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CNC Workflow – Using Fusion 360 for CNC

1.0 Introduction

The CNC (Computer Numerical Control) workflow is a systematic and highly precise process that transforms digital designs into physical objects through automated machining. This advanced manufacturing method offers unparalleled accuracy, repeatability, and efficiency, making it a cornerstone in industries ranging from aerospace and automotive to prototyping and custom manufacturing. 

This manual provides an overview of the initial phases of the CNC workflow i.e. CAD (Computer Aided Design)  and CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) using AutoDesk Fusion 360. This manual will help you to kickstart your CNC machining journey using AutoDesk Fusion 360 and will demonstrate the use of this tool to create a 3D model (CAD) and toolpaths (CAM) of a coaster.

1.1 AutoDesk Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is a computer program developed by Autodesk that helps in the design and creation of parts in 3D. It’s like a digital workshop where you can draw, assemble, and even test how your creations will work in the real world. Fusion 360 also lets a user create toolpaths to guide the CNC machine for the machining of the workpiece.

Click on this link to download the hobbyist/education version Fusion 360 and install on your system.

The UI (user interface) of Fusion 360 is easy to navigate. Once you open the software, you will see a screen as shown in  Figure 1.

Figure 1

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Some of the main components of the Fusion 360 UI are:

1. Dashboard: As you launch Fusion 360, you’re greeted by a Dashboard. This is like your mission control center, offering quick access to recent projects and tutorials. It’s where your creative journey begins. It’s indicated by the red rectangle in Figure 1.

2. Toolbar: At the top of the screen, you’ll find the Toolbar – a hub of essential tools neatly organized for easy access. Think of it as your digital toolbox, containing everything from sketching pencils to precision measurement instruments. It’s shown by the blue rectangle in Figure 1.

3. Browser: On the left side, the Browser acts as your project navigator. This is where you manage components, sketches, and design history. It’s like having a virtual blueprint of your creation, allowing you to organize and review every step of your design process. It’s indicated by the purple rectangle in Figure 1.

4. Canvas: In the center is your Canvas, the digital workspace where you bring your ideas to life. This is where you’ll sketch, model, and visualize your designs in 3D. It’s akin to an artist’s canvas, ready for your creative strokes. It’s indicated by the yellow rectangle in Figure 1.

5. Timeline: At the bottom of the screen lies the Timeline. This is your design’s chronological story – every move, modification, and iteration laid out in a sequence. It’s like flipping through the pages of a design diary, helping you understand and control the evolution of your project. It’s shown by the green rectangle in Figure 1.

6. View Cube: In the corner, you’ll find the View Cube – a 3D navigation tool. Imagine it as your compass, allowing you to effortlessly orbit, pan, and zoom around your design, ensuring you always have the perfect perspective. It’s indicated by the black rectangle in Figure 1.

2.0 Workflow

The CNC Workflow is divided into three main phases:

  • Design Phase: Designing and creating a CAD (Computer Aided Design) model of the desired part.
  • Program Phase: CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing), creating Toolpaths/G-Codes for the machining of the desired part.
  • CNC Phase: Using a CNC machine to cut the designed part from a workpiece.

This manual will discuss and demonstrate the first two phases i.e. Design and Program using AutoDesk Fusion 360 to make a coaster, details of which are shared below.

2.1 Design Phase: Designing and CAD Modelling

The process starts with the designing of the intended object by specifying the dimensions and features of the part. This manual uses the example of a coaster that has a Maker Store logo in the centre, to demonstrate the CNC Workflow using Fusion 360. The coaster is shown in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2

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The dimensions of the coaster are:

  • Length = 100mm
  • Width = 100mm
  • Thickness = 12mm
  • Corner Radius = 10mm
  • Material = Wood

Follow the below steps to design the above coaster in Fusion 360:

Step 1: Open Fusion 360 software and under DESIGN environment, click on the Create Sketch icon. Please see Figure 3 for reference.

