3D Modeling for Makers

Digital Fabrication

Lydia Sloan Cline is the author of Fusion 360 for Makers, which is out in a new second edition. She teaches 3D design and fabrication at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, where she began as a drafting professor with a degree in Architecture. In this episode of Make:cast, Patrick DiJusto, Make: Books editor, talks with Lydia about the new edition and what’s changed. One topic is generative design, a way of telling the software what you to build and having it present you with multiple options. If you are still hoping to learn Fusion 360, you’ll do well to learn from Lydia.

Fusion 360 for Makers Second Edition is available on Maker Shed for pre-order and on Amazon and Target. This book is in full-color with detailed screen shots and procedures that will help you learn Fusion 360.

Lydia at Maker Faire Kansas City


Lydia: [00:00:00] There are things that college students are learning right now that may be obsolete by the time they graduate, or a couple of years after.

Patrick: [00:00:44] Hello and welcome to the make podcast. I’m Patrick de Justo, the book editor at Make: Community. Today we’ll be talking to Lydia Sloan Cline, the author of the Make: book “Fusion 360 for Makers -the second edition.” Lydia. Welcome to the podcast.

Lydia: [00:01:04] Thank you. Glad to be here.

Patrick: [00:01:07] “Fusion 360 for Makers the Second Edition” is a new edition of a book that we published a few years ago and a lot has happened in the world of 3D design in those years. We’ll be talking mostly about those changes and why the book needed to be changed. Before we get more deeply into the book, let’s have some background on the author.

Where are you from? Where did you go to school? That kind of thing. So Lydia, the floor is yours. What kind of a kid were you that got you into this?

Lydia: [00:01:40] Sure. First I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and then got a degree in architecture from Iowa State University. Then I moved around a lot after that chasing jobs or moving because my husband was in the military. As a kid during all that time, leading up to that, I was a kid who loved to read. I read a lot. I loved mysteries, histories, science books, Popular Science magazine. And I love to write all, especially expository writing, and maybe that came from reading so many. Even at that time, what I thought were bad textbooks, I always thought, is this the best way they could have described that? I could have done it better. I also loved art and drawing. So I think all of that led me to eventually major in architecture, which is art and drawing and science. And then we go into my adulthood.

Patrick: [00:02:49] I once had a friend who said that architects are artists who actually make money.

Lydia: [00:02:55] The make money part, a lot of architects will, will argue about. But I think all of the architects I know do consider themselves artists. Absolutely.

Patrick: [00:03:09] Now I can’t imagine, I don’t know if there’s any college program that offers an architecture degree that’s related to 3D printing.

Patrick: [00:03:20] I don’t know if they do that yet.

Did they do that when you were getting your architecture?

Lydia: [00:03:25] No, not at all. 3D printing wasn’t a thing then. I don’t know of any programs that offer a 3D printing component. However, architecture programs that I’m familiar with and programs at the community college where I teach drafting absolutely incorporate 3D printing. Students are printing up models of their building designs, of their consumer product designs, that sort of thing. So it is being heavily incorporated now in the curriculum, but I wouldn’t call it, I wouldn’t say that it is architecture with 3D printing, at least not yet.

Patrick: [00:04:13] So how did specifically, how did you get started in 3D design?

Lydia: [00:04:18] As I said, I teach drafting at a community college and in 2008 our department got its first 3D printer. It was a big old Stratasys and we got it to print visuals to go along with our drafting assignments. Visualization is the hardest thing for many students to do.

And if you can have a physical model of what they’re drawing it so helps the problem solving process. And we got the printer because the beauty of the 3D printing is we could make up assignments for them to draw anything and then be able to print that anything up. Now we were first, we were the first department on campus to get a printer and word spread about it.

And then we started getting approached by other departments to print things. The math instructors were coming to us to ask us to print functions, ellipses, hyperbolas, whatever they were teaching because they said that being able to hold up a physical model of an ellipse or a hyperbola or whatever function they were teaching was a boon to the students, understanding the material.

There was so much interest in that printer that I then took it upon myself to learn more about the machine, develop a course in 3D printing because desktop models were soon becoming affordable. We bought some desktop models and I developed a whole course around them and the course always fills.

