four weeks ago, I set a new learning goal for myself:
Learn how to use Tinkercad to design and print at least three different types of projects: a sign, something with moving parts, and something that has a practical application.
Over the next few weeks, I spent a lot of time on YouTube, watching videos about 3D design and Tinkercad. I created a 3D printed sign using three different colors of PLA in one print, a first for me! I also looked in some help forums to see if there is an easier way to know when to pause and switch but most people suggested getting a printer with multiple extruders.
Then I came up with the idea to create a new part for our constantly evolving marble run in the new IDEA Studio at my school. Originally, I thought my “practical” project would be something like a desk organizer but after watching this video I realized I could create something for students to use! Check out the video below to see and hear some of the trials and tribulations that were involved in that project.
Finally, I spent time working on the third part of my goal, to create a project with moving parts. This video was particularly helpful in getting me started. I was inspired to create a vehicle, which turned out to look close to a school bus, with moving wheels. The actual design process really challenged my spatial reasoning and it took a number of iterations to get my design right. Getting to practice and test things in Tinkercad that I thought should work but had never tried before (e.g., making a hole and inserting an object inside so it will move freely when printed) was really helpful in deepening my understanding of how 3D printing works. Now that I’ve made one project like this, I want to help students to learn how to do it too. I think something like this might be my next goal.
I really enjoyed learning through YouTube and I think it’s a great way to learn a new skill since it can be done anytime, anywhere and easily align with my learning needs and pace. Since I primarily work with Pre-K to 2nd grade students, I would be cautious about sending them onto YouTube to search for any topic they want to learn. I think creating playlists on YouTube with pre-screened videos about topics they’ve raised could be a great way for them to use this learning approach in a more restricted environment. As for help forums, I am a little less sold on their impact. I found 3D Hubs a bit hard to navigate and their search function not particularly narrow. 3dprintingofrum.com was more useful but I think my PLN, where I’ve built relationshps and personal connections, is often the best help forum. I think Twitter often acts like a help forum itself and if I put a question out using relevant hashtags (e.g., #makered and #3Dprinting) and maybe a few names of people doing that work, I can get great results.
This video is a summary of the three projects and my experience learning to design in Tinkercad:
The past two weeks have been filled with exciting and challenging adventures in 3D Printing as I tried to achieve my first Networked Learning Project goal: make a sign.
I started by watching some beginner Tinkercad videos and then searching YouTube for any videos about making 3D printed signs in Tinkercad. I couldn’t find anything that was an exact match but I did find videos about making keychains and nametags. After watching them, I opened up Tinkercad and started working on my own design. It was great to be able to go back and rewatch parts of a video in one tab and jump back to my work in Tinkercad in another tab. I started by grouping a cylinder and a square together and then inserting a “round roof” shape as a hole in the cylinder. This created a little handle which would make it easy to hang the sign. Next, I added another thin square as a background for my words and finally, I inserted letters for the sign text.
My Tinkercad design and then final product!
I also found a really helpful video with Tinkercad keyboard shortcuts that I’ve watched a few times already. It made it much easier to navigate and make edits on the site. I started to compile all of the videos I watched and learned from in a Tinkercad YouTube Playlist so it would be easy to go back and watch them again and find (and share!) them for future reference.
I really wanted to see if I could use multiple colors of plastic in my sign but I had never done that in one print. I could not find an easy way (I hope to follow-up about this in a help forum) to tell when the print was hitting different layers so I ended up just watching it closely and pausing the print when I thought it was finished with one part (e.g., the foundation) and then changing the filament and restarting the print. This worked beautifully the first time but the second time I tried it I ran into a known issue with the Makerbot Replicator 5th Gen – the extruder (where the plastic is heated and comes out) gets clogged and there’s no way to open the extruder and clear it. The likelihood of this seems to increase when you change filaments.
Changing the Extruder
I was able to pause the print and remove the filament when the extruder first became clogged and actually swap in a new extruder I had on hand. Unfortunately, that extruder also had problem, it was leaking filament! Even though I had not restarted the print, purple filament was slowly streaming out. Now, I was in a bind because I did not have another extruder to swap in. I decided to reach out to my local network (the other Tech Coordinators at my school) and ask if they had an extra extruder I could borrow. We’re fortunate enough to have a Makerbot in our Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School so there was a chance my project would be saved! Otherwise it could be weeks before I could finish the print. Thankfully, one of them did have a new extruder and I was able to put it in and successfully finish the print!
YouTube has been a very useful resource so far in this project. I am a visual learner and it’s helpful to be able to watch something, hear it explained, then go back and watch it again if I want, pausing to look closer at exactly how something is working. I’m excited to work on my next two goals, making something practical with the 3D printer and printing something with moving parts.