Creating Assembly Animations in Fusion 360
We’ve all purchased products requiring assembly or installation at home; we’ve all probably purchased many such products. Flat-pack furniture, kid’s toys, shelving kits, smart home products, small appliances, and many other products are delivered in pieces to be put together at home, or at the very least require the consumer to install the products in their home by hand. We’ve all also purchased many of these products, opened their boxes, and discovered that the assembly instructions provided by the product manufacturer are confusing at best, and sometimes are so unintelligible as to be completely worthless.
Some companies are beginning to transition to online instruction and assembly manuals but these are often just PDF versions of the paper manuals included in the box. Online instruction manuals have so much more potential than paper manuals though. Rather than using static assembly images, videos and GIFs can be used to convey much more meaning and make the assembly process easier to understand.
In this post, we will learn how to use Autodesk Fusion 360 to create assembly animations for products designed using the software. These animated assembly guides can be saved as videos, allowing the addition of narration or other voice-overs, or they can be published as animated GIFs.
- Step 1: Switch to the Animation Workspace
- Step 2: Set Initial Positions
- Step 3: Create First Animation Frame
- Step 4: Create Remaining Animation Frames
- Step 5: Publish Your Animation
Step 1: Switch to the Animation Workspace
With your Fusion 360 assembly open in Fusion 360, we need to switch to the animation workspace to get started creating an assembly animation. You probably use a number of different Fusion 360 workspaces in the course of designing your parts. I spend most of my time between the Model and Render workspaces for example. The Drawing workspace is extremely useful as well. In this tutorial we will be using a workspace you might not have visited before, the Animation workspace.
So, in the upper-left corner of the window, switch into the Animation workspace from the Change Workspace dropdown menu.
The Animation workspace is used – perhaps unsurprisingly – to create animations.
Step 2: Set Initial Positions
Explore the Animation Workspace
The Animation workspace can be a touch confusing when you first start using it. So, before going any farther, let’s cover the basics of using this workspace. Most importantly, at the bottom of the screen you will find a feature exclusive to the Animation workspace, the Timeline. The Timeline shows a series of transformations to the Fusion 360 assembly over the course of time that creates the animation. Each component in the assembly has a row on the Timeline showing changes made to that component. Components can be shown or hidden, moved, rotated, or their appearance can be changed. The bulk of the work done creating our assembly animation will be done in the Timeline.
The other part of the Animation workspace with which you will want to familiarize yourself is the ribbon menu on the top of the screen. The controls available in the ribbon change in each different workspace, including the Animation workspace. In the Animation workspace there are actually fewer controls in the ribbon than there are in many of the other workspaces. The Transform menu will be used the most in this tutorial. This menu allows you to modify the position and orientation of parts in the assembly to create an animation. Many of the controls in this menu can also be accessed by right-clicking on components in the assembly. At the very end of this tutorial, we will use the Publish menu to save the assembly animation.
Set Initial Component Positions
Now that we are familiar with the Animation workspace, we will begin creating the assembly animation by setting the initial position of the components. In the Timeline, you can move the scrub head forwards and backwards in time as we create the assembly. On the far left side of the timeline, there is a red curtain icon. Move the scrub head to the far left side of the Timeline by clicking on this curtain icon.
With the scrub head at the beginning of the Timeline, we can move the components around or change their visibility and the animation will begin with the components in the positions we set now. To move the components, use the Manual Explode command from the Transform menu in the ribbon.
The Manual Explode function allows you to select a component in your assembly and move it away from the rest of the assembly. You will need to spend a little time with the Manual Explode tool to move all the components around into the starting positions for the assembly. As you work more creating assembly animations in Fusion 360, you will get a better feel for good starting positions.
You might also choose to hide some of the components at the start of the assembly animation so you can make those parts appear only when it is time for them to be introduced to the rest of the assembly. You can show or hide a part by selecting the Show/Hide command from the Transform menu.
Step 3: Create First Animation Frame
Now that we’ve set the initial positions and visibility for all the components in our Fusion 360 assembly, we can work on building the actual animation. Start by moving the scrub head in the Timeline to a second or two into the animation. When the scrub head is in a new position on the Timeline, any changes you make to the assembly will be recorded and added to the Timeline. Fusion 360 will automatically handle creating smooth motions between frames in the animation.
I started building the animation for the example Lego Minifig model by moving the hip part of the assembly onto the body with the scrub head positioned at 1.5 seconds. One handy command for re-assembling the parts is the Restore Home command accessible in the Transform menu in the ribbon or by right-clicking on a component in the assembly.
All changes you make are recorded in the Timeline. This includes moving components or changing their visibly and it also includes changes you make to your view. If you change the camera angle, Fusion 360 will animate the change in the Timeline. The first step of my animation includes the hip moving into place attached to the body, and the camera moving slightly.
Step 4: Create Remaining Animation Frames
With the first frame in the animation created, the rest of the animation can be built using the same technique used for the first frame. Simply position the scrub head in the Timeline a few seconds beyond the most recent frame, and move the components in the assembly. Just like Fusion 360 did with the first frame, a smooth transition will be created for each change you make to the assembly, including camera moves.
The video animation below shows my Lego Minifig animation partially finished.
Creating assembly animations in Fusion 360 is more art than science, so play around with different transformations, camera moves, and timings until you are happy with the resulting animation.
Step 5: Publish Your Animation
Once you finish building your animation in the Timeline, it is time to publish the animation. Publishing the animation is really easy. In the Animation workspace ribbon menu, click the Publish button.
In the Save As dialog box, simply choose where you want to save your video. You can then share your video directly, upload it to YouTube, convert it to a GIF (I use Giphy for this), or do whatever else you would like with your nice assembly animation.