Our Designer of the Month, Vladimir Mariano, is the instructor for a number of online courses that teach the fundamentals of design for 3D printing in Fusion 360. He shares much of his work on his website desktopmakes.com and is the co-founder and president of the Fairfield County Maker’s Guild. There, he teaches a number of different skills including 3D printing, electronics, and programming.
It’s the perfect time to learn 3D design. We’re living in an age where the barriers associated with 3D printing are coming down and enabling a new age of makers.
As the price of printers continues to drop, more and more hobbyists are able to adopt the technology. Improvements to the cost and functionality of CAD software makes the craft more accessible to tinkerers and professionals alike. An increase in the availability of educational content gives those interested in the technology a more clear learning path.
Today we’ll be focusing on 3D design, specifically using Autodesk’s Fusion 360. This professional grade software might have cost thousands of dollars a few years ago but is available for free to hobbyists and small businesses that make under $100k per year.
One of the first things I ever 3D printed was a gear. This wasn’t just any old gear – this gear was meant to replace a part on the very printer that was printing it. Designing gears has always been a bit of a challenge until I learned what I’m about to teach you.
Importing Gears from a Catalog into Fusion 360
There are a number of different ways you can go about designing gears including more conventional techniques like creating circular patterns. One of the easiest methods is to simply import them from the McMaster-Carr catalog. In Fusion 360, you can do so by going to the ‘Insert’ tab and choosing the ‘Insert McMaster-Carr Components’ option.
Navigating the McMaster-Carr catalog can be a bit of a challenge but for our purposes all we need to do is search ‘gears’. Select the ‘gears’ icon and now we have a few options that can be used to narrow down the results until we get what we want.
You can use search parameters like number of teeth, pitch, pressure angle, etc. until you find the gear you want. Once you’ve found your gear, click on the ‘Product Option’ link and you’ll see a dropdown for different 3D file formats. For our purposes, we’ll be using 3-D STEP so select that option and hit save.
This brings the 3D model into your current workspace. You can now edit and configure the model however you’d like! The advantage of STEP files is that they can be parametrically modified unlike STL or OBJ files.
Modifying Your Gear File
Fusion 360 makes editing your objects incredibly easy. To delete parts of your model, simply select the desired geometry and hit delete. Fusion 360 will remove the part automatically and heal the body. Note, if your part has a fillet or chamfer, it’s best to delete the fillet or chamfer first before removing connected geometry.
Files imported from McMaster can be edited normally by selecting your desired surface and using sketch mode. Creating a hole in an imported gear is as easy as creating your sketch on the desired surface and extruding your circle through the part.
This technique allows you to bring any type of gear you need into Fusion 360 and modify it to fit your specifications. This tends to be a bit quicker and easier than creating it from scratch. I made a video of the entire process from start to finish that you can find here!
This is the technique I used to create my geared fidget spinner. If you’re interested in a full tutorial on creating this design as well as many of my others, check out the Fusion 360 for 3D Printing – Designing Fidget Spinners Course!