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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fusion 360 - My Concept Modeler, Test Station, and Presentation Tool

I'm at the end of the four day Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States, but even on vacation I was busy trying new things.

It's what I do...(Shrug)

For a couple of years, now, I've been hearing the benefits of Fusion 360.  It's portable!  It doesn't require a high power workstation!  It's easy to use, and so on.

My old colleague, Jorge Fernandez, even built a 30 minute presentation on the benefits of Fusion 360!

And don't think I'm a detractor!  I see the benefits, I fully acknowledge them.  But what I haven't truly had yet, was an opportunity to realize those benefits for myself.

Our black cat, Scar, however, remains completely unmoved.

Scar the Kitteh is unimpressed by cloud applications like Fusion 360.
However, he does see immediate ROI in a fresh can of wet food.
This weekend, during the long weekend here in the United States, I had my opportunity to realize my benefits on a level that had a more personal impact.

First, a brief  description of my situation.

I was working on a small cover that had to be light enough to be removed, but strong enough to be walked on.  A constant concern was excessive "oil canning" of the material, where it would "pop" in and out like an old oil can.

If your old enough to remember theses, you know the "Oil Can Effect".

But time at work is precious.  Development time, like anywhere must be kept to a minimum. And while there is value in development, there isn't always the time for development.

Many of us have encountered that before.

I don't mind playing with an idea at home.  I do some of my best thinking at home, in solitude, with a cup of coffee in my hand.

My challenge is, I don't have Inventor at home.  My installation is on a desktop machine, and I don't have a laptop husky enough to run the software currently.

But what I do have, is Fusion 360.

So over the course of my weekend, I built up a quick concept model,and ran a quick FEA to see what the design would do.

The floor model.  There's even a grate texture to simulate perforated metal

The FEA analysis.  I'm looking to see how much the floor deflects. 

Is it a perfect design, no, it's a concept!

But what Fusion 360 allowed me to do was "strike while the iron was hot" when my ideas and inspiration collided in my brain, instead of when I walked into the office after a long weekend.  Now I also have a more fully realized concept that I can share with colleagues.

When I walk in the office after vacation, I can talk about ideas. with a little more confidence, and with a little more visual aid.

This was my use for Fusion, a 3D notepad, repository for ideas, test station, and presenting tool, all in one.

Does this affect you?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  I leave that for you, as an individual to decide.

But do I think it's worth consideration, for my part, I have no doubts.

Oh!  And one last post script.  Here's the file I created, embedded from A360.  I know the design isn't perfect, there's more tweaks I can make.  But remember, it's a concept!

Additional Photo Credits:

photo credit: Oil be darned! via photopin (license)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

An iProperty in Time - Linking Autodesk Inventor Properties to Your Drawing

Creating and modifying prints often comes down to details.

Many errors I've seen (cough, made myself), are smaller, easier to miss details.  One example, is forgetting to update a text field.

This is not the print you want to miss a detail on.
Just ask this engineer.  He's got a tough boss!

These are often notes that are hiding in a corner in the drawing.  A part number in a note is a prime example. 

But what if I told you there was a way to set up your template with a field that automatically read in the part number?  So that every time you placed a part in the drawing, the drawing automatically read in that part number. 

There is, and this is how. 

Start out by typing text, just like you have countless times in an Inventor drawing.  But choose the settings indicated in the image below: 

Here are the steps the image describes.

1) Start the text tool.  You won't get far without this step.

2) Start typing! You'll need to get to the point where you're ready to insert the text.  

3) Set the Type to Properties - Model.  This makes sure that your reading the property from the model placed on the drawing. 

4) Property - This is the property being placed in the text field.  In my case, I'm using part number, but there plenty of others to choose from.

5) Insert - This is "pulling the trigger".  This places the text in to the text field. 

Next, you'll see carets with the property insert into your text editor.  Part number appears in my case. 
After this is done, complete typing the note you need.  Once you hit OK.  The text will appear on the drawing and the property's value will be read in. In my case, it's the part number 2015-48-12.

Should the property change, the field will update, wherever it's called out on the drawing, including multiple locations, if you have them. 

In my example, I'll change the part number from 2015-48-12 to 15-1595-ABLE.   Which, let's face it, part numbers, among other fields, can change.

Once the field is updated, the drawing will read that property from the model and automatically update. 

There are the steps to get a property linked into a text field.  To get real bang for your buck, add required fields to your template, and get rid of some of those repetitive, and easy to forget tasks!

And look at what other fields you can add.  There are plenty to choose from!

