Introduction: Combining a Simple Real-World Object Into Your Designs With Tinkercad

About: I am an Innovation Specialist at Pine Crest School in Boca Raton, Florida.

My students have access to tools and materials I could only dream of when I was in school. CAD software, 3D Printers, Laser Cutter, and more. With all the talk of today's students being "Digital Natives," many adults are surprised that kids don't have some natural, magic power allowing them to use these digital design and fabrication tools without instruction or experience. No, just like with everything else students need a mix of teaching and creating to actually learn how to use these powerful tools.

One of the things that students really need to do in order to use the power of CAD and 3D Printing is to be able to make objects that fit and work with objects from the real world. It would be awesome if the whole world was made of LEGO bricks and everything just fit together! With a few basic techniques, you and your students can design parts that work with real things already in your classroom or home. These techniques will bring your engineering projects to a whole new level!

This Instructable is meant to show you the first of two projects I use to teach students how to design for real world objects. Together they serve as an introduction to using Tinkercad and Codeblocks for real-world engineering projects. I'm assuming that you have some experience with Tinkercad and Codeblocks. If not, there are many great tutorials and videos online to get you started. Go to the "Learn" Section within Tinkercad to get going.


  • Computer (or chromebook, or iPad) able to connect to the internet and use Tinkercad
  • Tinkercad logins - for younger students use the Tinkercad Classroom feature
  • A set of calipers for each student or team of students. They don't need to be expensive, I use these plastic ones for my students. A nice digital one is handy to have to get really precise measurements.
  • A 3D Printer or Laser Cutter for making the things your students create.

Step 1: Measure and Sketch the Remote Control

Everyone has remote controls laying around, so making a 3d printed holder for one is a useful activity, as well as a good way to get students measuring and designing. For this example I used a remote for the AC in my garage, but a similar process will work for any remote.

Your goal here is to end up with a sketch of the real world object that your design needs to interact with. We will later use the sketch to remake the object to scale inside of Tinkercad or Codeblocks.

As you see in the video, my sketch isn't pretty and it doesn't have to be! Just get the basic shape and dimensions! We want the RC to end up fitting in the holder with a little bit of give, so err on the side of making it a bit larger than it really is.

You will also find an image of this final sketch, along with a second sketch around a different remote with curves. I'll be designing both in parallel to show you how to do it.

Step 2: Use Tinkercad to Model the Remote

Now that you have a sketch of your object it's time to go into tinkercad and recreate it so that you can build your object around it. For something like a remote control holder, you don't need to be perfectly exact (like you would be if you were designing a gearbox, for instance) and you should err to make your model of the remote a little big so that it fits loosely into the holder. The videos above show you my processes for both remotes, watch them and try it yourself on your remote!

Step 3: Save Your Objects As Parts, and Start a New Design for Your Holder

It is a good idea to send your grouped together remote as a part in Tinkercad and build your holder as a new design so that you don't accidentally mess up all of your hard work! In your open design, just go the Parts pulldown (above all of the shapes on the right side) and scroll down to and select "Part Collection." A "Create Part" button will appear allowing you to turn your (selected, if not it will prompt you to select) remote model into a part. Be sure to check the box to Lock Part Size so that it can't be scaled too large or small. From now on, your remote will appear in your Parts Collection.

Step 4: Use the Parts to Model Your Project

For the holder I am designing, I want it to end up hanging on the wall so it will need two 3mm holes to allow the wood screws I have to mount it. You may have different screws, or want it sitting on a table or on a pegboard or who knows what else! Use my video as a starting place and go from there.

No matter what, you will want to start with a block just maybe 2/3 the height of and about 6-8mm larger in length and width of the remote itself. Drag a copy of your remote model from your Parts Collection into your new design, and make an appropriate sized block.

From here you just position your remote in the block, make it hole colored, and group! Add a few cylinders the size of your screws, or a larger base if you are putting it on a table, or whatever. Then just export and print! Watch the videos above for more details.

Step 5: Print, Test, Revise, Repeat...

You will notice the picture of my final version is different from the video! I wasn't happy with that design, so I made some changes, reprinted, and was happy with the new version. Why use a 3d printer if not to make things just the way you want them?

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