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If you want to introduce a kid (or yourself!) to CAD, Tinkercad is by far the easiest and funnest to way to begin. Today I mentioned to my 10-year-old that our CNC machine would soon be up and running. He asked what a CNC could do, and I said one example would be to carve out a battlefield out of stiff foam for Warhammer figures.

That got his attention ;-) He wanted to know how to tell the CNC what to do. I explained a bit about CAD, and showed him Tinkercad, giving the example of one cube that you could stretch and change.

Then I got busy with something else and left him to figure out Tinkercad himself. I came back an hour later and the below is what he'd designed.  A ten-year-old. No training. One hour.

The green stuff we're going to CNC out of a sheet of stiff foam. The rest we'll probably 3D print on the Makerbot. It will take a weekend, but this could be our first 100% digital craft project.

This is an example of what I talk about in Makers: manufacturing technologies are getting so easy and cheap (even free) that anyone can use them. Kids today can grow up as fluent in CAD as they are in everything else on computers. Democratizing the tools of publishing brought us the Web. Just imagine what democratizing the tools of manufacturing will do.  

We've used Sketchup and Autodesk 123D, and both are great. But Tinkercad just runs in your Web browser and its simple interface disguises a very sophisticated cloud-based CAD engine. 

Check it out here: tinkercad.com
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12 comments
 
i dont do war games but that is still pretty damn awesome....
 
I'll have to try that.  I've been using FreeCAD for linux and it works reasonably well for both CNC and 3d printing, but it's always nice to have other options.
 
I have been playing with 3d modelling prior to the arrival of my Ditto 3d printer. You might want to check out sketchup or autodesk123D. Both are free and offer more control than tinkercad. Probably a little more advanced but the training videos for sketchup are great.
 
+Anthony Peacock The bonus with Tinkercad is that you don't have to convert the 3D file into something usable with most 3D printers. autodesk123D is nice, and I like it a lot, but Tinkercad is in my opinion on par with Sketchup at this point, other than the free price point of Sketchup.
 
+Alex Witherspoon I found tinkercad much easier for basic shapes but had trouble with fine work. I suspect I will use both :) Glad your son is interested. Mine asks me every day when I can print his stuff out.
 
Had to learn basic programming of a CNC lathe in Engineering College for shop. At the time, I wasn't sure why, but I'm glad. It paid off later since as a software engineer I have had to program on many different platforms.
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