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What are the best practices moving from (assembly) design to manufacture?

Message 1 of 4
160 Views, 3 Replies

What are the best practices moving from (assembly) design to manufacture?

I am new to fusion360 and working through my first CNC project. I have heard that originally in CAD projects, each part had to be designed in separate files and then later were imported and assembled into an assembly file to error check and visualize, and similarly for manufacturing, there each individual file was imported into a distinct CAM software to define toolpaths and generate the NC code (likewise for simulation etc.). I was under the impression that part of the innovation/power of the Fusion 360 framework is the ability to design and assemble all parts in a single file and essentially put all of the engineering functions into a single program...


With this impression in mind, I designed my project entirely in one file. I took care to create new components and subcomponents as I proceeded and to activate those components as I created the sketches and bodies that would define them I also made use of several user parameters to keep things organized and easily modifiable. My final file is comprised of 2 components, with the first consisting of 2 subcomponents and the second consisting of 7 subcomponents. Each component has various features; importantly, when creating many of these features, for a given component, I leveraged the geometry of various other components. For instance, to make screw holes, that were symmetrical across adjacent components, I made an initial hole, then defined planes from adjacent components, and finally used the mirror command to repeat those screw holes on up to four other components.


I am happy with my final design, and now it is time for CAM. I initially began this in the same file, just changing the workspace from "Design" to "Manufacture". My plan was to toggle the visibility of single components and create setups for each component and each stage of its manufacturing, then proceed to the next component and repeat. The first component went smoothly and I even post-processed it to manufacture the piece on CNC. However, when I moved to the next component (which was orthogonal to the first component) I started to encounter some problems, there was a yellow outline of the component from the first setup even when I was editing the new setup (even when I had toggled all parts of the first setup tree to be invisible) the yellow outline would seemingly randomly become invisible; although I was able to define many aspects of the setup, this made me nervous, and I got to thinking that each setup was modeling the entire machine, tool, and component, and that eventually my file was going to become too large and unwieldy, especially if the yellow outlines persisted. I did a few searches on youtube and forums to troubleshoot but could not really find instances of people moving from a full assembly in "Design" to "Manufacture" as I was doing. So instead, I decided maybe I should save copies of each component from my assembly and create manufacturing setups for each individual part. So saved a copy of the component I had been working on and began working on that individual component, but to my surprise, it was missing features. When I looked at the component in the browser, there were several sketches, construction planes, etc. with the prefix "Reconstructed"; I assume that these were generated when I saved the copy of the component as a result of me referencing the geometry of other components in its design, and likewise, the missing feature is a result this somehow not generating completely.


So I am hoping someone can help explain why I'm encountering these issues so I can fix this project, but more importantly, offer advice on the best practices or personally vetted workflows for the process of moving from assembly design to manufacturing so that I'm able to use Fusion360 like the pros. Thank you!

Message 2 of 4

There are many ways to go about this, and it all depends on user preference and needs, as well as complexity of parts as well as manufacture needs.

You can totally model each component independently and insert into a master design as an XREF. On the other hand, you can also build everything in one file, with references to features tying each component together in an intelligent manner.

When it comes time for CAM, I find the easiest thing to do is to "Derive" a single component out into it's on MFG file. Don't make a copy of the file, that's only going to set in bad habits that will one day bite you in know where.


Personally, I prefer to design and model everything in one file, and then "Derive" out the component into it's own CAM document. The reasons for this are:

1) I like order. If something becomes so complex and unwieldy (it will if you design and program all components in one file), I find it difficult to work

2) Tool numbering. When working with multiple operations and parts, it becomes a bit of a mess to have identical tools shared across the parts with different tool numbers assigned to it. Renumbering your tools becomes a chore and a half

3) It's easy to share toolpaths from one document to another, so copying your entire setup and dropping it into another document is easy-peasy

Seth Madore
Customer Advocacy Manager - Manufacturing
Message 3 of 4

I pushed on a little further with my original approach and successfully created setups and post-processed NC-code for each of the manufacturing steps for each of the components in the master file.  The outline that was making me anxious about the approach turned out to just be the outline of the stock from the previous part I was working on, as the default for stock "Mode" is "From preceding setup" (which is a pretty natural choice if the file only involves one component). Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to create many setups across several components, but admittedly, this project is not wildly complex.


The "Save Copy" route is definitely the wrong way, so I'm glad that the way I designed things caused errors with that method so I could learn that lesson early. I had no idea that "Derive" existed until reading your post. I just gave that a try and it cleared up all the issues I was having with "Save Copy," with a little more reading I see that it actually links the derived component in the new file to the original component so that any changes to the original are updated in the derived. That is amazing! Exactly the kind of behavior I would want if I was using the derived files for CAM work. 

I don't quite understand your point about the tool numbering. Like I said, this is my first project, and I am even more fresh on the CAM-side of things. On my project I am only using 4 tools across all the parts and various operations; however, each tool has the same number across all the operations it is involved in. Maybe this is because I didn't really change the machine parameters for the tool? Is the renumbering you're referring to something that must be done manually? If you could, please expand on this point a bit further.


I think moving forward, I'll be using the workflow you described. I really like having all the parts together so they can reference one another in the design and utilize the same list of parameters, and it's really nice to be able to visualize as you build. However, I think breaking the CAM work up into individual files it would make things much cleaner, and the fact that derive will allow any changes to be updated in those satellite files makes things incredibly flexible! Thanks for the tips Seth!

Message 4 of 4

I typically work with parts (in my own shop) that have 3-4 operations and usually a full magazine of tools. I might run OP1 and 2 in my Mori, but finish OP3/4 in the Kitamura. Once you pass a certain point of tools and operations, tool management in the active document does become quite the chore. This is only a partial image of one of the parts I'm working on currently:



So, with a few ops and only a handful of tools that are used throughout the part, that's nothing you need to worry about just yet. But, being aware of the pitfalls and limitations is key to progressing in a clean manner 

Seth Madore
Customer Advocacy Manager - Manufacturing

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