Mapping 3D Modules With the Fusion 360 Package Editor

Edwin Robledo December 20, 2021 6 min read

The Package Editor in Fusion 360 Electronics makes it easier than ever for you to view and edit your PCB or EAGLE files in the 3D Model space.

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We’ve all been there — that moment when you go to load someone’s PCB or use their component library only to discover that only a few components actually have accompanying 3D models. Or, maybe you use your EAGLE files, which don’t have accompanying 3D models to begin with. Well, we have great news! It’s now easier than ever for you to view and edit your PCB in the 3D Model space in Autodesk Fusion 360 Electronics thanks to the Package Editor.

Using library parts that have 3D models assigned to the footprint is the most effective way to work in the electronic design space, but there are times where the parts you use don’t have a 3D model available, resulting in a default grey box. To add a 3D model to the footprint would constitute editing the library and adding the 3D model in the Library Editor workspace. With this update, you can now map or create a 3D model for your parts directly from the PCB and schematic workspaces. 

Before we get into how to use the Package Editor to accomplish this, let’s dig into how parts, the Library Editor and the Package Editor fit together. As a first step, it’s important to understand what an electronic part consists of in the Library Editor — this will help you understand how the Library Editor is broken down: 

All about the Fusion 360 Library Editor

As an electronic engineer, as soon as I grasp the functionality of what I need my design to do, I want to open my application and begin putting it together immediately. But before I do that, I need to find the parts I need. Most electronics engineers dread this process. I personally use every possible search engine to find the part I need before making a part from scratch. After spending hours looking around for your parts and downloading several models that will suit your design needs, it’s common to realize that they’re outdated or have errors once you start using them. This is when you know you’ll need to make your parts from scratch.  

The Fusion 360 Library Editor itself consists of four editors:

A footprint is the physical pattern of an electronic component. In the spec sheet, you will see all the mechanical details for your part. Manually making the Footprint according to its mechanical information can be challenging since you need to find a grid that would provide the specific pad spacing, specify pad size, then place each pad one at a time.  

How to use the Package Editor 

From the context menu, you can select the option to add a 3D model or edit an existing 3D model from the Package Editor — you can select a STEP file or use one of the available templates. This makes it simple for you to get a 3D model of your PCB so you can insert it in your enclosure and make sure you have no interferences.

Before you start searching all over the place for a matching 3D model, let me tell you about the Package Editor and its IPC-compliant calculator. You see, only making the Footprint was not enough for our team of developers. Why not give you the necessary tools to make the Footprint and the 3D model all in the same step? The Package Editor calculator goes beyond IPC standard parts including, DIP, Headers, PCB hardware, and others. 

After selecting the correct template and entering the component mechanical details, the package calculator will generate the Footprint and map the 3D model using the specification you have entered. You will also notice you have the option to enter manufacturer tolerances.   

Fill in 3D model blanks with the Package Editor

We strongly recommend that you map the 3D models to your footprints in the Library Editor since it will be sustainable for all future designs. But what happens if you have designs that don’t have all or some of the parts mapped with 3D models. No problem! From the schematic or the PCB editor, you have the option to change or add a 3D model to your part. This will open the Package Editor. From here, you can map an existing 3D model, or use the package calculator. 

The Fusion 360 Package Editor provides you with all the necessary tools to draw the 3D model of your Footprint. My 3D modeling skills aren’t the best, so I usually begin scouring the Internet hoping to find a 3D model of a 196 pin BGA that matches my specifications. Mapping the 3D model consists of inserting the STEP file in the Package Editor and matching the footprint layout. With this most arduous task of creating my Footprint and map, I can complete the part by making the Symbol and the Device. 

Fusion 360 Electronics is compatible with EAGLE

But what happens if you don’t find the exact 3D model you need and you don’t have time to draw it? Fusion 360 is 100% compatible with EAGLE files, no file conversion is necessary. Just load your EAGLE design or library file in Fusion 360 and continue designing. Mapping 3D models directly from the schematic or PCB design workspace has been a feature available in EAGLE for the past few years. By extending this capability to Fusion 360, EAGLE users are able to easily map and get a 3D visualization of their designs.

For the past 30+ years, PCB design has been solely stuck in a 2-dimensional environment. It’s been long overdue to have electromechanics workflows without file conversion and the option of quickly adapting to changes made by the mechanical or electronics engineer. Thankfully, Fusion 360 provides a reliable approach to 3D modeling your designs — try it out today.

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