Introduction: TinkerCad and Fusion 360 to CNC a 3D Picture

About: I love programming and working on projects that build things.


When I built my CNC and started using it, I was having trouble creating my 3D models and milling them. That is until I started working with TinkerCad and Fusion 360. I love how easy TinkerCad is to work with STL files and how easy it is to use the Fusion360 CAM (Manufacture) package.

The purpose:

To demonstrate how to get a 3d STL image from, manipulate it with TinkerCad , add some text and then create the tool path with Fusion 360.


  • A computer with web browser.
  • fusion360 (get free trial or non-commercial license for 1 year Free!!!)
  • A CNC router and bits ... ( I built mine with directions from )

Step 1: Download 3d STL File From Web

Get STL File:

To make a plaque with a train on it:

  1. Login to
     1. searched trains. 
     2. Find a 3D train you like.
     3. To get the STL file click on the "Thing Files"  tab
     4. Click the model you want.  
         * In this case the "Whole Train stl file".

    You now have a file in my download directory called: E3DTrain_Whole.stl

Step 2: TinkerCad

TinkerCad by Autodesk is a free, easy-to-use app for 3D design, electronics, and coding. It's used by teachers, kids, hobbyists, and designers to imagine, design, and make anything!


In this step we will take the STL file and use it in making a new design. STL files are typically downloaded and 3d printed. They are also referred to as meshes, and TinkerCad will let us edit and change them easily.

1. Open web browse, go to and login/register.
2. Click "Create New Design" button.
3. Create a rectangle the size of your sign or plaque.
    * In the basic shapes, pick a box and place in center of workspace.
    * Click the box to get the white squares on the corners to appear.
    * Click the corners to resize.
    * I made mine 100mmx 50mmx 5mm you could work in inches and make it 4"x2"x.25"
4. Import the train image
    * Click import button in upper right corner
    * Pick train STL file.
    * Click import again
5. Cut the train in half with a clear box (see picture)
    * Add clear Box and streach to cover half of the train.
    * Select both the clear box and the train using the shift key or CTRLkey
    * Click the "Group" button in the upper right corner. ( you now have half a train).
6. Resize train by clicking on white squares at corner. I made mine 30mmx15mmx10mm
7. Lay the train on its side and place on rectangle where you want it. 
    * To accomplish this click the train and the 360 degree circle will appear on back and side.
    * Click the one on the side and set it to 90 degrees.
8. Add other elements. such as text. Text may be found by clicking he down arrow by basic shapes.
    * The text "Inspector" allows you to replace the word TEXT with your word.
    * Change font/size as needed.
9. Group all items and export new STL to be used in Fusion 360.

Step 3: Fusion 360 (Import Mesh)

Fusion 360 by Autodesk is the first 3D CAD, CAM, and CAE tool of its kind. It connects your entire product development process in a single cloud-based platform that works on both Mac and PC.

Import STL file into Fusion 360:

1. Start Fusion 360         
    * Click on "Create" then Insert Mesh          
    * Load your STL file you exported from TinkerCad         
2. Select the axis and rotate to lay your model flat.(see picture)   
3. Click on the circle for the axis of the side you want to mill.      
4. Move circle in direction to lay model flat.  Verify degrees (usually 90/270 or -90)      
5. Save workspace at this point.

Step 4: Fusion 360 (Manufacture/CAM) - New Setup

In this step we go to the CAM package and make a new setup:

1. Enter the CAM application click on Manufacture in the leftmost menu.
2. Create New Setup    
    a. Click on "Setup" and then "New Setup"     
        * A dialog box will popup. (New Setup)   
        * First click "Model" and select the mesh. This will tell Fusion 360 what we want to mill.   
        * Next set the Z-Axis to the correct direction   
        * Click center of axis. (white circle).   
        * Then click the z axis and planes will appear for you to click.  (see picture).    
Once the z axis is in the right direction pick your starting point.  (I use lower left corner). You may change the stock in this setup but I typically leave it at 1mm.

Step 5: Fusion 360 (Manufacture/CAM) - Creating Tool Path

Meshes may only be milled with 3D tool paths. There are many options. You may choose to use a bigger end mill to remove material before your finish run but in these cases I just use a parallel path with a ball nose end mill.

When you click on 3D, there are a dozen type. Parallel will do a good job for this project.

Create Parallel Tool Path:

1. Under 3D tool paths select Parallel and a popup will appear.
2. First pick your tool,  you can add your own, download or just pick from sample library.  
    * I use the stainless 1/8" ball nose end mill.  
3. On the passes tab you may want lower the stepover.  By making it smaller the paths are overlapped and cleaner.
    * I use 1mm for an 1/8" bit.  
    * You may add a perpendicular path by checking the checkbox "Add perpendicular path"  
4. click [ok] and Fusion will generate your tool path.

At this point you could click on the Actions Menu and Simulate the milling. This will alert you if there is any collisions with the tool and your part.

Step 6: Fusion 360 (Manufacture/CAM) - Saving Tool Path

Saving Tool-path:

Fusion 360 allows for all sorts of options when creating the tool path or G-codes to mill your part.

To save the tool path, click on the Action Menu and then click "Post Process"

1. Let the form fill in defaults.  My post processor is GRBL, select the one for your mill.     
2. Program Name or number is up to you as are program comments.   
3. The tool path is saved with a .ng extension.   
4. The "output folder" is your destination folder to get your file.

This is the file you will load in your Gcode Sender program, I use UGS to send the Arduino based GRBL file to my CNC Router. Your CNC may use other settings. Consult your CNC and loading program for correct setting, because this tells Fusion 360 what GCodes your CNC Router supports.

Step 7: Finishing the Project

I have used TinkerCad and Fusion 360 for a couple years. I appreciate that Autodesk makes these fine tools free to us hobbyists.

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