Figure 3

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Step 2: Select a plane on which you want to create the 2D sketch. The selected plane will be highlighted in blue. Click on the rectangle icon to draw a rectangle (profile of the coaster). Please see Figures 4 & 5 for reference.

Figure 4
Figure 5

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Step 3: Click on the Sketch Dimension icon in the Toolbar to assign dimensions (100mmx100mm) to the rectangle. See Figures 6 & 7 for reference. 

Figure 6
Figure 7

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Step 4: Click on the Fillet icon in the Toolbar to create the rounded edges of the coaster. Select the first line and then the second line at the corner of the rectangle where the round corner needs to be created. After that, the software will prompt you to enter the radius value, enter 10mm. Repeat the same for all the corners. See Figures 8 & 9 for reference.

Figure 8
Figure 9

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Step 5: To create the 3D model of the rectangle from this 2D sketch, click on FINISH SKETCH and select Extrude in the toolbar. Enter the thickness of the wood you will be using to make the coaster. In our case, it is 12mm. Please see Figures 10 & 11 for reference.

Figure 10
Figure 11

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Step 6: Save your project by clicking on the Save icon. Name your project as “Coaster” and click on Save. See Figure 12 for reference. 

Figure 12

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Step 6: The next step is to create the logo and text on the coaster.  Click on one of the faces of the extruded rectangle and select CREATE SKETCH. This will open up a new sketch tab for you to draw. See Figure 13 for reference.

Figure 13

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Note: Fusion 360 allows you to use other designs saved in different file formats (.svg, .dxf,.jpeg, .png, etc) in your designs. This feature of Fusion 360 will be used in the next step to make the Gear Logo which is available in .svg file format. 

Please download the Maker Store Gear Logo (.svg file) using this link. 

Step 7: Click on the INSERT tab in the toolbar and select Insert svg. Click on Insert from my Computer and under the downloaded Maker Store Gear folder, select Open Gear.svg file. Please see Figures 14 & 15 for reference. 

Figure 14
Figure 15

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Step 6: Drag the Gear Logo to the desired position (center of the rectangle). You can use the drag console to resize the logo by using the white arrows. Once you have resized and placed the logo in the correct place, click OK.

Figure 16
Figure 17

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Step 7: To create the text, click on the CREATE tab in the toolbar and select Text. Drag and drop to create a text box above the gear logo. Enter the text “MAKER”, and select the font “Arial” with a Height of 10mm. Align the text block in the centre and click OK. You can use your desired text font and height.

Figure 18
Figure 19

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Step 8: Similarly, create another text box  “STORE” below the gear logo. You can specify the positions of the text block by assigning dimensions to them. As shown in Figure 20, the text “STORE” is placed at a distance of 10mm from the bottom edge of the rectangle.

Figure 20

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Step 9: Click on FINISH SKETCH. Next, right-click on the gear logo on the 3D model and select  Extrude. Enter the depth of the cut as 3mm. Ensure the Operation is set to Cut. See Figures 21 & 22 for reference.

Figure 21
Figure 22

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Congratulations, you have finished the Design and CAD Modelling step of the CNC Workflow. Please take a look at Figure 23 for the complete 3D CAD model of the coaster. 

Figure 23

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2.2 Program Phase: CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing)

This is the second phase of the CNC Workflow, wherein toolpaths/G-Codes  are generated. Toolpaths are cutting instructions that are provided to the machine via the controller. The toolpaths are stored in the form of codes called G-Codes (Geometric codes). A translator also known as a post-processor is used to translate the toolpaths into the correct g-code format.

The post-processor to be used depends on the controller one is using. For example, if you are using a Grbl-based controller, such as xPRO V5, then you have to use a Grbl post-processor.

This step of the workflow requires the use of tools (end mills) and a post-processor. All the information about tools is stored in a tool library. Maker Store has created a tool library for all its tools. 

Please download and unzip Maker Store’s Fusion 360 Tool Library here.

