Fusion 360 Tips from AU '16

I just returned from an event called Autodesk University (AU) and thought I'd share my experiences with you. Before diving in, I'll answer a few basic questions to fill in those not familiar with AU so you're not left in the dark. 

  • What is Autodesk?
    • It's a large software company that makes tools for professional creatives, designers, engineers and entertainment artists.
  • What is AU?
    • AU is an event in which Autodesk invites creative professionals and vendors who make tools for said professionals to network, learn, research and party. Of course Autodesk uses this event as a platform to announce news about their company and products as well to keep their customers loyal and excited. Like, Fusion 360 running in your web browser!!
  • Where is it?
    • This year, AU was held at the Sands Expo Center in the Venetian of Las Vegas, Nevada. 
  • Why I attended?
    • I attended as an employee of Luxion. My job was to work at the KeyShot booth, demo our product and answer questions anyone who stopped by the booth may have had.

Now that you're a bit more familiar with what AU is, I'll get to the good stuff. I learned some cool stuff about Fusion 360, one of my favorite modeling programs of late. I also snapped plenty of pictures. The following is proof that not everything that happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Just one of the many hallways leading to individual workshops!

Just one of the many hallways leading to individual workshops!

Fusion 360 Workshops

I was fortunate enough to attend a couple of F360 workshops while at AU. For the past six months or so, Fusion 360 has been taking the place of SolidWorks for me personally. If you're interested, here's an article I wrote recently on the subject: Fusion 360 vs. SolidWorks 

In addition to the main event, Autodesk hosted an impressive amount of workshops, which were often 60 or 90-minute classroom-style breakout sessions. In each case, a professional shared some helpful tips on how to improve the experience of working within an Autodesk product--in my case, Fusion 360. I attended one called Tips from the Experts and another called Product Surfacing with T-Splines & Parametric Modeling tools. Both were interesting and I came away with some great insights. Though I can't give you a full recap of each event, I can certainly share some high-level takeaways that I found to be interesting.

Tips from the Experts Workshop

In no particular order, here are how my notes read: 

  • Start by creating a component (which will capture all design features within)
  • The timeline is a time-travel machine, if you drag it back, things will disappear since you'll be going back in time to before that feature existed. Same goes for Assemblies.
  • Errors happen when a feature can't be computed at all
  • Warnings are when something is wrong, but Fusion can technically still continue
  • Whenever you reference geometry, you create a potential for a failure if that geometry can't be found after an edit.
  • Some references are more stable than others. Here's a hierarchy:
    • Origin work geometry references (can't break)
    • Work geometry created only from origin work geometry (can't break)
    • Sketch curves or points (can break)
    • BRep references (are susceptible to breaking)
      • Body
      • Face
      • Edge
      • Vertex
  • Fix errors and warnings:
    • As soon as they happen
    • Use 'compute all' command to check your design
    • Fix the first error in the timeline first
    • Projected sketch geometry is the hardest to fix
  • Use timeline groups
  • Small, simple sketches work better and faster
  • Use as few spline control points as possible
  • Splines have a set of Tangent Handles, as well as a set of Curvature Handles
  • Convert any construction lines to construction geometry for best results
  • Use patterns and mirrors rather than creating complex sketches
  • Merge points if possible

Product Surfacing with T-Splines & Parametric Modeling Tools

T-Splines differ from NURBS in that:

  • They can be made of of either 4-sided patches and NGons
  • Created from a single surface to create continuous complex topology
  • Loop-cuts can be inserted while keeping the exact shape of form
  • Edges can be inserted to make a local edge density change
  • Fillets are added by sculpting via adding edge loops and mesh topology on the fly

T-Splines can be thought of as combining the best of NURBS and polygon modeling in one workflow.

  • Keep T-splines mesh light-weight, using as few edges and control points as possible
  • Although T-splines allow NGons, try to model quads, because your T-spline form is converted into NURBS (which prefer quads) when finishing the form
  • Use the Edge Slide to move a CV (control vert) to avoid messing up surface continuity
  • Using local origin is useful for scaling, translating and rotating
  • Check curvature with a curvature graph command
  • Use zebra analysis for curvature check
  • Use tangent handles to adjust curvature without adding extra loop cuts
  • Exact subdivision mode will redistribute CV positions to maintain the same surface flow. Use this method over Simple subdivision when possible
  • Use Edge Slide command to adjust fillet size (adjust CV spacing)
  • Use Crease command to get a hard edge and break surface curvature in T-splines
  • Unweld Edges will disconnect a T-spline surface
  • Blend surfaces using the Loft command
  • Use Thickness command to offset a surface in T-splines mode
  • Don't model thickness in T-splines... add it as a parametric feature (Thickness) later for editability
  • Block out general shapes first, then detail
  • Start with low-res models and increase/subdivide if needed after
  • Create surfaces sing T-splines from reference sketches. Overbuild, then trim with them

Obviously, lots of valuable insights were shared throughout the breakout sessions. While this is only a brief summary of what I took note on, I'll be referring back to this list from time to time.

Below is a slideshow of images I snapped while out in Vegas.