3D Printed Desk Harnesses the Power of Fusion 360 and McMaster-Carr

Black pipe furniture is all the rage now, and for good reason — it has a nice industrial aesthetic, it’s sturdy, and the threaded fittings make it a snap to put together. But if you’ve priced out the fittings lately, you know that it’s far from cheap, so being able to 3D-print your own black pipe fittings can make desks and tables a lot more affordable.

Cheapness comes at a price, of course, and [Vladimir Mariano] takes pains to point out that his desk is a light-duty piece that would likely not stand up to heavy use. But since the flange fittings used to connect the plywood top to the legs and as feet would cost about $64 all by themselves from the local home center, printing them made sense. Together with custom pieces to mount stretchers between the legs, the 3D-printed parts made for a decently sturdy base.

But the end product isn’t the main point of the video below. Thanks to the ability to browse the McMaster-Carr catalog from within Fusion 360, [Mariano] was able to seamlessly import the CAD model of a suitable iron flange and quickly modify it to his needs. The power of this feature is hard to overstate; you can literally browse through a catalog of engineered parts and print usable replicas instantly. Sure, it’s not made of metal, but it’s a huge boon to designers to be able to see how the final product would look, especially in the prototyping phase of a project.

Not familiar with McMaster-Carr? It’s an engineer’s online playground, and we covered the ins and outs of doing business with McMaster a while back.

35 thoughts on “3D Printed Desk Harnesses the Power of Fusion 360 and McMaster-Carr

  1. interesting, i didnt know that mcmaster carr was directly integrated into fusion 360. That being said, alot of those components have already been integrated into CAD software for a long time now. That definitly includes standardized piping and couplers and flanges, the flanges he pulled from mcmaster carr are ASME flanges that have been standardized for an incredibly long time

        1. As someone who has worked in game development, CAD model topology is some of the most violently awful stuff I’ve ever seen. I would much rather build something from scratch rather than clean up a CAD file. Of course, that’s not always what the client wants…

      1. oh i know that they have dxfs, i just meant that alot of the components are already available in some CAD programs. Both solidworks and inventor have parts databases that have standardized parts such as bolts, pipe fittings and even structural I-beams. I think that the mcmaster integration is great for the products that are not standardized. That being said, 3d files are now becoming a standardized thing for suppliers as many industrial manufacturers make the components available for potential customers.

  2. Hmmm…now that _is_ handy! Me thinks McMaster-Carr though will soon think better of providing CAD-CAM files for all those goodies now for free…if smart maybe they’ll monetize them via a small micro-payment though…

    1. As a frequent Mcmaster Carr user, I’d be mad. I often buy parts from them because I can model that they will fit before spending anything.

      I would not pay any money for files of a part I’m not even sure I want to use. That would make them no more convenient than any other part supplier, which are often cheaper.

      1. This.

        I think the number of people who would 3D print a replica of a McMaster part (it’s going to be weaker, in this case the strength is not needed, but that’s not always the case) are far less than the ones who, like yourself, order from McMaster because it’s damn easy to design things with their products.

        Being an EE, I haven’t ordered anything from them myself, but the MechEs I work with are always ordering piles of stuff from them.

        1. Since McMaster Carr won’t sell to “foreigners” then printing from their 3D models may be a viable route for some. I would love to be able to buy their stuff if they allowed me to.

      2. Also a lot of the parts that mcmaster-carr offers are standardized parts such as fasteners or pipe fittings. Mcmaster-Carr would not gain any revenue from those parts as all it would take is someone putting together an archive of said parts and making it available for free (i would make my library available if most of those parts were not already available in the libraries provided in Inventor or Solidworks.

    2. I wouldn’t count on it. A 3D printed part is almost never as good as the mass manufactured part. In this case the 3D printed pipe flange works just fine as a desk foot but it would never function as it’s intended purpose which is to hold two pipes together under pressure.
      Most 3D Models of pipe fittings are already included with Autodesk Inventor anyway as these are all standardized.
      McMaster Carr is no where near the cheapest place to get a product but they are hands down the most convenient and reliable and as long as they stay that way they will continue to capitalize on that.

    3. I imagine that their costs are rolled into their products. Also a lot of the hard work has already been done by the manufacturers which provide the data. It’s in their own interests to provide it.

    4. It’s good business to include their CAD files. If you design around them, you will likely buy those things from them. Why would they want to put a stop to that, other than knee-jerk digital stinginess?

    5. They can’t charge for the 3D models. There are already some repos on the web that provide you with 3D models of A LOT of parts in convenient ways (aka, choose your file format for direct CAD integration or use something unviersal like STEP). Need names? I’m thinking of traceparts.com, 3dcontentcentral.com, grabcad.com and i’m shure there are more out there i’m not aware of…

  3. Lot of overlap in personnel and business sectors (SaaS, developer-targeted advertising) between Supplyframe and Autodesk. Wonder if some VIPs are looking forward to golfing together a lot more in the future.

  4. I really wish we could order from McMaster Carr in Australia. I asked them if they’d ship here, and received a bit of a cold response:

    “Due to the complexity of U.S. export regulations, McMaster-Carr accepts international orders only from our established customers. This decision also applies to orders shipping within the United States, because it is based on the final destination of the items. We will not provide a quotation or accept your orders.”

    1. If it’s really that much of a hassle, they don’t want to go through all the trouble for some guy who’s trying to buy $5 worth of screws.

      Now if you can demonstrate you’re working on a project or running a company that will need a constant flow of hardware…

    2. I’m in Oz too. I sent them some feedback about how we have a Free Trade Agreement with the US, but received no response. What is the point of a FTA with another country if it does not benefit citizens of both?