I did create a video for this one using Autodesk Screencast.  No sound, I'm afraid.  But life has been keeping me *just* busy enough to keep me out of my little editing room!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Mid-Week PSA - A Wealth of Information from the Stainless Steel Information Center!

In my post earlier this week, I blogged about learning how the orientation of the sheet metal flat pattern in Autodesk Inventor can affect the finish of the part that comes out of a machine, and how to flip the base face to make sure that the desired side was unblemished by the laser mill bed.

In my case, the finish being applied was a #4 finish to a stainless steel sheet.  That was the nice finish that had to be protected.

Another view of a laser mill, and that finish destroying bed.
Now, this is the point where I confess something to all of you out there.

When I first heard #4 finish used in conversation, I was the guy nodding my head as if I knew of the #4 finish they spoke.

In reality, I had no idea what a #4 finish was, aside that it was special.  While I was nodding knowingly, I was tilting my head like a curious dog on the inside. I endeavored to make a few Google searches when I got back to my desk.

Admit it! We've all looked like this at one point or another! 

And Google paid off in spades.  I found the website for the Stainless Steel Information Center.

Not only did I find exactly what I needed to know about #4 finish, I found a wealth of information on stainless steel, I found definitions, information on composition, applications, corrosion properties. The list goes on and on.

I haven't even gone through the entire site yet!  But I know that I will eventually.  I'll refer to this site often!

I've already started downloading some of the handbooks for myself.

But if you're using stainless steel, thinking about using stainless steel, or you're a student wanting to learn about stainless steel, then this is a resource well worth considering.

And if you know any other great engineering materials, or anything at all, feel free to share with a comment!

And by the way!  A #4 stainless finish is what you'd find on appliances, architectural wall panels, and tank trailers, among other things.

But now you have the resources to read that yourself!

Photo Credits

Laser Mill by: By Metaveld BV [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

photo credit: DSC08200.jpg via photopin (license)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

For a Good Finish - Flipping a Flat Pattern Base Face in Inventor

Laser mills can be fascinating machines to watch.  Even thought they've been around for years, watching them still feels like a little bit of science fiction.

Just watch this video from Wikipedia and try not to imagine something sci fi!

But no matter how sophisticated the tool, there are always "tricks of the trade" to get a little more out of the tool. 

One thing I've learned is the care of keeping the "good side up".  

The material in a laser mill rests on a grid of pointed steel plates I've taken to calling the "bed of nails".  

Looking at the image below, you an see pretty easily how that could mark up a surface you'd be hoping to keep free from marks.  

The laser mill bed. Certainly not the place to get a good night's sleep.
Because of that, you may have guessed it, it becomes important to keep the "good side up".  This keeps the visible side of the sheet metal off the "bed of nails", making sure it's got a clean finish. 

In Inventor, this means making sure that when clicking the flat pattern icon, the face that Inventor shows you is the "up" side.  

But how to you make sure the good side is out?

The obvious way, is to choose the "A" side right away, either by using the "A Side" tool, or by selecting that as your face when you create the flat pattern. 

But what if you need to change it after the fact?  In spite of the best efforts of the best designer, it's always possible one flat pattern is going to be reversed. 

An easy way to fix an incorrectly oriented flat pattern is just to delete it and replace it.  This might work great if a drawing using the flat pattern hasn't been created yet, but what if it has?

If a flat pattern view is created, deleting the flat pattern means recreating the view in the drawing. 

This is a fairly simple flat pattern.
But do you want to recreate it if you don't have to?

In other words?  It means more work. 

So here's an alternative that I think you might like. I'll flip the "A" side of the sample below.  I've colored one face red to make the change a little easier to follow.

Getting started with a sample part.

First, while in your sheet metal part's flat pattern, right click on the flat pattern icon and choose Edit Flat Pattern Definition.  

Accessing the flat pattern definition.

Now, a dialog box appears that allows the option to change, create, and save orientations if you'd like. In this case, it's the Flip option under the Base Face section we're interested in. 

Clicking this face flips the sheet metal face over like a pancake on the griddle.  In the flat pattern sample used here, the silver face is now visible. 

The face is flipped over

Now, switching to the drawing, the flat pattern also shows the silver side, Careful inspection will also show that the bend directions have all changed too! (Careful, the view is rotated 180 degrees).

The flipped, can completed, view.
You may noticed that the dimensions need some rearranging, but at least speaking for myself, I'd rather rearrange annotations than recreate a set of annotations.  In other words, this is a small trade off for the time saved when facing recreating entire views. 

So if you're facing flipping a sheet metal pattern over for any reason at all, I suggest considering flipping the base face.  It can be a real time saver.