Tinkercad Circuit Assemblies let you make interactive 3D printed things

Circuit Assemblies are electronic modules that can be embedded in 3D prints to make them light up, move and spin.

user research

As part of our effort to bridge the worlds of 3D design and electronics, we wanted to consider what electronics would look like in the Tinkercad 3D editor.

How might we combine electronics with 3D design to help kids create interactive things?

I began by interviewing several elementary and middle school teachers about how they introduce electronic to students today, uncovering a few trends:

Images of electronics attached with hot glue and rubber bands (Credits: Ken Hawthorne)

personalized simple circuits

Kids often use the same underlying basic circuits, such as powering an LED, but customize them through the use of craft materials to make them their own.

rubber bands and hot glue

Electronics are hard to attach to projects – students often resort to hot glue, rubber bands, or other temporary fasteners.

components over kits

Components are a fraction of the cost of kits. Using components also gives students a way to transition to breadboarding.

design

Using the insights from my conversations with teachers, I designed a set of electronic modules called Circuit Assemblies that can be easily embeded in 3D prints.

I started with a simple module combining an LED and battery that users could integrate into their designs to make them light up.

Video from Build the Glow Circuit Assembly Instructable

I designing the 3D component so that it had built in tolerance for fitting in a design, regardless of print settings.

Designing flexures at the base for built-in tolerance for different 3D printers

Lots of test prints

Using the Tinkercad 3D editor, users can group "cutouts" with their design to create the cavity needed to insert the circuit assembly modules.

The Glow Circuit Assembly and Cutout

Creating a design with the Glow Circuit Assembly combining an LED and battery

After Glow, we added a few additional circuit assemblies, including Move and Spin.

Move Circuit Assembly with vibration motor, coin cell battery, and switch

I also collaborated with educator Erik Naumann on designing a programmable Circuit Assembly incorporating a 3D-printed Arduino shield for a Neopixel:

Neopixel shield

Rainbow Glow example using a custom 3D printed butterly design

Based on the positive reception, we extended the 3D editor to include popular electronic components that users could embed into their projects. Thanks to Lindsey Epstein, the awesome intern who helped model the parts!

in the wild

It was super fun to do workshops with kids and teachers trying out Circuit Assemblies, and then to see all the creative examples people built once the feature was released!

Here are a few found in the wild, through the power of the Internet.

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