      Hackaday has an international audience however articles such as this one featuring isolationist companies.like McMaster-Carr really makes me seethe.

    3. McMaster used to ship to canada but it’s just not worth it for them to to deal with exporting. If you were a decent sized account before they turned off international shipping they will still ship to you, but otherwise you are out of luck.

  5. Bit of a face-palm moment where he selects the metal flange McMaster part on the grounds that he has a metal pipe: completely missing that the plastic/metal is more about the material the flange is made from and so the design of that part is optimised for that material – i.e. the plastic flange might have given him a better result as the collar that the pipe goes into is longer giving a larger attachment for the pipe (along with a thicker base for extra strength).

    1. Oh, and a distinct lack of decent triangulation in the supports also won’t help the ‘wobbliness’ of the table (a longer gusset on the flange might help, along with wider boards on the stretchers could probably have helped at the least)

  6. Interesting piece. Completely agree with the comments about McMaster-Carr. In a past life, we had daily deliveries showing up from them. Great service, at a price.

    Fusion360 is another matter altogether, What started out as a great premise is now going in really odd directions. There are numerous basic, fundamental modeling issues that are being ignored while the “gee whiz” features continue to be added that get them press in all the trade rags.

    Firstly, the inability (or extreme difficulty) in sharing parts. Parts libraries are the life blood of any development group and Fusion makes them almost impossible. Throwing in the ability to import McMaster-Carr stuff is nice, but it’s a far cry from a solution. A request for this capability has been sent and acknowledged by AutoDesk, but in the 2+ years since the request went in, well nada.

    Over the last 20+ years of SolidWorks use, I’ve accumulated some 10,000 library parts that I know are dimensionally correct. Again, this is exceedingly difficult to impossible to do in F360.

    Another feature is configurations. Again acknowledged as a worthy inclusion. Since the acknowledgement, nada. How does one create a fastener library without configurations? Instead of a 50-100 fastener models (bolts, screws, washers, etc of different sizes via configurations) you now have literally thousands of parts that are all but impossible to reference.

    And there are a myriad of basic modeling bugs that go unresolved. Most are listed on the forums, none seem to be going away. Why?

    And don’t get me started on “joints”. Completely unintuitive for a user coming from something else (as indicated, I’m a looooooooong time SolidWorks users). If they were so easy, there wouldn’t be the myriad of tutorials and YouTube videos on how to use them, right?

    If you look in the F360 forums, some of the most vociferous proponents of F360 are beginning to ask why fundamental issues and bugs are not being resolved, or even worked on. There was a comment some time back that proposed the idea that F360 was no more than a beta test program for features later to be included in Inventor.

    I’m an enthusiast user, so I’m not paying anything for F360. I’m also not using it. I had some time on my hands recently and made a genuine effort to do a project in F360. Couldn’t do it. It’s just too painful and too many work arounds of basic modelling feature that simply don’t work. I created a box that I was going to 3D print. Great. Got everything all laid out and then realized that one of the dimensions on the box were off by 1/2″. I edited the sketch that the solid was formed from. No change to the box. What? This is supposed to be parametric. A quick post on the forum results in no response. H’mmm. Still don’t know why, and haven’t spent a lot of time playing with it. I exported the models to STEP files, brought them into SolidWorks, 20 minutes later done.

    If I was a paying user of F360, I’d be screaming my head off about the unresolved issues.

    1. Sorry but your comments reads like some of the product reviews that say “Broke the day after warranty expired. No customer service” where 95 percent of the reviews say otherwise. I think your bias for Solidworks skewed your perception. I regularly use the parametric modeling and never had an issue.

      1. I’m glad it works for you.

        When I first stumbled upon it I was a very vocal advocate. Yes, it’s a bit different. That’s okay. The support on the forum is generally spectacular. I stumbled across an Issue when importing SketchUp files. Posted some files, a day later a response is provided. SketchUp does funny things with faces when you mirror bodies that F360 didn’t handle well. Completely a SketchUp issue, however they did a tweak and now it works much better. Typically I would post a question and there would be a response from an Autodesk employee within a day. That’s the good.

        Honestly though, if it was the only tool that I had to use it every day to design complex multi-parted assemblies, I’d go back to manual drafting. Seriously.

        Yea, I’ve had a personal seat of Swx for a long time. Swx has it’s warts, and while it’s technically fairly good, commercially not so much, not going to say any more about that. And forum support in comparison with F360 is frankly pathetic. Virtually nonexistent.

        I was hoping to find a MCAD tool that would run effectively on my Dell XPS 13 and replace SketchUp. While F360 works on that box (kudos for that) and is a good free alternative to SketchUp. As a paid app however, there are still way too many issues. I don’t need (or use) all the bells and whistles in Swx and was looking for something a little lighter to use to model home projects. Things like woodworking projects are marginally passable in F360, single 3D printed parts are quite good. Trying to build a multiparted assembly in which the parts were parametrically tied to each other was frustrating to say the least.

        I’ll try it again from time to time as I’m hopeful they will get there from here. But with Carl Bass’ departure from Autodesk, I’m not particularly optimistic. As indicated in my OP a lot of the long term, dedicated users are starting to voice concerns on the forum.

        Good luck.

    1. That’s been fixed. They have been debugging it like crazy in the past few months. My employer is trying to switch over from Solidworks so I have been using both since last year. Constant updates are making it easier and easier. They even have a sheet metal tool now.

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