Brief Description: This lesson focuses on the basics of TinkerCad by teaching students how to create their own customized name tag that is later 3D printed or laser cut.

Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9+

Time: 4+ hour

Keywords: Tinkercad, 3D, modeling, laser cutting, 3D printing

Lesson Objectives

  • Introduce students to 3D modeling
  • Introduce students to printing software such as laser cutters and 3D printers
  • Introduce students to TinkerCad basics such as: grid settings, moving around, shape generators, text generators, holes, extrusion and sizing.


  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Computers
  • WIFI or Ethernet connection (TinkerCAD works on Google Chrome or Firefox)
  • If possible, get mice for the computers because they make clicking and moving around the 3D model easier.


  1. Design model on paper: including shapes, sizes (3 in X 3 in worked nicely), cartoons, name, and holes (for strap).
  2. Prepare a new model on TinkerCAD:
    1. Log in
    2. Choose “create new design”
    3. Set new grid – “edit grid” – set custom 3 in X 3 in if using same standard as above
    4. Explore motion settings: moving up, down, tilting, rotating, going back to home view, zooming in and out.
  3. Create base: Have students browse through the shape generator to see what shape they want their name tag to be.  Have them make that their base so that all other extrusions, text, and holes are placed onto the base.
  4. Choose location of holes: This was generally done by choosing the cylinder shape and making it a hole instead of solid.  Check to make sure it goes through the name tag.  Any other shape can be used.
  5. Teach text editor to apply name:  The Text editor option is a nice easy way to write text!  Different fonts can be used, and the whole text is treated as one object that can be re sized and even turned into a hole for engraving.  If Text editor is undesirable, Tinkercad has individual letters as objects that can be placed, re-sized,  and turned into holes.
  6. Apply images from online, or search for .stl files on Thingiverse for more customization: Due to a lack of time many of the name tags had objects imported from other websites like Thingiverse.  .STL files can be imported into Tinkercad using the import section, and the files can be easily manipulated.
  7. Differentiate between engraving and creating hole extrusions: Make sure students can tell the difference between making objects that cut completely through, or objects that engrave into the base of the name tag.  This means checking the thickness of each object and making sure it fits what is desired.  Keep in mind that some letters won’t come out how they look when printed.  For Example: if the letter D is desired to be completely cut through the entire name tag base there won’t be any filling inside of the D.  It will just fall out when it is laser cut.  
  8. After All models are complete: 3D Printing: All designs on TinkerCAD can be exported as .stl files.  Other options are also available.  Each option depends on your printer’s needs. Laser Cutting:  There is an option to download models as .SVG.  However, for our laser cutter more work had to be done. How we did it:
    1. Each model was downloaded as a .STL file
    2. Each .STL file was opened in SolidWorks (it is going to look funky at first).  Do not click on .stl file to open.  You will get an “uncertified trust” error.  Just open from SolidWorks.
    3. Click options before opening (in file search only search for .stl files).  Make each .stl file a solid body, and use millimeters (Tinkercad Transfers files as mm).
    4. Let SolidWorks run it’s check to make sure nothing is funky about the model (90% of the time the model is fine).
    5. Right click on “imported” feature on the left toolbar of the model
    6. Choose Feature Works
    7. Click on recognize geometry.  SolidWorks will do an automatic run through of TinkerCAD’s drawing and sketches.  You can choose what features you would like it to run through (fillets, holes, ribs, drawings, extrusions etc).  Usually just check all just in case.  This process may take a lot of time depending on how complicated the model is, how SolidWorks has been running that day, and depending on if outside .STL designs were used.  Sometimes it wont even work.  If it doesn’t redesign will have to be considered.  I used about 4 computers running different designs simultaneously to speed the process up.
    8. After all geometry is recognized, save the SolidWorks version as a part.
    9. Create a new drawing in SolidWorks.
    10. Make the template size the size of the wood board, or plastic you are using.
    11. Place top views of all the parts onto the drawing with the proper scale.
    12. Save drawing as a .DXF File.
    13. Open .DXF File in illustrator.
    14. Use .0005 in for any outline that needs to be cut.
    15. Use .01 in for anything that is to be etched.
  9. Keep in mind each printer and cutter is different. The settings depend on the printer and material! There is also an option to take screen shots of a top view of each model and using that in illustrator instead of going through all the SolidWorks trouble.  However, the angle of the shot may mess things up.   *Cut away!

Extensions and Modifications

  • Students can design something other than a name tag

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