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    Learn to Speak Tinkercad

    What is a primitive? What in the world does CAD mean?

    If you're new to 3D modeling, you may find yourself lost in all the new vocabulary you encounter. Never fear, we're here to help you find your way!

    Below is a glossary of terms commonly used in Tinkercad. If you ever find a word you're unsure about, check below for clarification. 


    3D Modeling Language Glossary

    Align: to place or arrange (things) in a straight line. To use the Align tool, select at least two objects by Shift left-clicking on them or by dragging a box around them. Once selected, click on the Align icon at the top. Simply move your mouse over a node (the black dots) to preview the move.

    Angle: to measure the amount of turn an object is rotating, for example: 45 degrees or 90 degrees (also called a "right angle.")

    CAD: Computer-Aided Design is the use of computer systems to aid in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design. CAD software is used to increase the productivity of the designer and to assist in the fabrication process. Using CAD is often faster than drafting by hand, and it also allows you to easily export files, such as for 3D printing.

    Diameter: a straight line going through the center of a circle. This is essentially the total width of a circle.

    Dimensions: a measurable extent of some kind, such as length, width, or height. In its simplest form: a line describes one dimension, a plane describes two dimensions, and a cube describes three dimensions.

    Duplicating objects in TinkercadUsing the "Duplicate" function in Tinkercad

    Duplicate: to make or be an exact copy of. To duplicate an object, use Ctrl + D and then drag it out or use the arrow keys.

    Export: to convert a file into another format than the one it is currently in. For example, you must export your design in order to print it. Tinkercad also allows you to "share" your design in the form of a PNG image file.

    Fabricate: to construct or manufacture. To "make" your design. You can export almost any 3D model as a file which can be 3D printed, printed to paper (as a flat outline), or laser cut.

    Flip: a tool that allows you to create the mirror image of an object or to flip it along the x, y, or z axis. Use the Flip icon after you have selected the object. Use Flip and Duplicate together to create complex designs more efficiently.

    Gallery: a collection of creations that are all displayed together. Creations in the Tinkercad gallery typically can be copied and tinkered on the workplane. 

    Group: to combine two or more shapes into a signle part. Do this by selecting them and then choosing the Group icon at the top. You can also group a regular shape and a "hole" object to subtract the hole from the shape.

    FX47PM4JD4UKRC1.LARGESee the handles around the edges of the skull?

    Handle: the little squares that appear on the shape when you select it that allow you to resize it by pulling and pushing them.

    Hole: a tool used to subtract from a solid shape when grouped together.

    Import: to bring a file from a different program into the one you're using. In Tinkercad, you can import STL files in order to analyze and build upon the 3D designs of others, or SVG files in order to add 2D images like logos and patterns to your designs.

    Millimeter: a millimeter is 1/32 or 0.039 of an inch. This is the default unit of measurement in Tinkercad. You can change this to inches by selecting the "edit grid" button on the bottom right.

    Pan: to move the virtual "camera" up, down, left or right in relation to the part you are viewing. Use the right mouse button to do this.

    Part: one or more shapes that have been grouped together.

    Perpendicular: when two object are at an angle of 90 degrees to one another.

    Plane: a flat surface with no thickness. The default plane in tinkercad is the blue Workplane. 

    Primitive shapes in Tinkercad: cube tube torus cylinder sphere coneThe basic "Primitive" types used in the Tinkercad editor

    Primitive (or shape): a starting point or building block for 3D design. These shapes can be added, subtracted, and combined with one another to build just about anything. They include: Cube (Box), Cylinder, Tube, Sphere, Torus, and Cone.

    Rotate: to move in a circle around an axis or center. When you select an object, the arrows are for rotation. You can rotate on any of the planes.

    Rotate (for workplane): to move the virtual "camera" in a circle around the workplane. You can use the rotation cube in the top left to do this by clicking on it and dragging it around.

    Ruler: you know what this is in real life! You can access this handy tool for measuring by dragging it out on the workplane. This can enhance your design by allowing you to see an object's exact location on the workplane, and also by making it easier to manually set measurements.

    Scale: to change the size of an object so that its dimensions are proportional to the original size. You can do this by holding down the Shift key while pushing and pulling the handles to resize.

    A screenshot of some of the keyboard shortcuts used in TinkercadSome of the keyboard shortcuts used in Tinkercad

    Shortcut: computer keys that help provide an easier and usually quicker method of navigating and executing commands in computer software programs. Here is a link to a list of Tinkercad shortcut keys.

    Workplane: the large, blue grid where you create your designs. You can drag out new workplanes onto the surfaces of your shapes for easier stacking and more precise measuring.

    X, Y, Z axes: an axis is an imaginary line about which an object can rotate, which also serves as a fixed reference for measuring position. In a Cartesian coordinate system, the z-axis is perpendicular to both the x-axis and y-axis and usually represents depth or the third dimension. You can lift objects up off the workplane and along the z axis by using the black arrow pointing up from the center of the object.

    Zoom: to move a virtual "camera" to zoom in or zoom out from the workplane. Use the wheel on the mouse to do this.


    If you've enjoyed this post, check out How to Teach the Language of 3D Modeling and Design on Instructables for a deeper dive into 3D modeling terminology.


    Keep an eye on the Tinkercad blog and our social media channels (Twitter, Facebook) for more step-by-step guides, design challenges and other inspiration.

    In the meantime, please see our recent posts titled Hello Tinkercad Friends! Let’s #TinkerTogether and Parents Guide to Starting Kids in Tinkercad. They provide more information on some of Tinkercad’s useful features for parents, teachers, and students.