Introduction: Learn Fusion 360 by Designing a Light Up Name Sign!

Hi everyone! I wanted to make a small light-up name sign that will fit in my PC case, and realized that this would be a perfect way to teach people the basic features of Fusion 360! This tutorial will cover the bare-bones features of Fusion and is intended for beginners. Let's get started!

Step 1: Fire Up Fusion 360

This step is the most important. Without it you won't be able to continue! :)

If you have not installed Fusion 360 on your computer, you can get it on Autodesk's website. Autodesk offers free licenses to students, makers and those who are learning to CAD, so see if you are eligible for a free educational copy!

Once installed, open the application into a new window.

Step 2: Your Work Environment

This is your workspace. On the top is your toolbar, where all the functions for creating and altering your model are located. Located on the upper right corner is the "perspective cube" which can be spun around to see different parts of your model. The upper left corner has your design elements (all the sketches, bodies and components that you make in this design will be shown here.

Step 3: Creating a Sketch

Let's begin our design with a sketch. We will first create a two-dimensional image and alter manipulate it to be a 3D object. On the Create Tab in your toolbar, click Create > Create Sketch. A coordinate plane will appear on your screen. Click on the XZ plane to begin your sketch (any plane can be chosen, I usually choose this plane because then my design is parallel to the ground.

Step 4: Create a Rectangle

Now its time to create a shape! Click Create > Rectangle > 2 Point Rectangle. To draw the rectangle, click on a starting point on the coordinate plane, let go of your cursor, and drag to another point. To make your rectangle precise, change the measurements of the shape by clicking on the individual dimensions and typing in a number. For my rectangle, I made it 50 mm by 115 mm, but it can be any size you like!

Step 5: Add an Incline

To make the sign fit more with my computer, I added a slanted edge to the rectangle. I first created a line and then removed the extra parts of the rectangle to create a trapezoidal shape. To create a line, click Create > Line, and draw the object in the same manner as the rectangle (click on the first point, move the cursor, click on endpoint). To remove the extra part of the rectangle, you can either click on the individual lines and delete them or use the Trim tool. To do this, click Modify > Trim, and click on the lines you want to remove.

Step 6: Add the Sign's Text

Now its time to add some text to your sign! Click on Create > Text and click on the shape you created earlier. A window will appear giving you several options for your text. Type in any message you like, and pick a font and size that looks good to you (I chose "OMNI Technologies" and used Gill Sans MT Bold Italic, for that Iron Man 'Stark Industries' feel :D ). Once you are done, Move the text to a place that looks good on the shape.

Step 7:

Before we finish our sketch, it is important to "explode" our text. This means that only the outlines of the text are shown, and can be manipulated. This is important because since this will be 3D printed, any piece of the word not attached to the frame (i.e. A center of an "O" or the middle of a "d") will fall out. To explore the text, simply right click on the text and click Explode Text. Now you can draw lines connecting the unconnected parts with the frame. I used the line tool to make little connectors for the 'O's and 'E's in my design and used the trim tool to remove any unnecessary line segments.

Step 8: Optional: Create and Dimension a Construction Line

This step is optional, but very useful when you are creating more complex projects.

Since I am putting this model in my computer case, I want to get an idea of how it will look. To do this, I created a construction line. To do this, click Create > Line, and click the Construction option in the sketch pallet on the right. A shortcut to this is hitting L and X on your keyboard. Now you can draw this line wherever you like. It will be visible in the design, but will not affect the model in any way. I used this construction line to show where the tempered glass part of my PC case begins, but construction lines can be used for countless other applications.

Another useful tool is the Dimension Function. This will allow you to have a specific distance between two lines/points. To do this, click Create > Sketch Dimension, or press the D key. Now click on the two things you want to constrain and place the dimension line wherever it looks good. Type in a value into the dimension and the lines will automatically adjust to fit that dimension. Be careful though! The lines may move in ways you might not want it to!

Step 9: Extrude Your Sketch

Now for the fun part, turning your 2D drawing into a 3D object!

Click Finish Sketch in the Sketch Pallete to leave the Sketch Environment. To extrude your drawing, select the entire shape by dragging a selection rectangle across the entire model (make sure every part of the sketch is highlighted). Now, press Create > Extrude or hit the E key. A menu will appear giving you several options for the extrusion. For now, do not worry about these settings; simply grab the arrow under the sketch and pull it down to create a 3D model (make sure the value the arrow shows is negative, as we want the sketch we created to be on the top of the model. I made my model 15 mm thick, and stopped extruding by clicking OK on the Extrude menu.

Now, you might wonder, where did the text go? Don't worry, we will get it back in the next step.

Step 10: Making Your Sketch Visible

To get our text back, we need to use the Components Browser on the left side of the workspace. You will see several folders; one of these is named Bodies, and the other is named Sketches. The Bodies folder will hold all the 3D objects in the component in your design, while the Sketches folder will have the 2D drawings. Fusion 360 organizes its design files in this order: Components > Bodies & Sketches. You can create multiple components, each with a set of bodies and sketches. We will get to this later in this tutorial.

