13.1: Introduction

Thinking outside of the box is an essential skill for engineers.  Every day engineers are faced with problems that cannot be solved with standard off the shelf parts. Components need to be customized and sometimes designed from scratch in order to solve a particular design challenge. Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Fusion allow these designs to be virtually modeled and fitted to a particular application. The new part can be animated and analyzed for any interference problems with other parts in the assembly.  

Once the CAD model has been approved, engineers make physical prototypes of their design using rapid prototyping technologies.  


3D printing
is a popular option for rapid prototyping a design. The machine works like a printer, but instead of printing ink, it prints layers of plastic. The end result is a physical model that engineers can work with.