Autodesk Fusion 360 & Metallic Strip Animal Sculptures – Part 1

Hung Nguyen
Technical Consultant at SolidCAD

Part 1

I love sculptures and can spend hours at museums that devoted to sculpture. I also love structural Engineering and structural sculptures. Running into Artist Sung Hoon Kang‘s stunning animal sculptures that embody the movement, speed, and chaotic energy of the wind, fascinated me. You can take a look of his work here: Metallic Strip Animal Sculptures Radiate the Energetic Flow of Wind: Sung Hoon Kang‘s works got into in my head and made me think of how I can use Autodesk’s products such as Fusion 360 or 3DS Max to create/model these sculptures. I know Fusion 360 can combine organic shapes modelling, mechanical design, and manufacturing in one comprehensive package, but can it be used to create/model these kind of art works?

The question stayed in my head until I found a possible solution by combining Fusion 360 and 3DS MAX. After finding the approach and workflow, I created the concept models of two metallic strip animal sculptures of a dog and a horse, and posted them on Fusion 360 Gallery. You can find and download my two metallic strip animal sculptures here:—-horse-metal-strips—dog-metal-strips

Believe it or not, once you find a good workflow between 3DS MAX and Fusion 360, You can create these animal sculptures in 20 minutes or less.

Here is how:

Step 1Understanding Fusion 360 Freeform Tools

You should know that Fusion 360 is not just an awesome freeform modeler; it is also a parametric modeler. Fusion T-Splines are a combination of NURBS and Subdivision modelling that was developed in 2003.The T-splines company was bought by Autodesk and was built into Autodesk’s Fusion 360. The T-Splines subdivision surface technology in the Freeform toolset make it easy to create completely smooth, curvature continuous, ‘Watertight’ NURBS surface models, that you can convert to Solid models.

Fusion 360 Freeform tools are very helpful when you want to create an organic surface without having to spend lot of time planning and executing individual surface patches. T-spline surfaces are simple and intuitive, and it is really easy to iterate through a number of different options.

Step 2Understanding 3DS MAX Polygon modeling

Polygon modeling is more common with game design than any other modeling technique as the very specific control over individual polygons allows for extreme optimization. Usually, the modeler begins with one of the 3ds max primitives, and using such tools as bevel and extrude, adds detail to and refines the model.

Fusion 360 loves Polygon modeling objects and it can quickly convert those objects into solids for you if needed.

There are two kinds of mesh that you can import into Fusion 360; however, only mesh that came from Polygon objects can be converted to solids.

To covert triangulated mesh to solid, it needs to be converted to Editable Poly before inserting into Fusion 360. These are the steps:

  • Import triangulated mesh into 3DS Max
  • Apply Subdivide (WSM) with “Display Subdivision” turn OFF
  • Use “Collapse To” to Collapse mesh
  • Turn Collapse mesh to Poly mesh
  • Apply “Quadrify All”.

Step 3Understanding 3DS MAX Particle Flow

Particle Flow is a versatile, powerful particle system for 3ds Max. It employs an event-driven model, using a special dialog called Particle View. In Particle View, you combine individual operators that describe particle properties such as shape, speed, direction, and rotation over a period of time into groups called events. Each operator provides a set of parameters, many of which you can animate to change particle behavior during the event. As the event transpires, Particle Flow continually evaluates each operator in the list and updates the particle system accordingly.

Particle Flow provides several tools for determining where in the system particles currently reside, including the ability to change particle color and shape on an event-by-event basis. You can also easily enable and disable actions and events and determine the number of particles in each event. To speed up checking particle activity at different times during the animation, you can cache particle motion in memory. Using these tools, plus the ability to create custom actions with scripting, you can create particle systems of a level of sophistication previously unachievable.

To create a Particle Flow, you need to place a PF Source and assign the PF source to an object. I used a dog model as an example to illustrate the use of PF source in this GIF image.

Step 4Saving Particle Flow trails and Export them to AutoCAD

You can make Particle Flow to generate animated Splines and save Particle trails. The animated Splines can be exported to AutoCAD format to be used for creating structural model or Poly mesh that will be turned into solids using Fusion 360.

Step 5Creating Metallic strips from exported AutoCAD file

The AutoCAD file can now be imported back into 3DS MAX. You can turn all the splines into Polymesh by simply turn on the ‘Enable in Viewport’ under Rendering option. In my example, I chose “Rectangular” option with Length =15mm and Width = 3mm

At this stage, the model may require some modification for different strip thickness or clean up according to the artist’s design. Whenever you are ready, you can then export the entire MAX model out as a OBJ format to bring into Fusion 360 for fabrication.

All Splines with rendering thickness property can now exported to OBJ format for Fusion 360 to convert to solids.

Step 6Creating Metallic strips and complete the model in Fusion

This step is very simple. There are various Insert commands you can use to insert other file formats. These options insert data into a current Fusion 360 design rather than opening the existing Mesh (STL or OBJ format), SVG, or DXF file. Refer to the following links for more information about inserting meshes, DXF, and SVG files into Fusion 360 designs: How to insert a mesh body into Fusion 360

The next step is converting a mesh body to a b-rep or t-spline body in Fusion 360, the current limit for number of mesh elements is roughly 10,000. Meshes with greater than 10,000 elements will cause the performance of Fusion 360 to suffer and Fusion 360 may not be able to convert them to solid bodies.

On my next blog, I will discuss and share with you some tips and tricks on how to convert mesh body to a b-rep or t-spline body in Fusion 360.

You can also find me on AU 2020 by following this link and search for ‘Hung Nguyen’

Until next time…

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