Please download and unzip Maker Store’s Fusion 360 Post Processor for Grbl here.

To create toolpaths for the above-modelled coaster, follow the steps mentioned below:

2.2.1 Importing Maker Store Fusion 360 Tool Library

Step 1: The first step is to import the above-downloaded tool library into Fusion 360. Click on the MANUFACTURE tab on the left panel to enter the CAM environment of the Fusion 360 as shown in Figure 24.

Figure 24

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Step 2: Under the MANAGE tab in toolbar, click on the Tool Library to open the tool library window. Please see Figure 25 for reference.

Figure 25

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Step 3:  Under the Local tab, right-click on the Library and select Import Libraries. Select the downloaded Maker Store Fusion360 Tool Library V1.2.tools file and hit Open.

Figure 26
Figure 27

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Step 4: The Maker Store Fusion360 Tool Library will appear as shown in Figure 28. Click on Close.

Figure 28

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Congratulations, you have successfully imported the Tool Library.

2.2.2 Importing Maker Store Fusion 360 Post-Processor

Step 1: Under the ACTIONS tab on the toolbar, click on Post Process. On the Post drop-down menu, click on Choose from library. See Figures 29 & 30 for reference.

Figure 29
Figure 30

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Step 2: Click on the Import button, marked by a red rectangle in Figure 31, and select the downloaded Maker Store Fusion360 Post Processor.cps file.

Figure 31
Figure 32

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Step 3: Select the newly imported post processor and click Select. The new post processor has been successfully imported and selected to be used with the coaster project. Please see Figures 33 & 34 for reference.

Figure 33
Figure 34

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Close the post-processor window. 

Congratulations, you have successfully imported the Fusion 360 Post-Processor.

2.2.3 Creating Toolpaths

Step 1: Under the  SETUP tab on the toolbar, select New Setup. A setup window will open, under the Operation Type select Milling. In the orientation menu, select the correct orientation in which your tool will travel. The Setup process enables you to configure your workpiece in the software.

As a general rule, X-Axis should be directed towards the right, Y-Axis forward, and the Z-Axis up. Please see Figure 35 for reference.

Note: Setting the correct orientation might be cumbersome. Play with the different orientation options to get the correct setting.

Step 5: Under the Stock Point, select the bottom left corner of the coaster. This will act as the zero point for the machining. After that, click OK. For reference, see Figures 35 & 36.

Figure 35
Figure 36

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Step 2: Under the 2D tab, click on Engrave. The Engrave operation will be used to machine the Text of the coaster. Under the Tool tab click on the Maker Store Fusion 360 Tool Library and select the bit no. #188 (Ø22mm 45° (90° V-Router Bit 22mm). This is a V-shaped Router bit that is specifically designed for engraving operations. Click on Select. See Figures 37 & 38 for reference.

Figure 37
Figure 38

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Step 3:  Under the Coolant tab, select Disabled. Depending on the CNC machine you are using, set the Spindle Speed and Cutting Feedrate. For our machines such as OutBack CNC and WorkBee CNC, you can use Spindle Speed = 18000 rpm and Cutting Feedrate = 1000mm/min for the engraving operation. Set the Ramp and Plunge Feedrate = 750mm/min. See Figure 39 for reference.

Figure 39

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Step 4: Click on the Geometry tab right next to the Tool tab and select the two text blocks (“MAKER” and “STORE”). The selection will be displayed under  Contour Selection as Sketch Profile 1 and Sketch Profile 2. Click OK. See Figure 40 for reference.

Figure 40

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Step 5: The configured Engrave operation will be displayed in the CAM environment under the Setup tree. To view the simulation of the Engrave operation, right-click on Engrave1 under Setup and select Simulate. Click on the play  (▷) button. The simulation will show you how the tool (end mill) will machine the text of the coaster. After viewing the simulation, click on Exit Simulation. See Figure 41 & 42 for reference.

Figure 41
Figure 42

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Watch the Text Engraving Simulation below:

Text Engraving Simulation

Step 6: Under the 2D tab, select 2D Pocket as shown in Figure 43. 

