By Shaun Bryant

3D is the abbreviation for 3-dimensional. In the world of Computer Aided Design (CAD), 3D modeling (also known as three-dimensional modeling) is the process or workflow of developing a computer-based (mathematical) model of any surface of an object, regardless of whether it’s inanimate (such as a gear wheel) or living (such as an animal or a human being).

3D modeling is done in three dimensions via specialized software and, in your case, Tinkercad. The end product is normally called a 3D model. Someone who works with 3D models may often be referred to as a 3D artist.

The 3D model has the advantage that it can be displayed on the computer screen as a two-dimensional image through a process called 3D rendering. For example, these images are often the uber-cool pictures you see in an architect’s slideshow of a new building or house he designed. They also may be used in a computer simulation of physical phenomena, such as virtual prototype testing to see whether the lighting makes a new product desirable to a given market.

The iPhone is a typical example where lighting is an important facet of the design to highlight all the lovely curves and bevels on the iPhone case. (Can you tell I’m an Apple fan?) The model can also be physically created using 3D printing devices, which is where Tinkercad comes into its own, with the ability to export 3D model files for 3D printing.

3D models may be created automatically or manually. The manual modeling process of preparing geometric data for 3D computer graphics is similar to plastic arts, such as sculpting. Now that does sound complicated, right? It’s not. The Tinkercad interface simplifies the manual 3D workflow, allowing you, the Tinkercad user, to manually create your 3D designs and take them all the way to 3D printing.

Tinkercad is classed as 3D modeling software, which is a class of 3D computer graphics software used to produce 3D models. Individual programs of this class are called modeling applications or modelers. Tinkercad is one of several 3D modeling applications or modelers that are provided by the San Francisco–based software company, Autodesk.

The figure shows a typical example of 3D design.

Credit: ESO/ERIS Phase A Team
The ERIS high-resolution camera and spectrograph concept design for ESO’s Very Large Telescope.