3D printing is a fun way to learn 3D modelling software and enter the complex world of 3D printing design. The popularity of 3D printing and the opportunities for learning in school and home, has given rise to more user friendly 3D design software. Many professional modelling tools are very complex, and require users to take tutorials to get to grips with toolsets and options available. More simple and intuitive software that young children can use with the greatest of ease, is now available. With that steep learning curve reduced, 3D printed toys or objects have become a reality, letting kids express their imagination in a way that only technology can. Even the costs associated with 3D printing have been minimised, with more affordable 3D printers for kids on the market and online printing services for those without a printer. The best 3D printing design software tools for kids, that will excite and nurture creative minds, are listed below.
Makers Empire is a 3D printing app designed to teach kids as young as 4 years old, 3D modelling. The software has six modules Shaper, Character, Blocker, Cogger, Doodler and Toy Designer for creating models. Makers Empire has developed a complete K-8 learning program so that teachers can easily integrate 3D design and 3D printing into their classroom.
SolidWorks mission is to inspire kids to turn their imagination into reality. Kids begin by capturing their ideas on digital collages, and use the modeling tools to sculpt and design their objects. SolidWorks Apps for kids is a child friendly community for 3D printing and design.
TinkerCAD is an easy to use browser-based 3D printing design software tool that was acquired by Autodesk. It is a popular choice for parents and teachers introducing 3D design and printing to kids, with a number of lessons and tutorials to follow.
Autodesk 123Design is a powerful CAD tool for kids to learn modelling for 3D printing. Users can download the app for iPad or use the program on their PC or Mac. Another noteworthy app in the Autodesk family is 123D Catch, where users take a photo of an object and can turn it into a 3D model.
3D Slash is a 3D printing design software tool that takes the approach of modelling like a stone cutter. Users sort of chisel blocks with a hammer to remove unwanted cubes. Inspired by the Minecraft building game, kids will feel right at home designing objects or toys to print on a 3D printer. Schools have been using 3D Slash for kids as young as 5 years old, as the interface is so intuitive and easy to use.
Blokify is a 3D printing app that lets children design and print 3D toys. The 3D printing software is simple to use, and once the object is created, it can be sent to the user’s home printer or the Blokify direct printing service. Kids can use the guided building blocks to complete models and to share their creations with the community.
Leopoly is a browser based 3D sculpting tool that is very user friendly. Beginners can get started by editing existing models and using the sculpting tools to learn how the interface works. When ready, 3D models can be uploaded or users can start from scratch. Leopoly makes 3D printing a fun and friendly hobby.
Sketchup is a 3D modelling tool used from absolute beginners to 3D professionals. A Google product, Sketchup is a good learning tool for kids with a passion for 3D design, and has many features for budding designers. Kids can develop their basic skills and use more advanced 3D tools as their confidence and talents grow.
3DC is a 3D printing app for designing 3D models on your iPhone, iPad, Android Device, or web browser. The user friendly interface makes it a perfect app for kids and beginners to start learning 3D printing. The app outputs an STL file of the 3D model you’ve designed, ready to be printed.
BlocksCAD is a 3D modelling tool designed to teach kids both programming and CAD. It uses a visual programming language, similar to the original Scratch, so kids can make more complex designs. Perhaps not as simple to use as some of the other tools, BlocksCAD will help develop math, programming and computational thinking skills.
For more resources, check out our list of websites to download free STL files.
Samantha Kotey is the editor for AvatarGeneration and has a background in educational technology and virtual worlds. A mom of two, she is passionate about all things related to toys and technology.