Great Lakes Geek Book Review

A Beginner's Guide to 3D Modeling
A Guide to Autodesk Fusion 360
by Cameron Coward

In the not-so-distant past you needed a lot of money, equipment and training to do professional quality Computer Aided Design (CAD). Best of breed software like Autodesk's AutoCAD was very expensive - it currently costs $1610 for a 1 year subscription or $200 per monthly. The thought of being able to access or even own a 3D printer was a pipedream.

But now, you can get Autodesk Fusion 360 for reasonable fees or even free. The Autodesk website says that for Commercial Use the software is Free for 30 days. For Non-commercial use you can get a free 1 year subscription if you qualify. And for Educational use you can get a free 3 year subscription if you are a student, educator or academic institution.

And you can get a 3D printer at Walmart for under $190!

So the software and hardware are available. The issue becomes training and that's where this book from no starch press comes in.

The bio of author Cameron Coward says he is a maker and former mechanical designer and draftsman. He spent several years modeling parts and assemblies in the medical, automotive, and furniture industries. Currently, he focuses on CAD modeling for 3D printing and other hobby projects. He is a regular contributor to and, and is the author of Idiot's Guides: 3D Printing.

The introduction makes it clear that this book and software are for Parametric Modeling as opposed to Mesh Modeling. Basically Parametric Modeling is for engineering while Mesh is for art (not that they can't overlap). In Parametric modeling you define each feature by a collection of characteristics - parameters. So a cube will have variables defined for origin, height, width and depth. Mesh modeling allows the designer to drag and shape like a sculptor but doesn't offer the precision needed for real world physical parts.

The book clearly shows you how to get the software and then demonstrates the workspace and introduces you to the basic sketch tools. It truly is a beginner's guide and will teach you the basics and then add complexity like more advanced modeling concepts (like sweeps, lofts, surfaces, and rendering).

You will start with a cube and then a door hinge, a teapot, and a 20-sided die before the concluding project: creating a robotic arm.

The ubiquity of 3D printers has led to lots of downloads and printing of other people's designs. This book will take you step-by-step to the creation of your own designs.

Great Lakes Geek Rating:4 out of 5 pocket protectors.

Reviewed by Entreprenerd Dan Hanson, the Great Lakes Geek

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