Explorations of 3D Design

As mentioned on the next battery pack page, I started to explore 3D design and modelling because I needed a faceplate for the battery enclosure I was planning to use.

Up until now, my 3D printing experience was limited to finding existing designs and downloadable files to print. That included not only radio-related items, but also a few toys and trinkets for my grand-daughters. Fun, yes, but very limited… But it did allow me to learn a lot about resolving printing issues.

At some point, I took a look at Blender and others to try to modify an STL file to remove an undesired feature. That proved more difficult than I was prepared for; mainly because I am not familiar with many of the concepts and terminology of 3D modelling.

The battery faceplate project became the driver to make me dive into 3D modelling.

My first attempt with Fusion 360 quickly resulted in frustration, like my attempt with Blender. The biggest issue is my gap in understanding the concepts of modelling and drawing.

When I installed OpenSCAD, the ramp-up speed and understanding was surprisingly quick. I attribute that to having some programming experience. At least the programming approach was not a barrier. Through a lot of trial and error, developing elements of my faceplate piece by piece, I became familiar with a lot of the concepts, and also how to describe something in three dimensional space. It didn’t take long before I had a workable mockup of the part I wanted to make.

That gave me the confidence to continue forward, and to think of other things I would want to design. Things like an enclosure for a circuit board and small TFT display, for example.

After a while I began to see some of the limitations of OpenSCAD, some of which, I should admit, are because of my limited experience with the software.

A friend suggested Fusion 360 again in reference to the particular enclosure I wanted to build, and some of the design elements I wanted to incorporate. His suggestion came with some specific references to materials and videos he said I should start with in my efforts to first wrap my head around many of the basic concepts of 3D design and modelling. After several days of focus and research, I thought I’d have a chance with Fusion 360.

Fast forward several weeks of more study and watching videos, and I tackled my first model. I started with a fresh attempt at the TFT display enclosure. With help from my F360 mentors, I started to see some good progress quite early on. More than once I painted myself into a corner, but learned new things from that. Then I’d start a fresh model. As I learned, I gained confidence and added a few more elaborate design elements into the enclosure. I admit I got a little cocky at time and mess things up, so I’d toss it away and start over. Each of these iteration provided a bit more understanding and knowledge.

Battery Load Tester Display Console Model

Along the way, I took a few side trips and tried some simpler models. Specifically, I needed clamps of some sort to secure the cells in my LiFePo4 battery pack. I sketched up some ideas on paper, then refined them to the point I was ready to start to model it. With suggestions from my mentors, I had a workable model, which I then printed.
These act as corner reinforcements and cushioning for the cells, and are held in place with copper straps. These look handy enough to me that I’ll publish them on Thingiverse.
For the copper straps, I wanted some strain relief on the ends, so drew something up, modelled and printed them.

While I was in this learning mode, I also modelled up some terminal caps to protect the cell terminals. These are shown in the battery pack build page.

As I started understanding the concepts and mechanics of Fusion 360, things began to make sense and to get easier. The battery load tester display enclosure started to take shape in a cohesive way. As the model got better defined and detailed, I got brave and soon got myself into trouble.
Building on the experience designing that model, I save my work and started a fresh build. As I had learned a few things along the way, the second build was a bit easier, and developed more quickly. I also refined some of the design details. I am currently on version/attempt number 4.

I’ve been watching a number of videos from a number of presenters, and as I learn more about tips, tools, and methods, it is becoming quite clear there is much content out there that is absolute garbage, both in terms of content and presentation style. I find myself seeking more advanced material as I get better with this software.

As another exercise for training and experience, I am trying to model an enclosure for the W8BH Morse Tutor kit that VE6LK and I package and sell. There are currently 2 enclosure models out there, and I am not totally satisfied with either of them. So I’m trying to design a slightly better enclosure.
I’ve picked up a few new techniques and methods through this design process.

Morse Tutor Case with a model of the PCB

I’m working on a number of DIN rail brackets, starting with and based on a base DIN rail clip with a screw pattern. The idea is to make a variety of device mounts and clips that use the same rail clip.