Entry into Computer Aided Design

Entry into Computer Aided Design

In this post I would like to publish an excerpt from my book “Introduction to Computer Aided Design”. You can find the book preview free of charge as a PDF under “Downloads”. The book itself is available as an e-book on my shop. 


With Computer Aided Design (CAD), many processes, especially in the areas of development and construction, have been automated and simplified. Nowadays, CAD is used as a tool for visualization and risk minimization when developing products. With Autodesk® Fusion 360 ™, CAD is simplified even further in many areas and opens up new possibilities for designers in design, animation and simulation. As one of the first CAD tools, Autodesk® Fusion 360 ™ is based on a cloud solution and thus enables data to be accessed from anywhere at any time in an ever more globalizing and mobile world. Complex simulations can be solved in the cloud, which means that high computing power for the creation and calculation of constructions is a minor matter. In addition to the CAD tool, Autodesk® Fusion 360 ™ also offers extensive possibilities in Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) and in Printed Circuit Board Design (PCB design). The areas of CAM and PCB are presented, but not described in detail - that would go beyond the scope here.

To my person

My name is Nicolai Stern and I am the founder of the company Stern Didactic GmbH, which deals with training courses in Computer Aided Design and with teaching materials for basic mechanical and mechatronic training. As a trained technical draftsman and studied engineer, I was able to get to know various CAD tools on my educational path and use them in various positions in different companies.

Autodesk® Fusion 360 ™ has taken a new and promising path with the cloud solution, which for me personally represents a new era in CAD and thus also marked the start of the foundation of Stern Didactic in 2016. From the beginning it was my goal to let Stern Didactic grow together with the software. I have been a certified Autodesk® Academic Partner for two years and I am allowed to give training courses on Fusion 360 ™ on behalf of Autodesk®.


To the structure of the book

The Fusion 360 ™ version used in this tutorial is dated February 2020. Improvements to workspaces or new features that were later updated are not listed. Basically, the functions of Fusion 360 ™ shown in this textbook reflect only a part of the total functionality. In the construction work area in particular, there are many other functions that designers from all disciplines need in their daily work. 

In the age of digital education, the linking of different media is essential. For this reason, this textbook offers more than just the content of the following pages. This e-book is linked to videos that are available free of charge on the YouTube platform: YouTube playlist - getting started with CAD 

To make the videos easier to find, there is a corresponding QR code at the beginning of each section in this book in the upper right corner. You can click on the QR code or scan it with a smartphone or tablet to access the corresponding video. 


1 Technical communication with Autodesk® Fusion 360TM

What began on the drawing board has developed into an industry of its own over time. Nowadays, CAD programs are state of the art and enable more effective and efficient work compared to the drawing board. Changes to the design or individual parts can be made faster and more automatically than would have ever been possible with paper and ink. Technical communication, regardless of whether it takes place on the drawing board or on the computer, has changed little or very little in the last 20 years. Individual part and assembly drawings are still required for production and assembly. Similar to everyday communication, the way of technical communication is also changing. New ways are constantly being sought for a more efficient exchange of information and data between departments, customers and designers in order to stimulate and improve technical communication between "developers" and "manufacturers". 

Even if Autodesk® Fusion 360 ™ is a newcomer in relation to the well-known 3D CAD programs, it still has everything that a full-blown 3D program needs for construction. The work in the different work areas is learned quickly and enables even beginners to create and present models without costly CAD training. 


2 Autodesk® Fusion 360 ™ Download and Install

Before we actually start building the program, we need to download the program from the Autodesk® Fusion 360 ™ website and install it. There is a slight difference in terms of target groups. The second link is recommended for members of an educational institution. All others, i.e. commercial users or hobby designers, should use the first link. This ensures that everyone receives the right license right from the start. 



Fusion 360 - Download

Fusion 360 ™ is available for Windows 64-bit and Mac. For system requirements, see the Autodesk® Fusion 360 ™ home page. It should be noted that due to the constant expansion and improvement of the software, the system requirements for the hardware or the operating system may change. 

Systemanforderungen Fusion 360

The use of the program is basically divided into three target groups:

· Non-commercial use

· Commercial use

· Use in schools and colleges

The software scope is basically identical, however, individual sub-areas and features are included in the Not commercial version hidden and therefore not available. 

Verwendung Fusion 360

Your email address is required to use the program. You get a customer account with Autodesk® and can access your data worldwide. If you do not already have an account, you can create an account with Autodesk®. After creating the account, you will receive an activation mail. After you have activated your account via the activation link, the download is available.

