Over the past several months I have been wrestling with what program to use for 3D design (mostly to use with 3D printers). I started off the year using Tinkercad, but quickly found that though it has great potential, it just doesn't have the power that my students and I need to create custom designs. Tinkercad seems like it would work well for younger students or a more casual setting.
Coming from a little bit of experience using CREO 2.0, I was used to parametric design that is fully customizable. I definitely was not an expert, but I could at least see that CREO afforded a lot more potential for designs than Tinkercad. CREO, however, was not an option because of its size and use restrictions.
I set off looking for a new CAD program and stumbled upon Fusion 360 (made by Autodesk--same company that makes Tinkercad). Fusion 360 looked like the savior to all of my problems--it is free for students and provides a great modeling environment that is extremely powerful. I thought Fusion 360 was the program, until I started running into limitations imposed by its operating system requirements.
First of all, my classroom was stocked with 26 chromebooks, which are not that helpful when the program you need requires Windows or OSX. OK I thought, I will just use some of my grant money to purchase new laptops. Long story short, I bought six new laptops with SSDs (a personal requirement of mine) and ended up spending twice as much money for them due to vendor requirements (that is a whole other story). Well, the six laptops are nice, but what the heck am I going to due with them when I have 36 students next year! On top of that, Fusion has constant updates, which on the surface seems like a good thing. Yet, I can't afford to have students wait around for 10-15 minutes while their Fusion 360 updates. On top of that all, the students couldn't actually use the program when they logged on to their district student accounts due to some cloud filter issue. The tech guy fixed the account issue (thanks dude!), but the delay meant that I couldn't really use Fusion 360 for our 3D printing unit--forcing me back to Tinkercad.
Then, at a baby shower a month or two ago, I ran into this local entrepreneur named Brian (runs Nomad, a company that makes battery accessories) who told me about this cloud based parametric design application called onshape. It sounded too good to be true--a powerful CAD program that could run on any computer hooked up to the internet. I promptly went home and signed up for a free account. Took about 5 minutes and I was in. The CAD environment looks similar to Fusion 360, so no major issues jumping in and starting. When I got to school I tested it out on my chromebooks and it worked brialliantly. I found my program of choice for next year when the first official cohort of DTech enters 10th grade.
The picture above is a quick project I had my students do using Onshape: make a mothers day vase using the "revolve" function. Students quickly figured it out (for the most part) and within one day were printing their designs on the makerbot and airwolf printers. Sweet. Below is a design I am working on for my wife: An iPhone 6 wall mount with included pocket for chapstick and hook for a hair tie.