Introduction to 3D Printing Inventor

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This exercise will introduce Autodesk Inventor, which is drafting software that is used by technical professionals, and basic technical design methods will be shown using this computer-aided design (CAD) software. This software will be used in your semester-long design project by constructing physical prototypes with 3D printing.

To practice this prototyping procedure, an NYU logo keychain will be created in Autodesk Inventor and exported to be 3D printed. The members of the winning team of “Lab 1C: Mousetrap Vehicle Competition” will each receive a 3D-printed keychain.


Computer-Aided Design

CAD programs, which include Inventor, AutoCAD, Revit, SolidWorks, and SketchUp, allow engineers to make precisely scaled drawings. These drawings are used to manufacture equipment, build infrastructure, and allow designers to display their designs with complete specifications and detail. Orthographic views (top, bottom, side, front, back, etc.) can be used to document every aspect of the technical drawing needed for production while isometric views can be used to view the final 3D representation of a product.

This exercise will teach the basics of Autodesk Inventor, 3D file formats, and the basics of 3D printing. After this lab, you will be able to create simple 3D files and set them up to be 3D printed.

3D Printing

3D printing allows for rapid prototyping and onsite manufacturing of products. Initially done with plastic, 3D printing now uses new techniques with new materials, such as aluminum, bronze, and glass. Biomaterials are also being incorporated, such as 3D printing ear cartilage and liver tissue. As the 3D printing industry grows, 3D printing will become a big part of many engineering fields.

In this course, 3D printing can be used to produce SLDP course modifications, robot parts, and a team logo for extra credit.


Setting up the file

  1. Start AutoDesk Fusion and create an account IMPORTANT: Make sure to use your NYU email.(Figure 1)
    Figure 1: Inventor new file options

Designing the NYU Keychain

  1. The first step to designing the keychain is to draw the base shape:
    1. Start 2D Sketch (Figure 2)
    2. Select the XZ plane (Figure 3)
    3. Rotate the camera to orient the top correctly using the arrows in the top right of the screen.
    4. Select the rectangle tool from the "Sketch" section of the toolbar. (Figure 4)
      1. Draw a 2.6” x 0.7” rectangle starting at the origin
      2. These values can be typed in (switching which value is changed is done using the tab key)
    5. Select the circle tool
      Figure 4: Sketch 1 after trim
      1. Draw a 0.7” diameter circle centered in the middle of one of the short sides of the rectangle (the cursor should snap to the center position and becomes blue X with a triangle when you get close.) (Figure 5)
      2. Draw another circle 0.45” in diameter in the same position, the sketch should look like Figure 6.
    6. Fillet (round) sharp edges
      1. Select the fillet tool from the “Sketch” section of the toolbar (do not use the one under "Modify") (Figure 7)
      2. Select one of the two intersecting lines that form the right angles on the base
      3. Use the default fillet size of 0.125” and repeat on the other corner
      4. The sketch should look like Figure 8
    7. Remove the extra lines using the trim tool
      1. Select the trim tool from the “Sketch” section of the toolbar (It is under the fillet tool)
      2. Select all interior lines that divide the keychain
      3. If error messages are indicated, remove the dimensions on the rest of the keychain
      4. The sketch should look like Figure 9
    8. Exit the sketch using the "Stop Sketch" button.
  2. After creating a 2D sketch, the next step is to use that to create a 3D object. In this lab the extrude tool will be used to create a 3D block. In the future, the revolve or other tools can be used to create more advanced geometry.
    Figure 5: Sketch 1 extruded
    1. Select the “Extrude” tool from the “Create” section of the toolbar (Figure 10)
      1. Select the profile of the object to be extruded, which is the object that was just created
      2. Change the extrusion thickness to 0.15” and press Enter.
      3. The model will look like Figure 11.
  3. The next step is to add the design to the key chain. For this lab, a vector graphics file will be used in the dxf format provided by NYU. In the future, a logo can be designed using the sketch tool
    1. Download the NYU Tandon Vector Logo (This logo was converted from the file provided on NYU's identity page)
      1. * Tandon logo ACAD format
    2. Select “Insert DXF" under the "Insert" section of the toolbar. (Figure 12)
    3. Select the top surface of the key chain (Figure 13)
    4. Rotate the camera again to orient the top correctly
    5. Click on the file folder on the window that pops up and select .dxf file you downloaded.
      Figure 6: Drawing import settings
      1. The logo should appear. (Figure 14)
      2. Make sure you change the units to inches.
    6. For this side of the key chain the "Tandon School of Engineering" portion of the logo is not needed.
      1. Select the bar and everything to the right using click and drag (Figure 15)
      2. Delete this portion with the “Delete” key on the keyboard (Not Backspace)
    7. The logo needs to be scaled to fit the key chain. To keep the spacing of the design, select an appropriate base point. Use the midpoint of the line on the right side of the box
      1. Select the point tool under the "Sketch" section of the toolbar
      2. Place a point at the center point of the right side of the box.
      3. Delete the bottom and the left side of the box. (Figure 16)
      4. Select the "Scale tool from the "Modify" section of the toolbar.
      5. Select the box and torch of the logo by clicking and dragging
      6. Select the midpoint that was just placed as the base point for scaling
      7. Enter a scaling factor of 0.75 (Figure 17)
      1. Figure 7: Sketch 2 final
      2. Redraw the 2 sides of the box we deleted using the line tool in the “Sketch” section of the toolbar. (Figure 18)
    1. The logo will be positioned on the keychain
      1. Select the entire logo and use the “Move” tool from the Modify section of the toolbar to move it off the base so there is space to draw the alignment line
      2. Select the line tool and draw a 0.925” line from the middle of the right side of the circle towards the center of the keychain
      3. Select the logo using the move tool again.
      4. Select “Point to Point” as the move type in the window that appears. (Figure 20)
      5. Select the midpoint from the side of the box and the end of the line you just created.
        1. The logo should snap to it. (Figure 21)
      6. Delete the guideline you created.
      7. Exit the sketch.
      8. The final sketch is shown in Figure 22.
    2. To finish this side of the keychain, the design must be cut into the base. To do this, the extrude tool will be used
      Figure 8: Extrusion 2
      1. To cut the design, select “Extrude" from the "Create" section of the toolbar.
      2. Select the profile of the design to cut, in this case, the area around the torch and each of the letters (Figure 23)
      3. Select "Cut" from the drop down menu next to "Operation" in the window that appeared on the right. (Figure 24)
      4. Select a distance of -0.6".
      5. The final model is shown in Figure 25.
  1. To 3D print the design, export the file as an STL. This is the only format that can be opened by the 3d printing software
    1. Right click on the box above “Document Settings” and select “Save as STL”. (Figure 26)
    2. Click "OK" no need to change any of the setting.
    3. Make sure you save it to a location you'll remember like the desktop.
    Figure 9: Inner fill box
  2. The last step of the keychain is to make the white insert that will fit in the center to make it two colors
    1. Click “My Home” in the bottom file tabs
    2. Start a new file
    3. Create a rectangle with dimensions 2.2”x0.65”
    4. Extrude the rectangle 0.12”
      1. This model is shown in Figure 9
    5. Export this in the same way as before
      1. Make sure to reselect units again

