There are many flavors of Computer Aided Design (CAD) covering a huge range of tools and techniques for the modeling and analysis of most every design discipline. There is software for electrical design, mechanical design, architecture, just to name a few. One thing these tools have in common is that they are used to design something that will later be made. Contrast this with Photoshop or Blender where the final product is produced by the software. In the Instrument Shop we make physical things and design our projects using a 3D solid modeling. This is the type of software tool that a mechanical engineer would use to design a machine or an industrial designer would use in creating a consumer product. 

Because we are intending to make what we model, our focus is on the precise modeling of the physical shape of the parts, rather than on making a realistic-looking picture. Our goal is to design parts that will serve the intended function and, once the design is complete, can be easily made. We can model individual parts, put those parts together into assemblies, change and refine the design, and then produce drawings for fabrication. The images on this page show some examples.

There are many tools to do this; our standard tool is called Fusion 360 and is made by AutoDesk. AutoDesk has very generous licensing terms for students and schools which allow us to have Fusion 360 on lab computers and students may install the software on their own computers as well. You can learn about that option on the AutoDesk student website.

How to get started

The Basics

We have a series of tutorials about the basics of Fusion 360.