How to Design a Simple Planter (Autodesk Fusion 360 Tutorial)
A Bit of Intro - The Heptagon
While I love working in Solidworks, I cannot get over the intuitive interface Fusion 360 has to offer. In this short tutorial, we'll design a minimalist planter and its tray from scratch. We'll run through sketch tools along with some basic 3D features like the Extrude and Fillet.
Let's start a new design! Start Fusion 360 and it should open a new (Untitled) file by default. Let’s start a sketch on the XY plane. To do this, click the Create Sketch button (top row, the first button next to Model drop-down). Then click on the XY plane in the work-space.
The view will rearrange, and we’ll begin by drawing a heptagon. Why a heptagon? Because the web is full of planters that are hexagonal or usually ( n <= 6 ) - sided.
How Do We Draw a Heptagon in Fusion 360?
Well, in the sketch drop-down, select Polygon. In the new menu that appears, select the Circumscribed Polygon. Click on the origin to place the center. Then start dragging outside. You’ll notice that while dragging, the default shape is a hexagon.
Don’t click to place it yet. While dragging you will also notice two floating inputs. One of them, the radius, is active by default. Drag the shape upwards until you get at about 25 mm.
If Fusion 360 doesn’t snap by default to the grid, you can enable this behavior in the settings. While dragging the shape with the dimension input selected by default, type in 25mm. Don’t hit the Enter key yet. We still need to define the number of edges.
To do this, after you typed the radius (25mm), hit the Tab key to jump to the other available input. Instead of the 6-sided default, type 7, then hit Enter. You should now have a circumscribed heptagon with a radius of 25 mm.
Drill Some Holes
Right now we have the base for our planter. We should add some holes as well so the water doesn’t build up at the bottom and cause root rot.
It All Starts With A Basic Circle
We’ll start by adding a circle inside our heptagon. Select from the Sketch drop-down the Circle tool. Then the Center Diameter Circle (also notice the “C” key shortcut here). The tool works by first placing the center with a click, then the radius with another click.
So place a circle inside the top part of the heptagon anywhere. Next, we’ll make sure to add a vertical relation with the origin.
Add Relations and Dimensions
To add the vertical relation, first, deselect the circle tool with the Escape key. Then click on the circle center point, hold down the Shift key and then select the origin point as well.
With both points selected, right-click anywhere to bring up the contextual menu. Select the Horizontal/Vertical option. Now the circle center point and the origin should have a vertical relation.
We should also consider giving the circle a dimension. Click on the sketch drop-down in the menu, then select the Sketch Dimension tool. Also, notice the “D” key shortcut. We will define the diameter of the circle and its distance from the top. With the Sketch Dimension tool active, click the circle perimeter. Now drag out the dimension and click to place it. Input 3mm.
With the Sketch Dimension tool still active, click on the center point of the circle. Then click the top line of the heptagon. Drag the dimension outside of the heptagon. Click to place it. It will ask to input a dimension. Add in 4.5mm then hit Enter.
A Linear Pattern First
Now we’ll create 2 more circles by using the Rectangular Pattern. To do this, click on the sketch drop down, and select Rectangular Pattern. This feature takes in several parameters, but we will use it in a simple way.
First, it asks us for objects for the pattern. Click on the circle we created. Two arrows will appear. Grab the top arrow and drag it down until the Distance input reads -15mm (that's right, negative 15mm). The number of objects to create is by default 3, so leave this alone. Click on OK in the Rectangular Pattern window to apply the pattern.
... And Then A Radial Pattern
Now let’s repeat these 3 circles in a radial fashion. Click on the sketch drop down, then select the Circular Pattern.
This feature requires the Objects and the center point for the radial pattern.
So for our Objects select the three circles. There's no need to hold down the Shift key since you can add many entities to the selection by clicking.
Click on the Center Point input in the Circular Pattern window and select the origin point. A preview will appear with a default of 3 instances of the pattern. You’ll also notice a new field in the Circular Pattern window called Quantity. Input 7 in this field and then hit Enter to apply the pattern.
The Sketch Is Complete! What's Next?
Now we’re ready to apply our first 3D feature, an extrusion.
Click the Stop Sketch at the end of the top toolbar. You’ll notice all the relations and dimensions disappear.
In the Create drop-down, next to the Sketch drop-down select the Extrude feature. For the Profile, click anywhere in the heptagon (but not inside one of the circles). For the Distance field inside the Extrude window, input 3mm then click OK.
Click and drag the cube at the top right to rotate the part a bit and get a better look at it.
The Walls Sketch
Let’s start now with the walls of our planter. Move to the front view (by clicking on the Front view of the cube in the top right). Click on the part face, and then click on Create Sketch.
We’ll design a 3mm wall for our planter. To do this, we’ll need to offset the outer heptagon perimeter by 3mm. In the sketch drop-down, select the Offset tool (notice the “O” key shortcut).
The Offset window that appears will first ask us for Sketch curves. Select any edge of the heptagon at this point. Make sure you check the Chain Selection checkbox in the Offset window.This ensures that all the edges of the heptagon get selected as well. That’s less work for you.
You’ll notice a preview of the offset at 1mm outside the heptagon. Also, a new field appeared in the Offset window, called Offset position. Input -3mm (we want the offset on the inside of the part) and click OK. At this point, you can also click Stop Sketch.
The Walls Gain Height
Now let’s extrude the walls of our planter. From the Create drop down select the Extrude feature. For the profile, click the created profile by the outside perimeter and the offset. For the distance, input 50mm and click OK.
Rotate the part a bit to see your created planter.
Save, Export As STL, Export As GCODE...
Let’s save the planter. Click on the File icon and then Save. By default Fusion 360 will save in the cloud. Name your file and click Save.
