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Free 3D design app Tinkercad adds fast, simple Minecraft exporting

The process of making custom objects for Minecraft and then bringing them into the playable sandbox world of Mojang's megahit just got easier, thanks to a free 3D design tool called Tinkercad.

Tinkercad is a browser-based design tool published by Autodesk, the company behind high-end commercial 3D modelling programs 3ds Max, Maya and AutoCAD. Tinkercad is its 3D design platform for the masses, an easy to use tool that lets novices create complex meshes by piecing together geometric shapes. Using Tinkercad, stitching together a castle made of boxes, cylinders and cones isn't too difficult. Making something more elaborate — or organic, like a 3D Godzilla model — might take more time.

In Tinkercad's latest update, which quietly went live earlier this week, the hassle of bringing those 3D creations into Minecraft is now painless. Just select "download for Minecraft" from Tinkercad's menu — a choice that sits alongside "order a 3D print" and "upload to Thingiverse," Makerbot's 3D object repository — and you're minutes away from playing with your custom model in the game.

"There was just a market that was screaming for this to happen."

The decision to add simplified Minecraft exporting to Tinkercraft, Autodesk senior product manager Guillermo Melantoni said, came about as a result of the overlap between the two communities — and the massive popularity of Minecraft.

Melantoni told Polygon in an interview that the Tinkercraft user base includes a high number of kids. They'll work with the software at school, he explained, or just toy with the product for fun. In some cases, those kids were explicitly making Tinkercad designs for Minecraft already. But the means of bringing those 3D creations into the game has always been a problem, a process filled with workarounds, he said.

Autodesk, which acquired Tinkercad in May of this year after its original creators mothballed the software, wanted to connect the two communities and the two programs. "It was not impossible before," Melantoni said. "We just made it easy."

"Right now it's basically a single button push, as opposed to going through a series of apps and file formats," he said. The process now is a couple clicks in Tinkercraft, an export to open source Minecraft editor MCEdit and an import into the game.That's pretty much it.

"We are opening it up for tens of thousands of kids who don't have a 3D background to be able to create content and bring it into Minecraft," Melantoni said.

Using Tinkercraft itself to design 3D objects is fairly straightforward. A series of lessons helps explain the basics of dragging and dropping primitive shapes, as well as how to tweak them, twist them, copy/paste them and more. "Within minutes, you're already doing interesting stuff," Melantoni says. Users can grab any of the hundreds of thousands of existing models created by other Tinkercad users or import STL files created in other 3D design tools, then edit them in Tinkercad.

"Within minutes, you're already doing interesting stuff."

While the editing and export process are already relatively simple, Melantoni said Autodesk will pay attention to the Tinkercad community's requests to improve the application's connection to Minecraft. "Right now, we want to make Tinkercad to Minecraft perfect and a fun compelling experience, and then go from there," he said.

"We're very responsive to feedback," he said. "The community is so vibrant and eager to participate; we really want listen to carefully what they say, and make this the best feature that's ever happened to them."

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