Next to each folder and file is a symbol of an eye. If it is crossed out, that specific file is invisible but is still there in the design. This feature is useful in designs with several components and bodies since it allows you to only see what you are working on. Click on the Sketches Folder, and click on the eye next to your sketch, most likely named Sketch 1. Voila! Your letters are now visible!

Step 11: Hollow Out the Sign

To put LEDs in the sign, and save 3D printer filament, we should hollow out our sign. To do this, orbit to the back of the sign (the side opposite to letters side), and click Modify > Shell. Click on the back face of the sign, and set a wall thickness. This number is the thickness of your walls after the shape has been hollowed; I chose 2.5 mm. Hit OK and your shape is hollow!

Step 12: Optional: Additional Cleanup

This is another optional step; I did it to make the model fit better in my computer case. You can use the extrude tool to Join, Cut, Intersect, Create a New Body,or Create a New Component. Joining will add material to the model, and Cutting will remove material.

I decided to cut 10mm from the bottom of my sign by clicking on the bottom face and moving the arrow into my design. (Important Note: Doing extrusions like this can mess with other parts of your design; it is best to go back to the sketch and fix the dimensions if you are not sure. In my case, I lost the bottom wall of my model, but this is okay for my application.

Step 13: Extruding Text

To extrude the text, select all the parts of the text and extrude using the Cut function, pulling the text into the sign (make sure to extrude more or equal to wall thickness). When complete, your sign will have the letters cut out of it!

Step 14: Making Fillets

Introducing the greatest tool in CAD, the fillet!

A fillet rounds out sharp corners and can be useful to make bends stronger or make models look sleeker. To create fillets, click Modify > Fillet, and click on the edges you want to round out. Then pull on the arrow that appears, or input a specific value. In my case, I used the fillet tool to round out the interior walls of my sign.

Step 15: Front Face Done!

Awesome! The front part of the sign is done! Now, to begin the back section.

Step 16: Creating a New Component

Since you want the front and back to be two separate objects, its best to make a new component. To do this, click Create > New Component. Name the component in the menu that pops up and click OK. Your sign will turn transparent. This is Fusion 360 showing you that you are not working on that component anymore.

Step 17: Project Lines and Make a Lid

To make a back panel lid for this sign, let's create a sketch on the back face of the sign. It might seem as though you are still working on the front piece, but you are simply using it to construct the lid.

Since you want the front and back to share the same outline, you can project the lines onto your sketch. To do this, click Create > Project / Include > Project, or press P. Now, click the lines you want to project and press OK. The lines should turn purple, meaning that they are now projected onto your sketch. This feature is incredibly useful for complex assemblies were reconstructing a sketch line-by-line would be too difficult.

Step 18: Creating and Offset and Extruding the Lid

To make this lid attachable with the front, We can make a small lip that will fit onto the inside of the front. to do this, we can use the offset tool. What and offset does is create an outline a specific distance away from the original line. This is useful for adding thickness to an outline or make hollowed out shapes. To use offset, click Modify > Offset. Then select the lines you want to offset and drag the arrow to specify a distance. I created an offset 1.5mm thick on the insideof the original edge.

Now we can extrude the lid. Select the entire shape and extrude it away from the front part of the sign at whatever thickness suits you. After making the sketch visible again (It probably disappeared after the first extrude, find the lip you created using the offset, and extrude it into the front part of the box. You now have a thin lip on the lid!

Step 19: Activating Entire Model and Changing Appearances

To be able to see the enttire model, we need to activate it. Hover your cursor on the topmost component in your design, and you will see a circle appear. If you click this circle, your entire design will be activated visible. You can activate other components by doing this to individual components.

To make the model easy to understand and (more importantly) look better, we can change the appearance of the components. To do this, click on Modify > Appearances. A menu with several types of materials will appear. Navigate through the options and pick a material that looks good for you (some will have to be downloaded). To use a material, drag it onto the body you want to change, and you are done!

Step 20: Creating a Hole

To allow wires to enter the box, we need to make a hole. We can do this easily by clicking Create > Hole, and clicking on the face we want to "drill into". A red cylinder will appear, similar to the cut function when extruding. Alter this cylinder to give the hole you want (dragging the arrows/changing the settings in the hole dialog). Hit OK and your design is complete!

Step 21: Prepare File for 3D Printing

Congratulations! You were able to use Fusion 360 to make a cool looking light up sign! To turn this design into reality, we need to prepare a .stl file for 3D printing. To do this, click Tools > Make > 3D Print, and click on a component you want to print. Make sure the Send to 3d Print Utility checkbox is unchecked and hit OK. You can now save the .stl file of the component. Repeat this step with the lid component so you can print that as well. Once you have completed this step you can start 3D printing!

Step 22: Conclusion and Additional Steps

I hope to add printing and assembly instructions in the future, stay tuned for part 2! If you liked this project, please vote for it in the 3D Printed contest!

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