Tools

Here are some of the products and services I find helpful in making things.

Some of these items include affiliate links.

Design

  • Tinkercad: Super easy to use web-based CAD tool. All models are made by adding and subtracting primitives (e.g. cubes, spheres); you can build surprisingly complex shapes with little design knowledge if you’re prepared to approach the task like a puzzle.
  • Good Ruler: If you’re designing real things (e.g. for printing), it helps to frequently reference a ruler to visualize dimensions. If you’re going to have a ruler, it might as well be a nice one; you’ll be using it a lot.
  • Digital Calipers: If you’re designing things that interact with existing objects (e.g. this, or this), calipers are really helpful. Amazingly, you can get a great set of digital calipers for under $20.

Build

  • Makerbot Replicator 2: My first 3d printer! Basically works as advertised. As with any FDM printer there are design limitations (primarily overhangs) that you have to learn to work around, but you quickly learn to adapt.
  • If I was buying a 3d printer today, I’d take a close look at the Makerbot¬†Replicator 2X. It adds ABS support (including a heated build platform) and dual-extrusion (for multi-color prints or using a support material for intricate models).

Finish

  • Putty Knife: Separating prints from the build platform can be a little tough. I’ve found a broad putty knife and patience are helpful (e.g. slowly pry vs. jab)
  • Sandpaper: If you’re too lazy to chamfer/fillet the edges of your model, you might consider using a coarse grit sandpaper to round off sharp corners or edges
  • Needle Files: If your design includes many intricate parts or small openings (e.g. this), you’ll often have random strands throughout the print. A small file can be helpful for getting your print cleaned up.

Share/Distribute

  • Thingiverse
  • Shapeways