Now let’s print it!
In the Make drop down, select 3D Print. On the 3D print screen, I select the body of the planter for the Selection input. I also deselect the Send to 3D Print Utility and make sure the Refinement is set to High. Then click OK. The next window will ask me to save the STL to my local hard drive.
I’ll now start Cura to slice the model for my printer. I’m using Cura version 3.0.3. Since I don’t have quite a lot of patience for long prints, I’ll set my layer height to 0.32mm. The infill will be 33%. This way the part won’t take quite as much to print.
Once I’m happy with my settings, I save the file as GCODE for my printer and upload the file to the remote printer. Hit print and wait for the outcome.
The 3D Printer I'm Using
But Wait, There's More!
We forgot to design the tray for our planter. Without it, the planter will make a mess when we over-water our plants.
So let’s jump right back into Fusion and design the tray while the part is printing.
We’ll create a new design alongside the planter. Click on the File icon, then New Design.
Sketch The Planter Tray
Our initial planter was a circumscribed heptagon with a 25mm radius. We’ll start a sketch the XY plane. We’ll draw the same heptagon we drew in our initial design.
We’ll need to increase its size for the tray. Let’s say our tray will leave about 3 mm around the planter.
So we’ll add a 3mm Offset to our initial heptagon. But wait, we didn’t take into account the wall thickness of the planter tray. To keep things consistent, we’ll use the same 3mm thickness walls, like we did for the planter. So our offset will be 6mm in total. Click OK to apply the Offset. Now delete the interior heptagon (the smaller one). You can use the Trim tool from the Sketch drop-down. Then click and drag over the edges of the internal heptagon.
A Bit of Design Overkill
Looking back, we could have created the larger heptagon. We would do this without needing to create the smaller one. Then apply the offset then trimming away the initial heptagon. But, for the purposes of a tutorial, I won’t back down from this move. We introduced the Trim tool this way.
Let’s move on.
Finishing The Planter Tray... Almost
We now have the heptagon planter tray sketch profile. Let’s extrude it. Stop Sketch, then click in the Create drop-down. Select Extrude, click on the heptagon for the profile and input 3mm as the Distance.
You can rotate the part a bit to check if the Extrude actually happened. Now click on the Front view of the cube (top right), and let’s offset the walls of the tray. Create a sketch on the surface of the extrusion and add a 3mm offset. Exit the created offset sketch.
Go to Create/Extrude. Select the profile we created defined by the perimeter and the internal offset. As the Distance, input in about 12mm. Rotate the part to make sure the walls extruded.
How's The Planter Doing?
Meanwhile, the planter is still printing. Or is it the printer that's still planting?
So The Tray Is Complete. Right?
The tray seems complete. There’s still one problem. Once the planter sits on the tray, the flush surface won’t allow for proper excess water to flow. Or for the roots to get a bit of air. Let’s fix that by adding a few risers on the tray. We can do this in several ways, but we’ll stick to some simple extrusions.
Sketching The Tray Risers
Move onto the front view. Click the inside of the tray surface and create a new sketch. Remember the holes (circles) on the planter? They were all sitting on a perpendicular center-line for each edge. We’ll create the risers so they don’t plug the holes in our planter and stop water flow.
So let’s recreate the original heptagon (25mm circumscribed). On the bottom point of the heptagon, start a circle. Dimension it so it has a 9mm diameter. Trim away the bottom part of the circle (the one overlapping the planter tray wall). Now trim away the rest of the interior heptagon. Leave only the part of the heptagon that’s inside the circle. We’ll now add a pattern to repeat this sketch on all interior corners of the tray.
From the Sketch drop-down select Circular Pattern. For the Objects in the Circular Pattern window, select the circle and the two lines inside it. For the center point, select the origin. For quantity, input 7. Click OK.
You can now click on Stop Sketch since we’ll move on to extruding.
Riser Selective Extrusion
Next, go to Create/Extrude. For the profile select the 7 parts of the circles closest to the exterior heptagon. For the distance input 6mm. Make sure the Operation drop-down in the Extrude window is set to Join. Click OK.
From the component tree on the left, click on the light bulb next to Sketch3 to show it. We’ll need to extrude again based on Sketch3. This time we’ll select the other part of the circles. And for the distance, we’ll input 3mm. Apply the Extrude by clicking OK.
Rotate the part to get a better idea of what we’re doing here. We created 7 concentric risers. The bottom part of these risers will hold the planter, the rest (the 6mm extrusion) will keep it centered.
Let’s add a Fillet feature to make sure the planter slides in and centers itself without too much effort.
To do this, click on the "Modify" drop-down and select Fillet (notice the “F” key shortcut). For the edges, select all the inner edges of the 6mm extrusion we did before. Remember, only the inner ones. You should have 14 edges selected. Now for the radius field of the Fillet window, input 3mm, then click OK.
Our part is finally complete. And it also comes with a nice feature which will help drain the planter and center it in the tray at the same time.
Let’s save the planter tray and prepare it for the printing process as well.
Now slice the part with Cura and send it to the printer. Since this part contains the small fillets that help it center the planter, we need a bit more precision. I’ll slice it at 0.2mm layer height.
Meanwhile, I noticed the printer finished printing the planter. Right on time! We can move on to printing the tray.
Are We There Yet?
... some time passes ...
Here is our finished product:
Well, after both pieces finished, I went ahead and filled the planter with soil, transplanted a little fellow which I named Jim. Then I went ahead and over-watered Jim, for experimental purposes of course.
What Do You Think?
Given the part we just designed, would it be complicated to modify it into an n-gon planter (every other parameter and dimension remaining the same)?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Emanuel Bucsa