It’s a popular, successful course at the college.

Patrick: [00:06:18] We do want to continue talking about your book and what’s the title of the book Fusion 360 for makers. Second edition. This is important. Make sure you buy the second edition. And this book covers nearly the entirety of the 3D design experience, especially as it relates to being a maker, why did you choose Fusion 360 in particular?

Lydia: [00:06:43] I started the course out actually with Autodesk’s 123D software, since that was developed specifically for 3D printing and heavily marketed to teachers and it was free. Then when Autodesk discontinued 123D, I looked around for another program and Fusion just seemed to make the most sense because it contains multiple modeling types and was designed for 3D printers and fabrication machines. So most programs, it’s just one modeling type. And in a semester long class, you just don’t have the time to learn Blender and SketchUp and Maya and Inventor and all these different programs, but Fusion, you can get all of that with just one program and they make an educational version free to students.

So it just made perfect sense.

Patrick: [00:07:51] Now, what types of different modeling can you do with Fusion 360?

Lydia: [00:07:58] You can do parametric, which is modeling that has a timeline and preserves design intent. You can do direct, which has no timeline. You push and pull geometry to create a model. You can do solid modeling, surface modeling, form modeling, sheet metal modeling, and you can do generative design modeling.

You can import STL files and then edit them in the mesh modeling workspace. You can bounce a model between all those workspaces to take advantage of each space’s unique capabilities. So I don’t know of any other software that has so many workspace capabilities built into one. So it’s just perfect for the maker.

Patrick: [00:08:55] Right now when my brain hears all the different things it can do. I just naturally think that you need a high end workstation to run this and high-end peripherals, input devices. Is that the case with Fusion 360?

Lydia: [00:09:09] Honestly fastest processor and bigger graphics card that you have, the better, the happier you’ll be a gamer level computer, the type that gamers like because of the great graphics cards and fast processing capabilities. That is a good purchase for Fusion. You don’t have to have that and you can find the minimum specs needed to run Fusion online. You can certainly use input devices. The space mouse is very popular.

It’s a mouse that was designed to work in 3D space. And you can use the space mouse on any computer, but yes, the bigger and better computer you have I think the happier you will be using Fusion.

Patrick: [00:10:02] I find myself particularly fascinated by generative design. Can you talk a bit about how generative design works?

Lydia: [00:10:13] Sure. Generative design replaces the iterative process that designers were all trained on. Now the traditional design process has you start with a concept idea and then iterate it, modify it, develop it. With generative design, all that is turned on its head. You input into the software, the parameters you need such as loads it needs to carry, what material, what you want the design to do.

And then the software designs it for you. It offers multiple solutions. You pick one and then you can convert it into a form model into Fusion and then develop it further. If you don’t like any of the solutions you tell the software that you change, the parameters, you tweak things. And in a process called machine learning, the software will design different solutions for you to examine and approve.

Many professionals are using generative design now to design whole buildings, airplane parts, consumer products. Generative design can also come up with new materials. Airbus 3D printed a door for one of their airplanes from a generatively designed model. And they even printed it from a generatively designed material.

They call scalmalloy, which is an aluminum alloy. And I have a photo of that plane part

Patrick: [00:11:59] In the book, which is called “Fusion 360 for Makers second edition.” In the book you go into the whole how to do a generative design yourself. I just find that just so absolutely fascinating that you just like more or less tell it the parameters of what you want and just say, here, go and design it.

Lydia: [00:12:17] Correct. It’s going to turn the design world and every single field on its head as it’s more widely adopted. In fact, there are things that college students are learning right now that may be obsolete by the time they graduate, or a couple of years after.

Patrick: [00:12:38] Wow. 3D printing first came to the public, 11, 12, 13 years ago. And it was touted as something that would change civilization. Everything’s going to be different. And that hasn’t quite happened. In your opinion, how will 3D printing change people’s lives going forward?

Lydia: [00:13:00] I’m a bit more pessimistic because I don’t think that it will change their life too much until printers are a lot easier to use.

