Introduction: 3D Printing Fluffy Clouds With Digital Sculpting Tools

About: I am a self taught maker with a huge interest in microcontrollers and 3D printing.

Since learning SolidWorks in school, I've been looking to learn other 3D modeling tools that I can use at home for free (keyword being free). Lately I've been trying Autodesk Fusion 360. I didn't really know what I wanted to make so I decided to play around with the sculpt tool to make a cloud that I could 3D print. It is good to note that if Autodesk Fusion 360 isn't a good option for you because the tools are too confusing or you have a computer that can't support it, like a Chromebook, the same kind of sculpting tool is available as part of SolidWorks Apps for Kids which is free and usable inside the browser.

Step 1: Starting Up

If you don't have Autodesk Fusion 360, get it here. It is a free software for hobbyists, startups, students, and educators for as long as you need it.

Once you have it downloaded, launchAutodesk Fusion 360 to a new file. At the top bar there are a lot of options including 2 options under the "Create" category. You want the second one which looks like a purple rounded cube with a bunch of mesh like sections. This will launch the sculpting tool which will allow you to make lots of shapes including fluffy clouds.

Step 2: Make a Fluffball

Once you are in the sculpting tool, find the option that says create at the top. In the drop down menu find the option that says "Quadball". This creates a cube-ish, sphere-ish shape. Using a normal sphere would also work for making clouds.

Step 3: Shape Your Cloud!

With your new fluffball on the screen, click on the modify option at the top. This will allow you to directly click and change things on your ball to make clouds. You can click on sections, lines, and points to manipulate the object. Click on the squares to drag the shape in a new direction. Drag on the circle edges to rotate the point adding twists into your shape. You can also find the option in the drop down menu to split existing sections into 4 pieces to make your object even more manipulable.

Step 4: Finish Your Cloud!

When you have shaped your cloud to your satisfaction, hit the finish button at the top to finish your shape for printing. The first shape didn't end up working for me. I accidentally twisted the shape into itself and the digital support spines (or T-spine) were overlapping and making it impossible for the shape to render. I ended up throwing out the shape and trying something a lot less complicated. This one worked and I was able to print a small version of my cloud with translucent purple PLA and supports material in an hour and a half. If it doesn't work when you try to finish your cloud, try to see what you did wrong and fix it, or try again and twist the shape a little less.

I found this exercise really helpful in learning to navigate a new 3D modeling tool.

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