January 2023 Update

Posted on January 31, 2023 by Scott French

January was a great month full of learning, and as a result some new progress was made on the next SF3! I've wanted to learn 3D CAD/CAM for many years but have always been intimidated by the complexity. It was a great moment when I found out that I could do simple 2.5D CAD/CAM using Illustrator SVGs when I first got the CNC. Being able to work with software and concepts that I was already familiar with was great because it allowed me focused on the initial challenge of learning how to run a CNC and use basic CAD/CAM software. Slowly I've come up against the limitations of this approach and my desire to learn 3D CAD/CAM had returned again and again.

This month I finally got around to really learning Fusion 360 for both 3D modeling and machining. From the design standpoint my process is still somewhat familiar in that I can start on paper as normal, bring my drawings into Illustrator for refinement as normal, only now the next step is to bring the design into Fusion 360 in order to convert it to 3D.

I decided the first project I would attempt with these new tools would be the top plate for a new pickup design I've been working on. The goal here is to have a rigid top plate to mount the pickup that can then be mounted into a ring with four height adjustable screws. The ring is then set into the body. This design allows the ring to be mounted flat even on a carve top guitar because it is screwed to the body within a recessed hollow. It also allows me to easily use threaded inserts throughout the design instead of wood screws. This top plate has a flat section, curved plate section, recessed area for the pickup itself, and through holes for magnets and mounting hardware. This seemed like a good first project as it presented many common challenges as well as the need for milling on both sides of the blank.

For some reason it took a really long time for me to get into the Fusion 360 interface, so it was a slow process getting anything going. Then at some point something clicked and the design side of things became really intuitive. I think getting the workflow of Illustrator > SVG Export > Fusion 360 Sketch > SVG Import really sorted is what finally got me moving. From there the design came together pretty quickly and I was even able to add a few improvements once I was thinking and working in 3D space.

Next up was learning the 3D CAM side which was the part I had been so intimidated by for so long. The options available for 3D CAM are so numerous and complex compared to 2.5D CAM, this part took a lot of review and testing of all the options within Fusion 360. I'm not sure I have everything figured out yet, but my initial results have been encouraging. I'm able to clean up this first attempt pretty easily by hand, but I am definitely hoping for a better finish quality in the future.

So far this process has me really excited for the future. I've learned so much in one month it makes me want to try a bunch of other ideas. I've had to hold myself back from starting in on the pickup mounting ring and some new knob designs, but I have to take one thing at a time. In the far future I would like to get into metal milling so I can make my own hardware, but for now the focus will be pickup and electronics related items in addition to some decorative touches. The progress so far has been really encouraging so I am looking forward to what the next month will bring.

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