And right now they really aren’t. They take a lot of fiddling to get to work correctly, to get a good print, to set up. It’s still even as much as we see it in schools, it’s still a cutting edge product. I think the average person does not have a 3D printer in their home because they don’t know how to model.

They don’t know about even about the databases, the online places they can download models from like ThingaVerse. Yes. And they don’t know how to set up and run a printer, but when printers are easier to use, then people will run with them

Patrick: [00:14:00] And they will need books like Fusion 360 for makers, second edition by Lydia Sloan Cline published by Make..

Lydia: [00:14:08] Where they can at least learn how to model, the modelling part.

Patrick: [00:14:11] Exactly. Oh, and incidentally, you had pointed out that Fusion 360, the software is free for students for the average maker though. It’s there’s like a base level that’s free and a tiered pricing structure is that right?

Lydia: [00:14:26] There is a hobbyist version that is free and it has almost everything you need. There are some very useful features that have been removed from the hobbyist edition, but most of what you need is there. And you can come up with work arounds for some of the things that are not there. And I discuss a work around or two actually in the book.

Patrick: [00:14:56] So the hobbyist version can print nearly as well, or rather can design nearly as well as the full version.

Lydia: [00:15:04] For some things, there are work arounds for something certainly not for everything, but you can do what a hobbyist wants to do.

Patrick: [00:15:15] So with all the things that we have spoken about, you use Fusion 360 in your courses and you’re teaching college students and they’re using this software and I assume they’re using your book in this class.

Lydia: [00:15:30] Correct.

Patrick: [00:15:31] What are some of the things that they’re making nowadays? With their software and your book and a 3D printer.

Lydia: [00:15:42] Whatever they want. I let them make projects from the book if they want. One assignment I have is to bring in a physical item. That really hones your modeling skills. When you pick up a pair of glasses or a mouse, then you have to decide which workspace should I use the form workspace or the solid workspace. And then if they have specific interests, some people already know the kinds of things they want to do.

They want to have a side gig designing and selling things to a niche audience. Cosplay people that’s a huge 3D printing niche. So in the class, I just let them design what they want and I’m there to help them figure out the intricacies of it.

Patrick: [00:16:35] Is there anything that you wanted to talk about regarding this book regarding the whole idea of 3D printing? Anything you wanted to talk about that I have neglected to ask you?

Lydia: [00:16:45] I would just like to encourage people to learn about 3D printing, learn about CNC fabrication, because that is a huge use of modeling also.

Patrick: [00:16:59] Just explain CNC for those who don’t. Computer numeric control.

Lydia: [00:17:03] Those are the machines that cut shapes out of flat pieces of wood.

Lots of people use Fusion to take to a CNC machine where they can cut jigsaw puzzles or toys or whatever they want out of flat pieces of wood or wax or metal. So as many people are, I think, are using Fusion for that as for 3D printing, the printers are just dropping in price every year.  Features and capabilities that were unavailable to us five years ago are now there.

For example, color printing. There are affordable printers now that will do color printing they’ll print in filaments besides just FTMs for example. The fused deposition modeling that’s the plastic spools that is so popular for the average consumer desktop model.

Patrick: [00:18:11] That’s basically just like a string of plastic, almost like a fishing line. The 3D printer melts the end of it and makes like a dot of hot plastic and puts that dot down and then moves the head over. It makes another dot and another dot of melted plastic, and gradually builds up the print. That’s fused deposition modeling FDM.

Lydia: [00:18:32] Correct. What’s so great about this whole maker movement is that the software and machines that are needed to, for example, bring a product to market used to be out of reach to the average consumer, because you’d have to get an injection mold of each prototype and see that it didn’t work and then pay to get another injection mold.

And now you have software that’s cheaper, free. You have machines that are affordable to most consumers now. And you can do all this stuff yourself. So why not jump on board with that? Get ahead of the curve. It’s a real enhancement to one’s lifestyle, I think.

Patrick: [00:19:19] Okay. Thank you very much for speaking with us. We’ve been speaking with Lydia Sloan Cline, author of “Fusion 360 for Makers second edition.” My name is Patrick di Justo. Thank you for listening.

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty


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