Project Dancing Skeleton or Why Tinkercad is More Powerful Than You Think

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"You did that in Tinkercad?"

"Wait, where'd you get those curved shapes?"

"I thought you could only do basic stuff in that program."

If any of that sounds like something you'd say, you should probably keep reading.

If you've been in the 3D printing community for any length of time, I'm sure you've heard the name Tinkercad.

If you haven't, it's a free web-based CAD program that is a fantastic introduction into 3D design.

In fact, it's THE program I point kids to when they want to know more about printing their own designs.

But that's where my recommendation stops.


I never recommended it to anyone else because it seemed so limited in terms of what you're able to design.

I'll never make that mistake again.


So What's With the Skeleton?

Every once in a while the 3D printing platform MyMiniFactory holds a design challenge.

They range from designing furniture for huge 3D printers, designing add-ons or accessories for existing products like GoPros or the Nintendo Switch, to even designing a piece of 3D printable candy.

I keep an eye on the challenges, and saw they were doing a Tinkercad Halloween challenge.

Being an avid Fusion360 user, I haven't spent a ton of time in Tinkercad. And why would I when Fusion360's capabilities far outnumber Tinkercad's?

So I wanted to see what I'd be able to design within Tinkercad's limited constraints.

I was not disappointed.



tinkercad's best kept secret

The models designed within Tinkercad are notoriously hard-edged.

What I mean is, organic shapes are rare to see. You mostly see cones, spheres, boxes, and cylinders pieced together to produce a final shape.

And that's what's great about Tinkercad!

It's incredibly easy to start with zero prior knowledge of modeling and put shapes together to model an object.

But if you want to get a little funky, you need to check out the Shape Generators option.

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Once you click on the above, it will give you tons of options for different shapes.

You're looking for the "Extrusion" shape.

It allows you to move it's "nodes" anywhere you want to manipulate it's shape.

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Combine this with the ability to add and subtract similarly funky curves, and your whole Tinkercad world is flipped upside down. 

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How the ribs were formed.


the world is not enough

After finding this, and knowing Halloween was the theme, I knew I had to make something truly organic and intricate.

What better than a human skeleton?

But a skeleton wasn't enough, I needed something more than that.

So I decided to make him dance.

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Just like the old pull-string dancing nutcracker that your mom kept from her childhood, this skeleton dances via a bit of string that ties the arms and legs together.

Since I wanted the skeleton to be the star of the show, I used some fishing line to keep the string nearly invisible.

You can see the needed layout below.


Two important things to keep in mind during assembly:

First, the string tying the arms together needs to be as tight as possible while the arms are kept in the down position. Same goes for the legs.

Second, when connecting the arm string and leg string with the "pull string", you want as little slack as possible in that section of string.

The arms have a physical stop incorporated into them (they hit the ribs), so if there is too much slack, the legs won't dance.

And what are legs for, if not for dancing?


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The biggest takeaway from this project is that I had a ton of fun trying to figure out how to model something that I could already see in my head, but had to construct using simple shapes.

And that's a fantastic reason for everyone to spend more time in Tinkercad. 

Even advanced CAD users.

Because it forces you to think in ways you're not used to thinking in.

You HAVE to be creative in how you construct an object. And really, that's half the battle even when moving on to advanced 3D modeling.

So I challenge you to jump into Tinkercad, and exercise that creative muscle of yours.

Because one day, you'll end up like our dancing friend up there. And in your last days, you don't want to be thinking, "Man, I wish I spent more time in Tinkercad."



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Let's face it, your Halloween decorating isn't complete without your very own Dancing Skeleton.

If you enter your name and email below, I'll send you the .stl file so that you can:

  • Print and then build something fun with your kids

  • Complete your Halloween decoration collection

  • Scare your dog

Plus, it was designed to print without any supports, so it should be a very easy print.


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