Step 7: In the Tool tab left-click on Select and under Maker Store Fusion360 Tool Library Select Maker Store Fusion 360 Tool Library and left-click on bit no. #100 (Ø6mm – 2 Flute Down-Cut) and click on Select. See Figure 44 for reference.

Figure 43
Figure 44

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Step 8: Under the Tool tab’s Feed & Speed section, section set the different parameters as per Figure 45 below.

Figure 45

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Step 9: Click on the Geometry tab next to the Tool tab and select the lower profile of the gear logo on the model. This selection will be displayed in the Pocket Selections as Closed Chain 1. See Figure 46 for reference.

Figure 46

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Step 10: Left-click on the Passes tab next to the Geometry tab and select the Multiple Depths section. Under this section, enter the Maximum Roughing Stepdown=1mm and ensure the Use Even Stepdowns is checked. After that select the Stock to Leave section, enter Radial Stock to Leave =0.15mm and Axial Stock to Leave =0.15mm. Please see Figure 48 for reference.

Note: The Stock to Leave parameter is used so that the leftover material can be removed in a finishing pass. This finishing pass provides a better finish.

Figure 47
Figure 48

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Step 11: Left-click on the Linking tab next to the Passes tab and under the Ramp section, select Ramp Type as Helix. Enter Ramp Clearance Height = 0.1mm and hit OK. See Figure 49 for reference.

Figure 49

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Step 12: Follow Step 5 above for the Pocket1 operation to view its simulation. 

Note: The Pocketing operation performed above will be performed again as a Finishing pass to provide a better finish.

Step 13: Under the 2D tab, select 2D Pocket as shown in Figure 50. In the Tool tab left-click on Select and under Maker Store Fusion360 Tool Library Select Maker Store Fusion 360 Tool Library and left-click on bit no. #100 (Ø6mm – 2 Flute Down-Cut) and click on Select. See Figure 44 for reference. Under the Tool tab, enter the different parameter values as shown in Figure 51.

Figure 50
Figure 51

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Step 14: Similar to Step 9, click on the Geometry tab and select the lower profile of the gear logo in the model. Please take a look at Figures 47 & 52 for reference. 

Step 15: Left-click on the Passes tab and uncheck the Multiple Depths and Stock to Leave sections. Please take a look at Figure 53 for reference.

Figure 52
Figure 53

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Step 16: Left-click on the Linking tab next to the Passes tab and under the Ramp section, select Ramp Type as Plunge and enter Ramp Clearance Height = 0.1mm. Next Click OK.

Figure 54

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Step 17: Follow Step 9, to view the simulation of this Pocket Operation Finishing Pass.

Step 18: Under the 2D tab, select 2D Contour as shown in Figure 54. In the Tool section, click on Select, and under Maker Store Fusion360 Tool Library, left-click on bit no. #100 (Ø6mm – 2 Flute Down-Cut) and click on Select. See Figures 55 & 56 for reference.

Figure 55
Figure 56

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Step 19:  In the Tool tab, enter the different parameter values as shown in Figure 57. 

Step 20: Left-click on the Geometry tab and select the lower profile of the rectangle on the model. This selection will be displayed as Closed Section 1 in the Contour Selection. Next, check the Tabs tab and change Tab Positioning to # Number of tabs. Enter Tabs per Contour = 0. Under Manual Tabs select two points on the lower profile of the coaster rectangle model. The red arrows in Figure 58 indicate the two tabs created in this step for the coaster model.

Note: Tabs are the extra material pieces left on the workpiece that keep it clamped and prevent it from becoming a projectile during the final pass of the last operation. After the machining has been completed, the tabs can be easily removed with a Stanley knife.

Figure 57
Figure 58

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Step 21: Left-click on the Passes tab and check the Multiple Depths section. Enter the different parameter values as shown in Figure 58. Next, left-click on the Linking tab and check the Ramp section. Enter the Ramp Clearance Height = 0.1mm. Please take a look at Figure 60 for reference. Click OK.

