The learning process (II). Digital Manufacturing and Prototyping

How to learn

The learning process was also interesting with the machines and the production. There is a needed short intro, and then you have to learn by trial and error. For the machines, I use to read the handbook, but many parameters and settings depend on each project and material, and they are not described there.

Designing with Fusion360 is different. It’s no ending complex and mainly practical. For me, it was very important starting with a 3-4 hour course. With this and a very patient teacher, I understood the basics of Fusion360 and, what it’s more important, the main concepts of parametric design. I tried alone one day before, and it was very frustrating.

The first impulse is: don’t learn, just use it and learn by doing. That’s partially a good idea. There are many videos, courses and information but how to use them is not easy/clear. What I found the best way is:

  • First, start with example videos, where something is designed. Try to follow the steps doing yourself the same. Usually, there are doubts, and I pause and rewind the video many times. But it’s a good process to learn the basics of the software and understand different design strategies.
  • Create your own design or project. With this, we will have many questions and problems. Frequently I do a design, and at the need, I have to repeat it with a new and better design strategy.
  • Follow a course: with this, you have to be patient, sometimes learning things you don’t need now. But it’s needed for learning new tools. Without it, we limit ourselves to a range of basic choices we learnt and discovered at the beginning.

Videos or books

Personally, I don’t like the videos so much. The advantage is that we need something visual, and they are, but it’s complicated for me to follow them, and I need to stop and rewind many times, and that’s slow and frustrating.

Sometimes I’ll prefer a book where you can see each of the steps, or at least the main concepts, and easily find and review them. But it’s not easy to find books. They used to be expensive and probably something ancient.

The main problem comes with the mistakes when you can’t do something. It’s tough to search in Google because you don’t know the precise terms or the name of the function you need. To find something visual or just describe it, it’s not easy.

It’s also very frustrating when something happens on a video, and you repeat exactly the same (in theory), but it doesn’t work because you didn’t do the same. Where you click, with millimetric precision, is very important in this kind of software.

Learning from a community

What we need here is the help of an expert. There are many forums and information, but we face the problem of describing with words our doubts again.

The best way is to have someone with you, watching your monitor and ask him. Usually not a super expert in needed, just someone with more experience than you, that had this issue in the past.

Organizing a small “learning group” is a great idea. We had something like that in the coworking, but now it’s not possible because of the Covid-19. Here the challenge is to find people with a similar level that could help each other, and ideally, a generous expert helping everyone. But it should be a real exchange, not just a free course, and that’s not easy to achieve.

As mentioned, you need curious people with interest and the right attitude and some free time for sharing.


  • There are, fortunately, many free resources, videos, and good courses to learn about design and tools.
  • Having the goal of creating something is really needed for real learning. Without it, there’s no motivation.
  • To research alone and discover things, just by the use is ok. But the right balance between theory and practice is better.
  • Everything that we learn is a job. Do not expect to master it in an evening.
  • There are many disciples here. In the beginning, it is very confusing, and it’s like a fog that doesn’t let you see the next step correctly.
  • Learning in a group, or having people to advise you, could help in many frustrating situations and make you learn faster.
  • Videos are not an ideal solution for learning, at least for me. But they are appropriate for something very visual, where searching with words is not easy.

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