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    Rob's Tinkercad Classroom: On the cutting edge

    Rob Morrill
    Published on - August 5, 2021 by Rob Morrill


    We usually associate Tinkercad with 3D printing, but how about making T-shirts, stickers, cards, and more!

    all stuff cards shirts

    What can you cut with Tinkercad designs? I think you mean, what can't you cut!

    • Students will enjoy applying creativity to make an item they can use every day.
    • Teachers get to provide rich opportunities for design in projects that can be fabricated relatively quickly.

    A project with a cutting plotter (Cricut, Silhouette, etc) can take many different forms. Which works best for you will depend on the equipment you have access to, your goals, how much time you have, and how much instruction students need in using the standard Tinkercad 3D editor or Codeblocks. At a minimum, you'll need a machine with a blade, plus a cutting mat. You can add tools like pens for the plotter, scoring tools, heat transfer vinyl for t-shirt making, sticker paper, and more. There are many online resources to learn about project possibilities!

    Teaching overview:

    1. Provide students time and resources to practice with Tinkercad (see below).
    2. Choose a project type--cut cards with contrasting backing, iron-on vinyl shirts, designs drawn with pens, or a combination.
    3. Fabricate!

    This card's cut design was coded with Codeblocks, then contrasting card stock was added underneath.      


    Heat transfer vinyl lets students wear their creativity on their sleeve. 

    Basic steps for a cut project:

    1. Export the Tinkercad design in SVG format.
    2. Upload the SVG to your cutter's software.
    3. Resize and adjust as needed, adding a background shape for cards.
    4. Adjust blade setting on cutter for the material you're using.
    5. Cut the project, then "weed" the excess material out. 
    6. Apply backing for a card, prepare for heat transfer for a fabric project.

    For a drawn project, the work flow is similar, except you'll load a pen alongside the cutting blade. The machine can pause for a pen color switch if you've selected more than one color. 


    IMG_20190114_164210 PXL_20210727_195913413
    This t-shirt's design iterates variables and adds random picks to vary the squares in Codeblocks. This design was drawn with the plotter's pen and printed on sticker paper.
    IMG_20210803_181112 IMG_20210803_180327
    The plotter can cut a design and also score a fold line.  The same design can take different forms.


    Screen Shot 2021-08-04 at 4.24.04 AM Screen Shot 2021-07-26 at 5.39.41 AM

    This card will have a liner sheet that's just a tiny bit shorter than the main design so it will not stick out. Both sheets will have score lines pressed into them by the scoring tool.

    This card's main design in blue will be drawn with the pen, then cut out. The orange backing will have a score line, plus four slits cut so the blue design can be inserted.

    IMG_20210803_181055 IMG_20210803_181138 (1)


    Pro tips:

    IMG_20210801_095535 IMG_20210801_094646 (1) IMG_20210804_050613

    A handheld or clamping iron press can make heat transfers easier, and a teflon sheet protects the fabric.

    A plastic guide and tailor's chalk / fabric pen can help align the design--especially if it's actually being worn when measuring.

    A good tape adhesive can make assembling paper projects quicker and cleaner than using glue.

    IMG_20210731_080319 IMG_20210731_080125 IMG_20210731_074137

    Don't forget to set your machine to the kind of material you're cutting or drawing on.

    There are different kinds of scoring tools, but using one makes folding cards much easier.

    Be sure to turn off the cut on the perimeter if you don't want the design to fall out.


     How to get your design from Tinkercad to your machine's software:

    Here's a quick look at how to export designs as scalable vector graphics, which lets you use a laser or plotting cutter to draw or cut designs.

    Work flow for the Cricut plotting cutter. (Silhouette machines and others will be similar):


    My YouTube Tinkercad playlist may have videos you find helpful for this project.


    Codeblocks resources

    This video walks through how to "tile" a rectangular pattern. See the same project with comment blocks that provide explanatory annotations.


    This video walks through how to rotate a circular pattern. See the same project with comment blocks that provide explanatory annotations.


    Here's a walkthrough on how to use the "Create New Object" feature to make a design with a series of rotated shapes, as in this "Six Suns" bookmark. See the project with commented code.



    Yup. That's me on my patio rocking some torusess. torus-y. toriii? (Work to be done here. Standard has not been met.)

    Pro Tip: If you're in the standard 3D editor, look under Shape Generators and find Script. The fonts Majorsnafu, Techniqu, and Stencil are are good for cutting words because they are stencil fonts--parts of letters won't go missing when printing or laser cutting them as holes. Screen Shot 2021-07-17 at 7.05.53 PM




    The Duplicate and Repeat button (Control + D) is a powerful feature. Select a shape, click the button, then move, resize, or rotate the shape, and that same action will be repeated as many times as you click the button. Just be sure not to click off the shape, or else Tinkercad will "forget" the action you want done. 

    If you enjoyed this column or tried this with students, please share your feedback and creations! What would you like to see more of? What works well? Feel free to contact me on Twitter or my website with your questions, suggestions, or ideas for future content.

    Tags: Inspiration