Beyond the blocks: modeling a space plane for 3D printing in Tinkercad

When people think about modeling rockets and space ships in Tinkercad, they can be forgiven for thinking that all you can do is stick a cone shape on top of a cylinder, and call it a day - but they're wrong! Tinkercad can do a lot more.

Tinkercad has a very powerful engine under the hood, and with some creativity and ingenuity, you can make great looking models that rival those from other 3D modeling packages - and do it fast, for free and in your browser.

Keep reading and follow along the Instructable if you want to learn more.

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3D print Chinese spacecraft with 123D

China's space program has been very active in the past year, and we wanted to help a broader audience understand and explore these achievements by making it possible to 3D print Chinese spacecraft models. We've put together a set of projects with all the parts needed to 3D print on a Makerbot or similar. 

All of these models were made using 123D Design, so you can modify and customize them easily. They're set up as Projects on our website, so you can easily download all the files at once.

With one exception, these models snap together using simple pin connectors - no glue needed. (The one exception is the main body of the moon lander, which is too big to print on a Makerbot.)

The first set of models includes the Chang'e moon lander and Yutu rover, which landed on the Moon in December. It's a really detailed model - you can articulate the solar panels, and the very elaborate ramp used to deliver the rover to the surface.

Click here to access the projects: Chang'e lander, Yutu rover.

Chang'e lander and Yutu rover

 We've also added a model of the Shenzhou capsule, used to put Chinese astronauts (or taikonauts) into orbit. You can print a variation with a connector that allows it to dock with the model of the Tiangong 1 space station. The Shenzhou and Tiangong can be made with folded or deployed solar panels.

If you saw the recent film "Gravity" starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, you may recognize the Shenzhou and Tiangong spacecraft - they play an important role in the film.

Click here to access the projects: Shenzhou capsule, Tiangong-1 space station.

Shenzhou capsule and Tiangong space station

Finally, we have a model of the rocket that is used to place all of these into orbit, the Long March 2F.

Let us know how these models work for you, and how you use them!