Tinkercad Tools: Workplane

Objectives and Overview

The goal of this lesson is to introduce the Tinkercad workplane tool. This is one of the more powerful features in Tinkercad but it’s often not used. This is one of several tools that can enhance precision and accuracy. Once the workplane has been integrated into a workflow it’s hard to imagine designing objects without it!

Lesson Objectives

  • Recognize how the Tinkercad workplane tool can aid in precision design.
  • Demonstrate how to add and remove workplanes from your Tinkercad design.
  • Recognize use cases where the workplane can save time and allow for accurate placement of objects.

What is the Workplane?

The workplane is added to your project as a temporary reference plane for objects. The workplane is a helper tool for accurately adding shapes to a specific plane on an existing object, such as the side of a cube. This process can be tricky if you’re not using the workplane as you need to rotate the camera and “nudge” shapes onto the plane. This approach isn’t entirely accurate and can have some unintentional errors such as shapes being slightly rotated and not sitting flat on the intended plane.

The workplane tool solves these issues as you’re able to add one to a specific plane and then use it as a reference point. Any shapes that you add to the temporary workplane will then sit flat on the intended destination.

Adding a Workplane

Workplanes can be added to any side of an object. This flexibility is one of the core benefits and strengths. For example, let’s say that you have a box and you need to add a hole to the left side. You could accomplish this by rotating the camera, but you can also add a temporary workplane to the left side and then use that as your reference point. Once you’ve added a temporary workplane, shapes will use that new plane as the reference. Essentially, this new workplane replaces the blue workplane and any new objects added can be snapped to it.

This concept sounds confusing, but once you work through the process it’s much clearer. Let’s look at a video demonstrating the workplane:

Removing a Workplane

Removing workplanes is one of the more confusing aspects of this tool. The new workplane remains deployed until you actively remove it. The process for removing a workplane is the following:

  • Drag a new workplane onto your project
  • Drop the new workplane off to the side — in other words, drop this new workplane somewhere in the backdrop of your project.
    • A good place to do this is in the back — make sure that the workplane doesn’t “snap” to any actual plane or you’ll need to repeat this process!

Tinkercad Practice

Once the basic concept has been presented the best way to become comfortable is to practice! There is a short, guided activity on Tinkercad that is helpful. To access the Tinkercad lessons, log in to Tinkercad and then click on the Learn tab. In there, click on the Lessons tab and locate the Die on the Workplane lesson. Have the youth work through this short activity where they’ll place numbers on the sides of a die.

Here’s a direct link to the lesson: Tinkercad: Die on the Workplane

Note: If that link doesn’t work, have the youth locate it via the above instructions.

The lesson activity has 11 steps. Make sure that the youth complete each step before hitting the Next button.

Keyboard Shortcuts: Workplane

There are some useful keyboard shortcuts related to workplanes. Try to not introduce these shortcuts until the youth have had a chance to work through the lessons themselves. The reason for this is to limit the amount of new information being presented at once.

There are two core keyboard shortcuts that make the process of using workplanes even smoother:

  • W key: Hitting the ‘W’ key while working in your project will bring up the workplane and attach it to your mouse’s pointer for placement. This is helpful because it allows you to select the workplane while leaving your mouse on the intended plane.
  • D key: Hitting the ‘D’ key drops an object onto a selected plane. This shortcut, combined with workplanes, ensures that your objects are placed flush on their intended planes. This is especially helpful for dropping shapes onto side planes since it may remove the need to rotate the camera.

Try integrating that key combination into your workflow. While many people love using keyboard shortcuts to save time, they’re not necessary. If the youth are having trouble with the core concepts, make sure that they know that these shortcuts aren’t required. Plenty of successful designers don’t use the shortcuts at all!