Preparing to print

  1. Now that the logo design is complete, the next step is to put it together in the 3D printing slicer software. We will be using Cura as the software for orienting parts on the printer and selecting the color of each object. It also generates toolpaths that the printer will follow to print the objects.
    1. Open Cura. If a menu pops up prompting for the printer, select the “Ultimaker 3”
      1. If a menu does not pop up, make sure the printer currently selected is “Ultimaker 3” on the top right corner
      2. Otherwise, click the arrow, select the “Add Printer” option, and add “Ultimaker 3.”
    2. To load your two files from above, select “Open File” on the top left corner and open the STL file containing the base of the keychain
    3. Using the “Rotate” tool on among the options to the left, rotate the part so the torch is facing up
      1. Uncheck the “Snap Scaling” option to allow for a more precise rotation
    4. Select “Open File” again and load the filler rectangle
    5. Again, orient the part correctly using the “Rotate” tool
    6. Cura, by default, drops the objects on to the build-plate and keeps objects apart. The following steps are needed to combine the filler rectangle within the keychain:
      1. Under “Preferences”, select “Configure Cura”
      2. Under “Viewport behavior,” make sure to deselect both “Ensure models are kept apart” and “Automatically drop models to the build plate” if they are not already deselected
      3. Save your preferences
      4. Return to the buildplate and make sure both objects are lying flat on the build-plate by using “Rotate” => “Lay Flat”
        1. If the “Lay Flat” tool does not lay the object flat, manually type in 0 mm in the “Move” tool for the Z axis
    7. Select the filler rectangle, and using the “Move” tool on the left, enter 0.15mm as the Z value to raise it vertically
    8. Select one object and choose a different extruder on the left. That piece will appear as a different color
    9. Drag the filler piece and place it in the keychain base part
    10. Save the file as a .gcode and upload it to the website
Figure 10: Cura with both parts loaded
Figure 11: Cura with the base and the infill of the logo


A *.gcode file must be submitted to It is required for a lab report grade.