If you already have an Autodesk® account, you can also use this to download the software. 

Konto erstellen

The registration process is similar for education. To get the free education license, it is recommended that you sign in with your educational institution's email address. 

Anmeldeformular Fusion 360

For the installation of a network license or in a computer room you will find further information under the following link:


Netzwerklizenz Fusion 360

3 Overview of Workspaces in Autodesk® Fusion 360 ™

The design workspace is used to create solids, surface models, sheet metal parts, and assembly designs. With Fusion 360 ™, all options are open to you with top-down or bottom-up assembly design. There is also the option of inserting external 3D models into an assembly design in the design workspace. 

Arbeitsbereiche Fusion 360


3.1 Construction

The design workspace is used to create solids, surface models, sheet metal parts, and assembly designs. With Fusion 360 ™, all options are open to you with top-down or bottom-up assembly design. There is also the option of inserting external 3D models into an assembly design in the design workspace. 

In the construction work area you can switch between the following areas:

· Solid base element

· Surface base element 

· Base element sheet metal

· Tools 

The current area is highlighted accordingly with blue letters and an underline. A different toolbox is available in each area - give it a try. 

Konstruktionsarbeitsbereich Fusion 360

The area basic element surface is interesting for all designers and manufacturers of consumer goods. In a similar way to the area Basic Element Solids, you can now create surface models instead of volume models. The functions are almost identical, so switching from volume to area features is easy. This area is particularly useful for more complex geometries.

In the sheet metal area, classic models are created from sheet metal. With a little skill, cardboard boxes or gift boxes can also be designed. This makes this area interesting not only for general mechanical and plant engineering, but also for packaging design.

Flächenarbeitsbereich Fusion 360

3.2 rendering

Nothing is easier than transforming your own design into a realistic picture. In particular, the ability to have the design rendered via the cloud has impressed one or the other experienced CAD user. With numerous materials, representations and exposure options, this area is very well equipped for a CAD program and enables the professional presentation of your own design.

Rendern Fusion 360

3.3 animation

The animation can be used to create and export assembly sequences or exploded models. With such a video you can also inspire non-CAD users with your design.

Animation Fusion 360

3.4 simulation

In the Simulation workspace, you can not only analyze simple static stresses. It is also possible to carry out thermal stresses, modal frequencies and even shape optimization on a construction. With the help of the cloud, several studies can be carried out in parallel without burdening your own computer.

Simulation Fusion 360

3.5 Manufacture

Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) completes the Fusion 360 ™ tool and also opens the door to a new world of collaboration for CNC manufacturing. The numerous post processors enable the use of interfaces to numerous CNC machines so that even complex production parts can be produced automatically.

Fertigen Fusion 360

3.6 Drawings


For many CAD users, the drawings are just a necessary evil in order to put the construction on paper. Nonetheless, Fusion 360 ™ also offers a wide range of tools for creating high-quality manufacturing drawings.

Zeichnungen Fusion360

5.4 solid

You can now transfer the fully dimensioned sketch to a volume model. Once you are outside of the sketch, you can start modeling. We select the "Extrusion" function ("Create" à "Extrusion" or hotkey "E").

Volumenkörper mit Extrusion erstellen

For the function we need a closed sketch profile. This profile is indicated by an area highlighted in light blue. If you do not have a closed sketch profile, you will need to recheck your sketch. You can return to your sketch via the “Browser” or via the timeline (bottom left in the screen area) with a double click and search for overlaps, double lines or disconnected lines. 

When you select the extrusion function, the "Edit element" window opens. Here you can make various settings with regard to the extrusion. To perform the extrusion, select your profile. In some cases this is already preselected automatically. We define 40 mm for the "Distance" parameter and create the first solid.
Further parameters in the extrusion function: 
  •  Start: | Here you can determine the start of the extrusion. In contrast to the extrusion from the profile plane, the start can then begin with the selection of the offset plane offset by, for example, 10 mm to the profile plane.


  • Direction: | The direction determines the orientation of the extrusion. For example, the extrusion could also have a symmetrical orientation or be in two directions with different distances.


  • Taper angle: | The taper angle tapers the solid in the direction of the extrusion.


  • Process: | The goal of the extrusion is determined by means of "Process". Since we have not yet created any other solid, the "new body" process makes sense for the time being.


As the exercise progresses, we will use other extrusion operations as well.

Extrusion Fusion 360