Top Five Educational 3D Design Apps From MakerBot


Every school deserves access to quality resources for its students. Every student should have the chance to learn, explore, and grow with the best resources available. After frequent talks with educators and other customers, we’ve learned that 3D design apps are extremely valuable for the learning process. These educational 3D design apps, best explored on laptops, desktops, or iPads, help students conceptualize, shape, and model designs for new projects. Read on to check out MakerBot’s top five free 3D design apps that will help elevate learning in your classroom.

Here are five free 3D design apps that will be game-changers for your classroom.

Autodesk Tinkercad

If you’ve got students that are excited about 3D design, Autodesk Tinkercad is the app for you! Recommended for 2nd grade and up, Tinkercad is its own adventure in the world of 3D design. Complete with a moveable workplane, scalable shapes, community designs, easy-to-use controls, and fun formatting options, it’s very easy to be creative in this app. “It’s the easiest 3D design program there is,” says Poppy Lyttle, MakerBot Trainer of MakerBot Learning. “It also has tons of in-program tutorials to help get you started.” The tutorials take students through the fundamentals of 3D modeling, giving them the skills they’ll need to create complex shapes for projects. It’s a great tool to introduce 3D design and 3D printing.”


Introduce your students to the world of digital art with Sculptris. This free downloadable program is perfect for young artists and designers in 6th grade and up. Sculptris includes user-friendly tools and features that make it easy for beginners to draw and sculpt their own 3D objects. “Digital sculpting can be a very powerful tool for creating organic shapes, especially as an addition to a clay sculpting project,” shares Drew Lentz, MakerBot Learning Manager. “Professional designers use digital sculpting programs to create amazing projects.” With digital sculpts being essential to Computer Graphic (CG) artwork in movies, design, video games, illustration, prototyping, and more, Sculptris is a great way to start developing a professional 3D design skillset.

123D Design

Make 3D printed parts that connect, move, and function with 123D Design. Recommended for grades 6 and up, this app makes it possible for students to design functional parts and complex assemblies. “Engineers, architects, and many other professionals use similar software programs to create extremely complex structures like cars and buildings,” Lentz shares. “As students progress into solid modeling skills, know that 123D Design gives you the foundation to easily move into more advanced software.” Challenging students to come up with prints that have a real function in their everyday lives can motivate valuable innovation. Using 123D Design can help build the creativity and analytical thinking they’ll need as future professionals.


Grades 6 through 12 will get professional experience in designing complex and detailed 3D parts with Onshape. Onshape is a full-cloud 3D CAD system that allows students on a design team to work together using a web browser, phone, or tablet. Typically a paid service, Onshape offers free professional level 3D CAD to students and teachers through its Education plan. “It’s one of the most powerful 3D modeling programs available online. Its very similar to Solidworks, which is a professional program,” Lyttle explains. Onshape uses in-program tutorials to give students a thorough understanding of all the options they have to build out models. It has a version control feature to ensure that the latest version of your work is always saved. It’s also compatible with other CAD systems, so you can import work from other programs and continue to work on it in Onshape. This program includes everything you need to begin exploring professional 3D design work.


Minecraft is a popular adventure game that’s been hailed as one of the most playable games of all time. Now, students have Printcraft: the world’s first 3D printing multi-player Minecraft server. Printcraft plays the same way as the original Minecraft game, but it gives them the ability to capture their creations and turn them into STL files for 3D printing. “Many students have the skills needed to design in Printcraft from playing the game. It teaches them the fundamental printing concepts too!” Lyttle says. The versatility of its gameplay allows students of all ages to enjoy printing with this app. Grades 2-8 will be able to appreciate this program the most during STEAM projects.

Learn more about how 3D design apps can inspire classroom innovation in our MakerBot Learning page, and read through our PS 15 use case for real-life examples!