3D Print a 2D Image
Updated: Jul 14, 2021
I regularly post Fusion 360 tutorials and projects to my youtube channel.
At my college makerspace, at least a few times a semester, a student will come to me with a picture and ask to 3D print it. I’ll explain that you can’t 3D print a 2D picture.
Well, this is partly true. It’s true that you can’t simply draw a picture of a spherical soccer ball and 3D print it but there are cases where this is possible.
If the 3D object consists of a profile that is extruded to give it thickness, then this is absolutely possible. Examples of these can include jewelry, brackets, and logos as I’ll demonstrate below.
Take a look at the golden ratio earrings above. In my Fusion 360 Next Level Course, I use this model to teach how to enter user defined parameters to incorporate mathematical formulas and relations into your designs, but that is a topic for a different day.
Today I simply want to focus on the simple 3D shape. It basically consists of a 2D drawing that is extruded in the Z direction.
The shamrock earring above uses the same procedure. And in the video below I show how I made it by creating the 2D sketch directly in Fusion 360.
If you were starting with a hand drawing, the workflow would look something like this:
Draw the image by hand on a piece of paper
Scan the drawing
Bring it into Adobe Illustrator or similar software
Perform an image trace
Export it as an svg file
Open the svg file in Fusion 360
Extrude and 3D print
I actually keep a digital paper scanner in the makerspace for this exact workflow. It’s also a great workflow for the laser cutter.
Instead of drawing the image by hand or sketching it in Fusion 360, you can also create it in a vector design software. Nowadays, there are many vector design software out there (example of these include Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, Corel Draw, Affinity Designer, Vectr, etc).
I had recently cancelled my Illustrator software and was looking for an alternative when I came across Affinity Designer.
Adobe Illustrator file imported into Affinity Design (left) svg file imported into Fusion 360 and extruded (right).
I decided to give this workflow a try with Affinity Designer. I recently had my logo redesigned and wanted to 3D print it. The logo was designed in Adobe Illustrator but I was able to import the AI file into Affinity Designer and export the svg file. I then imported the svg file into Fusion 360, extruded it and 3D printed it. Easy peasy.
In the video below I go over the entire workflow.
My big aha! moment with Fusion 360 happened when I finally understood how to use Constraints. Get my free Fusion 360 Constraint Cheat Sheet and see what I mean.