Week 0: CAD Modeling

Assignment: Model (raster, vector, 2D, 3D, render, animate, simulate, …) a possible final project.



When thinking about how I wanted to use the next few months in How to Make (Almost) Anything, I realized many of my ideas were centered around the intersection of two of my favorite things: robots and interior design.

I decided to use the next few months in the class to build new objects for my room — ranging from things that are just “pretty” design to robotic furniture to random “smart” objects to help me in my day to day.


Robots + Interior Design

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to build a robotic workstation for my final project. I have often seen people — including myself — change their environment periodically when they work. Our work environments can be very static, particularly in offices. I started to think about how I could build a workstation that had dynamic characteristics. Could you have a desk that changes every few hours to create a “new environment”? How could a desk trigger different features based on your emotional state (stressed, angry, excited etc.)? How could a desk help you with your tasks?

Some of the crazy ideas I came up with are below:

  • What if the desk could start brewing your favorite coffee when it detects that you are getting tired but still have a lot of work to do?
  • Could the desk give you encouragement when you finish things on your to do list? What if it had a progress bar?
  • Could the desk have a sleep timer mode so that it changes the lighting and various properties to help you get to sleep in X minutes?
  • What if you could tag everything in your desk drawers and have a search interface to find the items?


CAD Modeling

I did not have a lot of experience with 3D modeling beyond a class many years ago in AutoCAD and Solid Works. I decided to spend the week playing around with a bunch of different programs. Over the week, I tried various things in Rhino, Gimp, Inkscape, Fusion 360, 123D Design, and Antimony. Personally, I was not a huge fan of Rhino since I found it difficult to change dimensions easily. I got quite comfortable with Fusion 360 so decided to make a mock of a desk design using the program.

I think the hardest part about getting the model to work was getting each of the pieces to join in the way I wanted. Learning how to maneuver around in 3D space to align objects on various planes took some practice, but I think I got much better and quicker by the end. I didn’t get a chance to build out the lamp and and all the elements I wanted in completion, but I spent some time scouring the internet for 3D models of similar objects and started trying to recreate or augment them. I actually found it super helpful to pull in open source objects and follow the tree of actions provided in Fusion 360 to understand how it was built and try to follow along. This helped me understand new workflows and think about effective ordering when building new objects.

As next steps, I started modeling a potential robotic desk lamp. It turned out to a bit more complex than I had hoped so hopefully will work on that incrementally in the coming weeks.


Next Steps

The next set of things I'd like to do is actually build the various components into the 3D model and figure out how to get everything to interact. The model currently does not have things like rollers for the drawers to open and close. It is also missing components like the sleep timer button, lamp etc. As I add these to the model, I can plan out what aspects I can build each week and which ones are better left to the end.


  • initial brainstorm for class

    initial brainstorm for class

  • sketch of desk materials

    sketch of desk materials

  • model in fusion 360

    model in fusion 360

  • multiple views of model

    multiple views of model