Designing a Parametric Parametric "Print in Place" Hinged Container


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The more mistakes I make, the more knowledge I gain.

The eight different size and color 3D printed "print in place" hinged containers appearing in the cover photograph of this Instructable do have one thing in common; they were all printed from a single Autodesk Fusion 360 model using "parametric modeling".

In a CAD environment, a parametric model is a model whose size and / or shape may be altered simply by changing dimensional values. In this model, I specified the dimensional values in the Autodesk Fusion 360 "Change Parameters" menu for the Length, Depth, Height, Thickness and Tolerance dimensions of a simple "print in place" hinged container. I then designed sketches for the base, lid and ball and socket hinges, and extruded the various components, using the dimensional values I entered. Thus to change the length of the container, I simply change the Length dimension, to change the depth, I change the Depth dimension and to change the height, I change the Height dimension. When any of the dimensional values on the Change Parameters menu are altered, Autodesk Fusion 360 rebuilds the container to the new dimensions, creating a new model ready for 3D printing, thanks to parametric modeling.

While designing this model, friends of mine questioned as to why I simply didn't scale the model using Cura (the slicer we use) prior to printing. The answer is when Cura scales a model, it scales everything, including the tolerances (or "clearance") between the parts. Thus when scaled up, the hinge becomes loose, and when scaled down, the hinge becomes tight, or even "welded". Parametric modeling ensures the user specified Tolerance (clearance) dimensions are maintained as the model dimensions are changed.

Now the caveats, the model is not without flaws. For example, no limits have been imposed on the dimension values so entering "reasonable" values is up to the user. I suggest using values greater than or equal to those I initially placed in the Change Parameters menu. Negative values are a definite no-no, and excessive Height values in relation to the Length and Width values will cause interesting and problematic side effects. If "non-reasonable" values are entered, errors may (or may not) appear in the timeline of the model to warn that the model, with the specified dimensions, is not printable, so examine both base and lid components prior to printing. And as testing all possible combinations of dimensional values would require time far exceeding my remaining lifetime, I simply did not have the time to test them all.

I've included the Autodesk Fusion 360 file "Print In Place Parametric Hinged Container.f3d" (UPDATE: a new file "Print In Place Parametric Hinged Container v1.f3d" has also been uploaded, see the final step for a description of the update) which includes the model details, and in the steps that follow are videos showing the steps I performed in creating this model (the videos may be slightly outdated, so stick with the .f3d file for updated details). Familiarity with the Autodesk Fusion 360 environment is highly recommended, and I'm always open to questions, suggestions, comments and criticisms (friendly please) so please feel free to comment and I'll do my best to respond as to why I chose the methods I did in creating this model.

As usual, I probably forgot a file or two or who knows what else, so if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to point them out as I do make mistakes in plenty.

Designed using Autodesk Fusion 360, sliced using Cura 3.5.1, and printed in PLA on an Ultimaker 2+ Extended and an Ultimaker 3 Extended.

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Step 1: Dimensioning.

The model design starts with dimensioning, and I recommend starting with the values shown in the video.

Step 2: Base.

In this step, the outside perimeter of the base is defined as a series of lines using the dimensions Width and Depth (note that a rectangle was not used in this step since when the outside 4mm corner fillets are added, the rectangle constraints are removed causing the model to fail). The base wall thickness is defined towards the base interior using the Thickness dimension. Finally, the base is extruded.

Step 3: Base Hinge.

In this step, the sketch and extrusion for the base hinge are created. Note the hinge center line is (Height / 2) above the X axis.

Step 4: Base Hinge Ball.

In this step, the sketch and revolve for the base hinge ball joints are created.

Step 5: Lid.

In this step, the inside perimeter of the lid is defined as a series of lines using the dimensions Width, Depth and Tolerance (note that a rectangle was not used in this step since when the outside 4mm corner fillets are added, the rectangle constraints are removed causing the model to fail). The lid wall thickness is defined towards the lid exterior using the Thickness dimension. Finally, the lid is extruded.

Step 6: Lid Hinge Sockets.

In this step, the sketch and revolve for the lid hinge sockets are created.

Step 7: Lid to Lid Hinge Sockets Connection.

In this step, the sketch and extrusions for the lid to lid hinge sockets are created.

Step 8: Final Touches.

In this final step, color, joint, joint limits and animation of the lid are created.

And that is how I created Designing a Parametric "Print in Place" Hinged Container Using Autodesk Fusion 360.

Hope you enjoyed it!

UPDATE:

I forgot to include the ball latch that holds the lid in place when the container is closed in the first .f3d upload, so I've uploaded a new file "Print In Place Parametric Hinged Container v1.f3d" that includes this feature, as well as labels for the sketches for easier editing.

Also, if you wish to print the small hinged box as modeled, I've added the files "Base.stl" and "Lid.stl", and a photograph of a print in place result, with breakaway supports, on an Ultimaker 3 Extended.