Figure 59
Figure 60

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Step 22: The final operation is the finishing pass of the contour operation. Under the 2D tab select 2D Contour. Similar to Step 18, select bit no. #100 (Ø6mm – 2 Flute Down-Cut). See Figure 61 & 62 for reference.

Figure 61
Figure 62

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Step 23: In the Feed & Speed section of the tool tab, enter the different parameter values as shown in Figure 63

Step 24: Follow Step 20, to select the profile and create tabs. See Figure 64 for reference.

Figure 63
Figure 64

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Step 25: Left-click on the Passes tab and uncheck Multiple Depths and Stock to Leave. See Figure 65 for reference.

Step 26: Left-click on the Linking tab and uncheck Ramp. Click OK.

Figure 65
Figure 66

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Step 27: To view the simulation of the whole operation, right-click on Setup1 and click on Simulate, as shown in Figure 67.

Figure 67

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2.2.4 Post Processing

The final phase in generating the toolpaths is post-processing, which involves using the Post Processor downloaded earlier to create toolpaths/G-codes.

Every specific operation such as engraving, pocketing, etc will have a separate toolpath. Follow the steps below:

Step 1: In the  MANUFACTURE environment, under Setup right-click on  Engrave1 and select Post Process, as shown in Figure 68. In the Post tab ensure Maker Store Fusion360 Post Processor, which was imported earlier, is selected. Under Program, enter the Name/number as “Text Engraving – 188”. This naming convention will help in the easy identification of the operation and the end mill required for the operation. Under the Output folder, select the destination of this G-Code file to be saved. Click on Post. See Figure 69 & 70 for reference. 

Figure 68
Figure 69
Figure 70

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Step 2: Under Setup press Ctrl on your keyboard, left-click on 2D Pocket1 and then 2D Pocket2, and then right-click and select Post Process. Ensure 2D Pocket1 is selected first and then 2D Pocket2 (finishing pass) as the order of operations is very important. See Figure 71 for reference. In the Post tab ensure Maker Store Fusion360 Post Processor, which was imported earlier, is selected. Under Program, enter the Name/number as “Gear Pocketing- 100”. This naming convention will help in the easy identification of the operation and the end mill required for the operation. Under the Output folder select the destination of this G-Code file to be saved. Click on Post. See Figure 72 for reference.

Figure 71
Figure 72

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Step 3: Under Setup press Ctrl on your keyboard, left-click on 2D Contour1 and then 2D Contour2, and then right-click and select Post Process. Ensure 2D Contour1 is selected first and then 2D Contour2 (finishing pass), as the order of operations is very important. See Figure 73 for reference. In the Post tab ensure Maker Store Fusion360 Post Processor, which was imported earlier, is selected. Under Program, enter the Name/number as “Rectangle Contouring – 100”. This naming convention will help in the easy identification of the operation and the end mill required for the operation. Under the Output folder, select the destination of this G-Code file to be saved. Click on Post. See Figure 74 for reference. 

Figure 73
Figure 74

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Note: To create an efficient workflow, deciding the order of operations is essential, as it will save time and money.

All the toolpaths/G-Codes created will appear in the MANUFACTURE environment window under the NC Programs tab, as shown in Figure 75.

Figure 75

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The downloaded G-Codes for the coaster will appear in the destination folder as shown in Figure 76.

Figure 76

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Congratulations, you have successfully completed the CAM phase of the CNC workflow.

Support

For any questions or concerns, please contact us at sales@makerstore.com.au

Australian customers: For more project ideas and solutions, please visit makerstore.com.au

North American customers: For more project ideas and solutions, please visit makerstore.com.cc

UK and European customers: For more project ideas and solutions, please visit makerstore.co.uk

Credits

  • Maker Community.
  • Our fantastic customers, whose feedback constantly helps improve our proceses and guides.
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