REMOTICON 2021 // Jay Doscher Proves Tinkercad Isn’t Just For Kids

We invited [Jay Doscher] to give us a view into his process designing 3D printed parts for the impressive array of cyberdecks we’ve covered since 2019.

[Jay] got his start as a maker through woodworking in high school, getting satisfaction from bringing something from idea to reality. After a more recent class in blacksmithing and ax-making showed him what he could do when really focused, his hardware hacking really took off and his line of cyberdecks and other portable computers was born.

If you’ve heard of Tinkercad, you probably think it’s just for kids. While designed as an educational tool, [Jay] found that Autodesk’s younger sibling to the professionally powered (and priced) Fusion 360 had everything needed for making cyberdecks. If you’re willing to work around a few limitations, at the low-low price of free, Tinkercad might be right for you too.

What limitations? To start, Tinkercad is only available in a browser and online. There’s also no guarantee that it will remain free, but [Jay] notes that with its educational focus that is likely to remain the case. There is no library of common components to import while modeling. And, when your model is complete the options for exporting are limited to 2D SVGs and 3D STL, OBJ, and gaming-focused GBL formats. [Jay] has converted those to other formats for laser cutting and the STEP file a machine shop is expecting but admits that it’s something that adds complexity and is an annoyance.

back7-TinkerCad-Alignment

In the talk, [Jay] discusses moving from his initial “cringy” explorations with Tinkercad, to his first cyberdeck, a little history on that term, and the evolution of his craft. It’s mostly a hands-on demo of how to work with Tinkercad, full of tips and tricks for the software itself and implications for 3D printing yourself, assembly, and machining by others.

While quite limited, Tinkercad still allows for boolean operations to join two volumes or the subtraction of one from another. [Jay] does a wonderful job of unpeeling the layers of operations, showing how combinations of “solids” and “holes” generated a complex assembly with pockets, stepped holes for fasteners, and multiple aligned parts for his next cyberdeck. Even if you already have a favorite CAD tool, another approach could expand your mind just like writing software in Strange Programming Languages can.

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An array of 3D-printed parts for old sewing machines.

Printed Sewing Machine Parts Extend Singer’s Range

[Grow Your Own Clothes] had finally found their ideal sewing machine for doing zig-zag stitches (/\/\/\) and converting to a treadle drive (mechanically foot-fed) — a Singer 411G. This is a well-respected workhorse of a machine, and if you see one in a secondhand store, you might want to grab it. The only problem is that its multi-step zig-zag stitch is a 4-stepper and not a 3-step, which is what [GYOC] prefers. Having heard it was possible to hack them into doing a 3-step, [GYOC] set out to learn Tinkercad and grow their own sewing machine parts.

A 3D-printed cam lets this machine do the zig-zag in three steps instead of four.
The new zig-zag top hat cam in place.

So once upon a time, sewing machines didn’t just do a bunch of things out of the box. They needed an array of plastic cams to do different stitches, kind of like trading out the element or disk in a typewriter to print in italics. While most machines still have exchangeable feet for different needs and special parts for sewing things like buttonholes, most domestics now have decorative stitches and their cams built in.

The 3-step zig-zag cam was just the beginning. [GYOC] decided to make a few more parts before their Tinkercad knowledge faded: a needle adapter with an improved design, some tension stud sprockets for a different machine, and a couple of buttonhole templates for making different sizes with a buttonholer. Although they aren’t giving away the files for free, all of these parts are available quite cheaply in their Shapeways store.

Got an old machine you don’t know what to do with? Try converting it to a computerized embroidery machine.

Thanks for the tip, [Raphael]!

helicopter

Re-Engineering An RC Helicopter Via Tinkercad

Radio control toys can be great fun to play with. However, at the bottom end of the market, sometimes you find you’ve bought something that just doesn’t work quite right. [saulemmetquinn] found that with a cheap RC helicopter, and set about re-engineering the design in Tinkercad.

