Autodesk Fusion 360 Review
Now here’s a question, what exactly is Fusion 360? Well, imagine having the opportunity to design a revolutionary Product Innovation Platform and completely re-design your CAD tool from scratch, with the freedom to wave a wand and have everything you desire from a CAD tool?
Whilst arguably this would-be utopia, it naturally raises a whole plethora of questions as well for example:
What would you keep from your current CAD tool? What features would you love to add from other CAD packages that you’ve seen? What would you want to get rid of!
What platform would your Fantasy CAD tool run on? Would you like it to run on your Windows PC? Your Mac? Your server or even your tablet computer?
What workflow headaches would you like your new CAD tool to solve, that your current CAD tool doesn’t?
Where does design end and engineering begin? How would your new CAD tool aid in the coordination of your Design and Engineering work from beginning to end?
In essence you would be thinking about the CAD of the future and the lucky F360 team at Autodesk got to do exactly that when they were asked to go away and think about the CAD tools of the future, and bring them into the present.
The original Inventor Fusion 2010 was a plugin that ran on our desktop, alongside Inventor, but over the intervening years Fusion 360 became its own standalone product, making the best use of the latest cloud technologies to improve your CAD experience.
What is Fusion 360?
So, what is Fusion 360? The answer is 3D CAD reinvented to become the next generation Product Innovation Platform incorporating CAD/CAM/CAE tool for collaborative product development.
Autodesk Fusion 360 is a fundamental departure from our current desktop bound CAD software, so let’s have a deeper dive and get a high-level overview of what really sets it apart from the competition, why the platform is such a compelling offering and how it helps ends users and businesses meet the requirements, challenges and technological changes facing the design and manufacturing sectors.
Fusion contains tools to support the entire Design to Manufacture process within one CAD package.
Solid, Surface, T-Spline and Mesh geometry is supported. Drawing, Rendering and 3D-Printed output is available for design validation, documentation and prototyping. Within the same CAD package, Simulation and shape optimisation tools help us to check and validate our design, while integrated CAM allows us to manufacture the final parts.
Fusion 360 runs on Windows, Mac and in your web browser so, it’s not tied down to a specific operating system. The licence is tied to your Autodesk login, not the device you are currently using. The software’s integrated document management system backs up all your working files to your Fusion 360 Team account making it easy for you to work from wherever you need to be.
The platform uses the power of the cloud to hand off compute intensive tasks such as rendering and FEA studies, freeing you up from having to sit at a dedicated CAD station.
It’s a collaborative platform meaning you, your colleagues and your customers can access your files from any web connected device which can help to shorten design lifecycles and accelerate time to market. Viewing and mark-up tools are built in to the Fusion 360 Team document management platform. Asking for a customer review of your design is a simple as sending a web-link.
A Fusion of what exactly?
Autodesk Fusion 360 is a fusion of CAD/CAM/CAE tools delivered in a cloud platform and includes:
Multiple Modelling techniques
Parametric and Direct, Solid and Surface, T-Spline and Mesh geometry import, creation and export are all supported in the platform. You choose the way you want to work and the technique that best suits the project.
A Variety of CAD Tools
CAD, CAM, FEA and documentation are all built on the same platform, and integrated into the same CAD tool. This makes it easier to move your project through the various design phases out to presentation graphics without the overhead of having to learn disparate software packages.
Multiple Operating Platforms
Fusion 360 can run on multiple operating platform such as Windows, Mac or in your web browser. There are F360 Apps for your iPhone and Android device so you simply choose what platform is best for depending on your preference or even your location.
CAD and PDM
Data management is built into Fusion 360. No need to maintain your own database or server, no check-in or check-out.
Permission control, version and revision tracking, linked documents, comments, review and mark-up are all managed seamlessly and coordinated with Fusion 360 team.
Local and Cloud Resources
The platform is an incredible hybrid between your local device and the cloud. Because Fusion can run on your PC or Mac, it will work even when you don’t have an internet connection! When connected to the internet, Fusion has the incredible ability to pass off compute intensive tasks to the cloud to get the best out of your local hardware, and the scalable compute power of the cloud.
The Product Innovation Platform (PIP)
Autodesk Fusion 360 is truly an integrated product Innovation platform, to support you and your team from Concept design, through Engineering and Production to managing the lifecycle of your product.
Fusion 360 Features
Concept design and 3D Modelling
Autodesk Fusion 360 brings true ‘Top-down’ design to your workflow, with a single model environment in which all unique parts and assemblies can be created. Existing library files can be linked into your current design, allowing for ‘change it here – change it everywhere’ control of your standard parts.
It incorporates both direct and parametric modelling, allowing you to start with an existing design from any other CAD system, or create your own designs from scratch.
Prototyping and Fabrication
Prepare your designs for 3D printing as a prototype or as a final part within Fusion 360’s integrated 3D print preparation environment.
Once the final design is agreed, programme your part for 2, 2.5 or 3 axis CAM directly inside F360 and write out your post for any one of the many supported NC code post processors. Traditional drawings have not been left out and can be created directly inside the platform.
3D Print models, CAM paths and Drawings are all directly linked to your 3D CAD model. When your model updates – everything else will too! Late design changes need not be a problem inside Fusion 360’s integrated Product Innovation Environment.
The closer you can get your 3D CAD model to real life, the more information can be generated for Simulation and verification of your design. Minimise the number of physical prototypes you need to make, reduce costs and reduce time to market.
Fusion 360 includes integrated Assembly modelling, Motion studies, Rendering and FEA tools to help you analyse your design before you make it. Generate Static stress, Modal Frequencies, Thermal, Thermal Stress, and Structural Buckling, Non liner Stress, Event simulation and Shape optimisation studies for a fraction of the price of dedicated simulation software.
Coming soon: Read more about Simulation with Fusion 360.
Document management and collaboration
Document management is seamlessly built in to the platform. Files are automatically backed up to the cloud. Every save creates a new version for a full audit trail. All files are permission controlled and tracked within your project, so you can re-name and re-structure your files as you see fit at any time.
All files uploaded to the platform are available to your project team via the Fusion 360 document management web service, which includes commenting, mark up and live review of your designs. Whether you are sharing ideas with a no-CAD user in the same office, colleagues around the world or your customers, you have the tools you need built into the platform.
How do I Sign up for Fusion 360?
Autodesk Fusion 360 is available for a free 30 day trial and is available on a rental licence model. Rent by the month, quarter or yearly term.
It’s also FREE to students, start-ups and any company or user turning over less than $100,000 dollars per year so there are effectively no barriers to entry and even a start-up business with limited funds will have access to a world class development platform
Fusion 360 System Requirements
Minimum System requirements as posted on the Autodesk website (see below) and are pretty minimal on the face of things, so there is no need to invest in expensive hardware just to run the platform.
That said for a better user experience you would probably want to set the bar a little higher for memory and graphics especially if you do not have a dedicated graphics card.