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  • Charlie Kocur

Print Projects 01: Combining Models in Tinkercad

How to Combine Two 3D Models in Tinkercad

Not in to reading all this? Check out the video version of this tutorial on Youtube.

Intro:

This easy project can yield great results, all it takes is a little creativity. Since it's simple to do but offers lots of possible options, I've decided to make it first in my list of tutorial projects for beginner 3D printing enthusiasts. In it, we will be combining two existing 3D models, a body shape and a head shape, to create something unique.

Even though it's basic I find myself coming back to it often for creating custom gifts or new desktop toys. in this particular example, we'll be adding a new head to a Darth Vader model to create... Darth Dino!!!


 

Skills Being Learned:

Combining existing 3D models helped me to learn to be more comfortable working in a 3D space on a computer screen and was a good gateway for me to get in to more challenging projects. It is also a good introduction for a few basic functions in Tinkercad that you will use again and again.

This project also forces the creator to think about planning ahead for their 3D print. While it's possible to just mash any two models together and hope for the best, it's not always the best decision. For the best results in the final print, the creator must find two models that work well together and make sure that when combined they don't cause any "problem areas" that might cause a print failure (like an overhang or very complicated/tiny geometry).


 

The Process


Step 1: Find Models to Create Your Idea

Coming up with an idea is the hardest part of the project. The 3D modeling part is simple. You are welcome to use your own models that you find, but for this tutorial I will simply go on to my usual 3D model-finding sites Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory and will revsit a design I did earlier this year, DarthDino.

I recommend finding a body that has some fairly flat/broad shoulders for your first attempt. For example, a vampire with a big collar around the shoulders that come up around his head would be much more challenging than something like a Greek statue of a person, or even a duck will work much better (basically, anything with a little bit of a neck and nothing fancy going on around the shoulders). For this tutorial, I found a Darth Vader body on Thingiverse (uploaded by caryq627). It has simple features that won't cause a problem as described above, and it is done in a low-polygon style that will match the head I want to use.

For the head, I found this great low-poly dinosaur head model on Thingiverse (uploaded by wingchi). I will be using the file "viewable_v4.stl" from the page because it has a longer neck, giving me more flexibility in how it's used.


The reason I am going low-poly for both models is so the styles will match. If you find design styles that match, the finished product will look much better than a hodge-podge of things that don't really line-up.

Download the two .stl model files somewhere on your computer where you can find them for the next step.


Step 2: Import Your 3D Models

We are going to dive right in to Tinkercad. If you skipped my Tinkercad basics tutorial, feel free to take a look at it here first. It gives a basic overview of how to get started with this completely free tool, and has an overview of basic controls.

All that needs to be done for this step, is to start a new Tinkercad project by pressing the "create new design" button in the upper left corner after you log-in. This will open up a screen with your workspace.

Now, click the "import" button in the upper right hand corner and then "choose a file" in the small window that pops up. Navigate to where you saved your models and select one to open. Allow it to load and do the same thing with the second model. That's all for step 2!




Step 3: Prepare the Models to be Combined

Now, we are going to use shapes called "holes" to edit these models in to a more usable format. At the top of the shapes box, you will see a box and cylinder that show a couple shades of grey lines. This grey coloring means that these shapes are called "holes". Holes act as a "negative" space to work with.


Drag one of these on to the work plane, and drag it over the vader head, since it's something we don't need for the model. Drag the edges of the cylinder to make sure the head is completely within the cylinder. Select both of the shapes (the Vader model & the cylinder), and in the upper control bar, click "group".

Once grouped, the "hole" shape will delete anything inside of it. so in this case, the vader head should no longer be a part of the model.


To prep the dinosaur head, we just have to cut-out the base shape that won't be needed for this project. using the same method with a "hole" cube, edit the dinosaur so it's just down to the part you need (head and neck).


Step 4: Lining Things Up

We're nearly there! All that's left is to align the head where you want it on the body. Select the head by left-clicking, and drag it upwards using the black arrow that shows above the selected model. Don't worry about being perfect here, we are just trying to get the head roughly where we want it on the shoulders of the vader body.

Now, using left-click and drag, move the head towards the body. You don't need to be perfect, just make sure that you have the head about the correct height that looks good to you.




For this particular model, we'll be using the "rotate" function. From a side view of the models, click on the head. Just below the black arrow you used to move the model upwards, you will see a small, curved left-right arrow set. Left-click on this and hold to drag and change the angle of the head.


Using a combination of rotation and movement, set the head up so that it looks good to you. The only important thing to be aware of at this point, is to make sure the entire neck is contained within the body. This makes sure that when we combine the two models, there are no odd shapes sticking out from the body. Basically, it keeps things looking neat & natural (as natural as a space-man with a dinosaur head can be...).

Once you've got it close, we are going to use one more tool at our disposal to make sure things are centered nicely. Select both the body & the head model (either by left-click and dragging a box over them or by holding down the Shift key when you left-click on each individual model).


At the top of the menu, you will find the "align" tool. Click on the tool, and a series of dots will show up around the model on the x, y, and z axis. Click the dot in the middle on the workplane in front of the model. This makes sure that the head is centered perfectly on the body. Now just manually adjust the head forward to cover up the neckline, and we're set!



Step 5: Finish & Print!

This final step is extremely quick. Once you're happy with the location of the head on the body, make sure both models are selected at the same time, go to the top menu and press "group" button. Boom! All done!!! You have officially combined the two models in to a single design.



Using the "export" button up near the top-right of the screen. Export the file to the type you need to print (a .STL if you are going to load it directly in to a slicer program like Cura) and Tinkercad will download the file to your downloads folder.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the weird name Tinkercad gives the project. You will see it in the upper-left of the workplane or as the name of the file you just downloaded.

Now all that's left is to print!


 

Conclusion

Combining 3D models is a fun introduction to working with 3D models. The only limit is your creativity and how well you're able to search for models on websites like Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory.

Now go out there and use your new-found skills to start creating some fun birthday presents or decorations for your desk!

For a little fun, here is another model I created with the same vader body and a different dino head:


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