The entire frame of the original helicopter was discarded, replaced with one made out of CAD-designed and 3D printed components. The end result is far lighter and less cumbersome than the original design, while also managing to look a lot more like an actual helicopter. It also served to correct some of the problems which [saulemmetquinn] stated made the original toy difficult to fly.

Assembling your own tiny helicopter motors and mechanisms would be quite difficult, and time consuming. [saulemmetquinn] was instead able to leverage the good parts of the original design, and build something better from that. It’s very much the essence of hacking, right there.

We’ve seen other toy helicopters hacked too, like the famous Syma S107G. If you’ve got your own tiny flying hacks, be sure to drop us a line.

Hacking The Classroom

With so many students attending class virtually these days, how can you give kids — or adults — some hands on experience with electronics projects? [Ben Finio] says you can by moving your lab to the virtual world using — of all things — Tinkercad. [Ben] should know something about a classroom since he is a lecturer at Cornell.

Of course, you could do this trick with any online simulator, but Tinkercad is nice because it is easy to use, looks real, and doesn’t cost the students a dime. [Ben] mentions there are some scenarios where it is especially useful like large classes or online classes. There are probably some cases where it doesn’t make sense, like teaching RF design, for example. Even then, maybe you just need a different tool.

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Distance Learning Land

[familylovermommy] has been homeschooling her kids even before the pandemic, so she’s pretty well-versed on being a learning coach and a teacher. One of the activities she designed for her boys has them creating 3D models using Tinkercad. In the spirit of openness and cultivating freethinking, she did not give them very many constraints. But rather, gave them the liberty to creatively design whatever scene they imagined.

In the Instructable, she shares her sons’ designs along with instructions to recreate the models. The designs as you’ll see are pretty extensive, so she embedded the Tinkercad designs directly into it. You can even see a number of video showcases as well.

This is a really cool showcase of some pretty stellar workmanship. Also, maybe a bit of inspiration for some of our readers who are creating work from home activities of their own.

While you’re at it, check out some of these other work-from-home hacks.

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DIY Baby MIT Cheetah Robot

3D printers have become a staple in most makerspaces these days, enabling hackers to rapidly produce simple mechanical prototypes without the need for a dedicated machine shop. We’ve seen many creative 3D designs here on Hackaday and [jegatheesan.soundarapandian’s] Baby MIT Cheetah Robot is no exception. You’ve undoubtedly seen MIT’s cheetah robot. Well, [jegatheesan’s] hack takes a personal spin on the cheetah robot and his results are pretty cool.

The body of the robot is 3D printed making it easy to customize the design and replace broken parts as you go. The legs are designed in a five-bar linkage with two servo motors controlling each of the four legs. An additional servo motor is used to rotate an HC-SR04, a popular ultrasonic distance sensor, used in the autonomous mode’s obstacle avoidance mechanism. The robot can also be controlled over Bluetooth using an app [jegatheesan] developed in MIT App Inventor.

Overall, the mechanics could use a bit of work — [jegatheesan’s] baby cheetah probably won’t outpace MIT’s robot any time soon — but it’s a cool hack and we’re looking forward to a version 3. Maybe the cheetah would make a cool companion bot?

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3D Printed DIY Neuralyzer

We agree with you. We can never have enough cosplay hacks. And the ones that include some electronics element definitely have a special place in our hearts. That’s why when we ran across [Maddogg0’s] 3D printed Neuralyzer on Instructables, we knew we had to share.

You may recall [How to make’s] DIY Neuralyzer that we featured a few weeks ago which required more of a metal-working approach. [Maddogg0’s] design might be a bit more convenient for those of you that have a 3D printer, but no machine shop.

We love the elegant simplicity of [Maddogg0’s] design. The entire enclosure is printed in two halves that are held together by magnets. One half of the enclosure houses a single coin cell battery and a tiny circuit board for holding the LEDs in place, really giving the Neuralyzer some shine. In true maker fashion, [Maddogg0] released the necessary design files on TinkerCAD so anyone can reuse, remix, and reshare.

Whichever design you fancy, [Maddogg0’s] or [How to make’s], be careful not to point the Neuralyzer at yourself and always remember to wear your sunglasses!