END OF UPDATE.

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21 Discussions

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JonS176

4 months ago

I finally finished my first project. I really like this
little container! Is there a video tutorial that explains how to add the
ball latch that snaps the lid in place?

1 reply
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gzumwaltJonS176

Reply 4 months ago

Hi JonS176,

I'm glad you liked it, I use them all the time!

I'm very sorry but I forgot that step in the video and did not make another.

Thanks again!

Greg

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gzumwaltefoster6

Reply 4 months ago

Hi efoster6,

No, I'm sorry, but I no longer publish on Thingiverse.

Greg

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Build_it_Bob

5 months ago

Hi Greg,
Just curious:
How long have you been working with Fusion 360?
Did you do CAD design previously?
How long did it take to create the design for this parametric enclosure?
I am very impressed, as I have never seen Fusion 360 in action like this.

1 reply
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gzumwaltBuild_it_Bob

Reply 5 months ago

Hi Build_it_Bob,

I've been working with Fusion 360 for a little over 2 years and my wife will testify how frustrated I was during the first few weeks. Because of its numerous features it does have a steeper learning curve than other cad programs.

Previous to Fusion 360, I used a cad program called Sketchup. It was easier to learn, but much more difficult to model with since, at the time at least, Sketchup was not a true solid modeling tool thus after minor edits, much clean up work had to be performed.

And previous to Sketchup, many years ago, I worked with a cad program called Autocad, primarily for electrical schematic generation.

The parametric enclosure took me about 15 minutes to design, and about 4 hours to record since I kept making mistakes!

Thanks very much, I'm glad you enjoyed it and hope it helped!

Greg

P.S. I think I still have a box for you.

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JonS176

Question 5 months ago

I really enjoy this instructable. Thank you for sharing it! I'm learning a lot about Fusion 360. How do I group the object once I have everything extruded? It seems like the parts are not grouped as shown in the picture.

Base.PNG
1 answer
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gzumwaltJonS176

Answer 5 months ago

Hi JonS176,

I'm glad you enjoyed this Instructable, and you are very welcome!

I export both the base and lid to separate files, then load both into Cura 3.5.0 (the slicer I use) and select "Select All Models" then "Merge". Cura then places the two pieces together, ready for printing.

You can, however, accomplish the same from within Fusion 360 by selecting the "Modify, Combine" feature. When selected, the "COMBINE" pop up menu will appear. On this pop up menu, simply select the lid for the"Target Body", the base for the "Tool Bodies", "Join" for the operation, then check both "New Component" and "Keep Tools", and finally select "Ok". Fusion 360 will then create a new component with both lid and base bodies.

Hope this helps!

Greg

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 8.40.48 AM.png
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Lorddrake

6 months ago

Thanks so much for an awesome explanation of modifying a 3D model. I am very new to 3D modeling and printing so I am still on steep learning curve. That bit about how scaling using cura will change the tolerances as well as the size. I never would have thought of that (at least not until I had wasted alot of filament and said some inappropriate words LOL)

1 reply
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gzumwaltLorddrake

Reply 6 months ago

Hi Lorddrake,

You are very welcome!

I've been using Autodesk Fusion 360 for almost two years, and I'm still learning!

Greg

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gzumwaltRouverius

Reply 6 months ago

Hi Rouverius,

Congratulations, great work!

Greg

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Penolopy Bulnick

6 months ago

This is great! I'm going to try to print one :)

So if I want I can just scale them up or down for different sizes and they'll still snap together?

1 reply
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gzumwaltPenolopy Bulnick

Reply 6 months ago

Hi Penolopy,

Thank you very much, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Yes, you may specify the length, width and / or height to be any “reasonable” (see the Instructable introduction regarding limitations of the model) value. I use Cura for slicing, so after specifying the container dimensions and saving both the base and lid to a file, I load both pieces into Cura, “Merge” them, then send the merged model to the printer. When the printer is finished, the container is complete, no need to snap them together.

Best wishes and thanks again!

Greg

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ChiefInstructor

6 months ago

Great instructable. The design walkthrough is a great learning tool for those new to Fusion 360. Voted Favorite. Well done. Would love see some videos of the boxes in action. How well did they "tolerate" the 3d printing?

2 replies
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ChiefInstructorgzumwalt

Reply 6 months ago

Excellent! The parametric modeling makes good sense for scalable designs. Wishing you well.
M

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ArnieO

6 months ago

Great work - thank you for sharing! Is your model on Thingiverse?

1 reply
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gzumwaltArnieO

Reply 6 months ago

Hi ArnieO,

Thank you very much!

No, this model is not on Thingiverse. If you need to access it there, I can create a thing for it, but the interest for my models on Thingiverse has dropped so low that I may stop publishing there. Your thoughts?

Thanks again!

Greg

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audreyobscura

6 months ago

So handy for prototyping quick enclosures! Favorited this one - thanks so much for sharing this method!