Where do I start for a design to print?

I do not have the expertise to create a print file to use in printing a design. I’m not exactly there yet, but my inquiry is about how does one get started?

Do I draw on graph paper an exact or rough drawing with exact dimensions? And what about curvatures? I don’t know how to calculate those aspects. I am right brained, not left, so math and engineering are nowhere to be found in my cranium

There are many ways to design parts for printing. The process isn’t a lot different than designing parts for subtractive machining, though obviously the fabrication process is. You need to pick a CAD program and learn how to use it. There are two basic classes of CAD software - “Parametric” where you enter numerical values and the software creates the parts and features you want like “put a 3mm diameter hole here”, and “Constructive Solid Geometry” where you model kind of like a milling machine where if you need a 3mm hole you make a 3mm rod that intersects where you want the hole to be and then “subtract” the 3mm rod from the object leaving the hole…

If all you want to do is print some stuff, go to Thingiverse.com where you’ll find millions of already made CAD files to print.


I hadn’t thought of learning CAD but was planning on hiring someone to do that for me. However I have no idea whether that could be expensive or fraught with a lot of problems considering design flaws on my part, or data entry flaws on the software designer’s part.

Thingverse probably won’t work since this is a highly specific project with no room for miscalculations or flexibility

However I don’t know anyone who might be right for the jb of doing a CAD design

You see I am starting from ground zero

You need to hire someone to design your product for you, then. You can get it fabricated with a 3rd party service like Shapeways (in Nylon if you want, which is what the Fuse1 uses. But also dozens of other materials) to evaluate your prototype. Then, maybe you’ll have had some time to learn a bit of CAD yourself and you can tweak the design based on your evaluation of the prototype and send it out to be printed again. When you’ve got a design you like, then you can start to explore volume fabrication. I’m not sure a Fuse1 would be a good high-volume tool. Getting a mold made and then having the dingus fabricated with a more traditional manufacturing process could actually be a lot less hassle and less money.

Thanks Randy,

I have found that our local community college does indeed offer 3 different classes in CADD, not CAD. Is that what I would need? Their classes are centered around Architectural CADD focuses on

  1. AutoCAD and Revit software applications. Architectural drafting classes are taught by a licensed architect.
  2. Mechanical CADD provides a familiarity with SolidWorks and exposure to AutoCAD. Instruction is provided by trained engineers.
  3. Civil CADD focuses on AutoCAD and Civil 3D with exposure to GIS, and includes courses from Clark College’s Surveying and Geomatics program. Instruction is provided by civil engineers, surveyors, and civil drafters.

My assumption if this is CAD, that 2. Mechanical CADD would be the choice I would need. Again my project involves a webbing and solid, flexible, and firm almost rubbery type of prototype

CADD is an old term that meant Computer Aided Design and Drafting, and used to be applied primarily to 2D CAD, which was the computer version of 2D drafting back in the 80’s. AutoCAD and Intergraph Microsation were the CAD programs of their day.

Since then, CAD has evolved into what we use today and take for granted that it can do 3D modeling. There are literally dozens of CAD programs out there, some have an easier learning curve than others, some are harder but well worth the time investment to learn.

As a beginner, I would start with Sketchup, so that way you can learn the basics, then as you get more comfortable with it, move on to better programs

“Exposure to SolidWorks” means it’s definitely what you want. SolidWorks is a very high end parametric CAD package. It’s not cheap, though. But if you learn SolidWorks, those skills will translate to less expensive/free CAD programs. Like, if you’re a mechanic trained to service Mercedes, those same skills will allow you to service a Toyota.

Number 2, for sure. It’ll give you the skills you need, which are broadly applicable.
Solidworks is a big gun with a steep learning curve, but an amazing tool.

Pricey, but they have $99 per year deal for students.

Then the world is full of choices; free open source, which tend to have a huge tool set, but are designed by engineers, so the UI/UX is problematic, lower cost tools with fewer features, and offerings from Dassault which were used to design the Boeing 780.

But I still think you want to hire someone as a project. Getting educated will give you the vocabulary you need to communicate well and efficiently, and using someone who knows the software to do the actual build will be hugely more efficient than DIY.

Off you go!

Personally I chose Fusion 360, as it was what my friend was using, and spent roughly $60 on some udemy.com classes. Was creating simple objects first day and feeling comfortable with more complicated objects by the end of the week. Definitely doable!


I heard back from our local community college and am supposed to be hearing back from the lead on this. Apparently all of their CADD classes have been discontinued. So I’ll try emailing again soon.

I have tried Sketchup but haven’t been able to master the free hand draw technique. I suppose I’ll have to find the manual and read some

Appreciate your referral but there are way too many classes to know what to pick from. I’ll say it again, I’m a newbie and my project requires a flexible rubbery material that can also hold its shape once bent or folded. Memory rubber I guess?

Yes Rob, that’s where I wanted to go from the beginning. So I guess reaching out to perhaps Shapeways, as Randy has suggested. But as I said if I can’t speak (over the phone) I won’t have much luck describing exactly what I need, because of a lack of my ability to speak the jargon in an email; Shapeways Contact Preference. I wonder if n=by emailing them they might consider talking with me? But then again, I am terrible at speaking to a English as a second language, person. And seeing the website exist in the Indian Ocean Seychelles, off the east coast of Africa, that troubles me, unless they are proficient at English. I suppose I could try

How to get in touch with a designer

All models at Shapeways are designed and sold by independent designers. This means they are the true experts on the models they designed, while we are experts in 3D printing models.

You can reach the designer and get your model questions answered via their expertise by going to the model’s page and scrolling down to the designer’s info (under model description). Here you can see the “Send message” button and get in touch with them.

Correction, the classes our community college is no longer offering classes. So it looks like I need to find someone I can trust to create the file, like that’s going to be easy (sarcasm intended)

Where are you located?

Near Portland Oregon, (don’t like the traffic) but precisely, north of Vancouver WA

I’ll ask around, let you know if I find anyone useful near you.

Thanks much Rob

If you’re still interested in learning CAD, I would still suggest starting with something simple like Sketchup. It has a fairly low learning curve, and it will teach you the basics of 3D modelling, how to create primitives, and mix them together to get more complicated objects.

Next when you got the basics under your belt, I would try to go for something like OnShape. This is a web based modeller with enterprise grade features, that rival professional CAD packages. OnShape was created by a team of engineers and execs who worked at Solidworks.

Anyway, you can go to the link below and request you free trial. When asked about the use, just put down you’re hobbyist/maker and that should take you to the free version

OnShape is a really good suggestion.

Although the tools are great, it isn’t simple to use. I for one, fwiw, struggle with it. There are a lot of self paced video trainings that I think are necessary. You should be prepared to spend signficant time on learning how to use it.

A significant caveat is that your work by default is public. In order to make it private, you need to upgrade to a paid plan.

As I understand it, money isn’t a problem for you, so pay to play is a good idea. The warning is more directed to other users, who may not have the resources.

Thanks Dudemeister,

I have 3 times now attempted to learn Sketchup. But it is not an easy task for me. It feels really buggy and doesn’t have the options I felt I needed at the time. Can’t recall those specifics right now but I don;t want to start all over relearning something as difficult as Photoshop when I tried that a few years back. Oh I remember one now. After I had free-handed a sketch, I realized I needed a Wacom. Then too once I added text, which took 8-9 ties it was lost from sight when I tried to look at it from a 3d view. Just wonky both it and I was

But I appreciate your thoughts