While Tinkercad and Meshmixer are good, free programs, it’s pretty much guaranteed that the full fledged
consumer products in your life were not designed with those tools. To create 3D models that can be sent to
manufacturers for production, designers need to use more advanced tools such as Autodesk’s Fusion 360.
Figure 12-1 shows an example of the complexity of objects that can be created in this program. This design
allows you to download and fabricate the components of your own furniture, using 3D printed parts and
commonly available components (straps, etc.).
Fusion 360 enables the creation of complicated models and costs a fraction of what other software in
this league would cost. At the time of this writing, the pricing of Fusion 360 is fairly unique in the software
Free for personal/student use (with some restrictions on what you can do)
Free commercial use for startups until their business makes more than $100,000 per year and
as long as you are designing products for your own company to sell. This promotion requires
acceptance into the startup program, at the discretion of Autodesk sales
After that, Fusion costs around $50/month when you prepay for a year
This fee structure allows users full access to a very powerful software program, without having to pay for
an expensive commercial license that can cost thousands of dollars. In fact, most of the CAD models we
create in our rapid prototyping business are made in Fusion 360. It is a powerful tool for professional work.
In this chapter, we’ll provide you with a basic introduction to help you understand how the program works
and how to get started using it. An in-depth tutorial covering all the rich features of Fusion 360 is beyond the
scope of this introductory book. (We recommend Fusion 360 for Makers, 3rd Edition by Lydia Sloan Cline, or
our online course located on our website https://www.honeypoint3d.com/education).
POLYGONAL VERSUS PARAMETRIC MODELING
Fusion 360 creates what are called “solid models’’ that have a defined volume and weight based on the
material assigned to them. For example, you can make parametric models for objects that are made out of
concrete and others for objects made out of rubber. Each of those models can have simulations run against
them to illustrate what would happen to the objects in the real world if specific stresses were placed on
them. After all, the density or other material properties in a CAD program like Fusion 360 is just another
formula to calculate.
Before we jump into the tutorial, however, we want to remind you about the difference between polygonal
and parametric modeling. The STL file format that 3D scanners create, and that Meshmixer uses, gener-
ates hundreds or thousands or even millions of small triangles (which are really just three-sided polygons)
to create an object. These triangles create a shell of the object rather than a solid with volume. Imagine
casting a fishing net over an object. The fishing net is like an STL file that shells the object.
Parametric modeling, by contrast, uses parameters to define a model. Parameters are another way of
saying changeable mathematical formulae. When you look at a model on the screen you are seeing how one
formula interacts with another, which is why CAD programs are able to make huge changes in the model
Fusion 360 is a great example of a parametric modeling program. The file output of Fusion 360 can be STL
(triangles) or parametric file formats (more-than-three-sided shapes) such as STEP and IGES, which are
used in traditional manufacturing.
Parametric modeling allows you to go back in time and change values based on choices you may make
later. These changes can be made at any time, and they will cascade throughout the design, all the while
keeping the object in proper shape. For example, if you change the shape of a window on a house, the walls
would adjust accordingly and you would not have to go back and make changes to them as well. That is
because the models are based on parameters, and Fusion 360 recalculates all of the formulas accordingly.
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