Fusion 360: What Is It?

It’s no secret that I’m not an Autodesk fan. I used AutoCAD 10-14 in my early years after engineering school for 2D and 3D wireframe. It couldn’t have helped that AutoCAD itself had the reputation of being the software no one actually paid for. I don’t think I ever used a legally owned license of the software. They seemed to serve the seedy underbelly of the CAD market. Plus, they sell a lot to architects, who tend to be notoriously cheap when it comes to software.

Mechanical Desktop 1.0 was my introduction to parametric 3D modeling. MDT was hands down the worst software I’ve ever used for anything, but I think the patience I developed with that set me up to push mid-range modelers far past where they were intended to go with complex surfacing. I spent more time reinstalling and rebooting MDT than I did actually modeling anything in it. It did educate me about working with computers, and gave me a big wishlist for feature-based CAD, if not much else.

And then as MDT was failing, they developed Inventor, which was as much a copy of SolidWorks as they could make. It had about 60% of the functionality, all right on the surface, nothing of value really past the first layer of menus. It was given away with other stuff, and became shelfware, although they claimed there were a lot of seats sold, it was not used as much as they claimed. And then They were making another mechanical design product, Fusion, or something. Just another flailing attempt to catch up with PTC and SolidWorks.

Riding on the success of AutoCAD, Autodesk bought their way into the professional software market with titles like Alias, Maya, 3dsMax, Moldflow, HSM, and TSplines among many others. Pushing everything into the cloud has not been 100% popular among customers. To me, maybe because that Mechanical Desktop of that experience, I’ve always looked at Autodesk as a third-rate backwater, simply not up to the professional image of companies like PTC and Siemens.  Even names like 3dsMax and Maya became synonymous with pirateware used by students and graphics arts wannabes to flood the internet with amazing graphics.

I’m sure most of this was unfair, but it was based on experience, general impressions, and the comparative reputations of other companies competing for the same customers. To this day, I continue to discount Autodesk products when looking for tools to do the job.

All of this is why I was a little surprised when I learned that Fusion 360 has the kinds of tools I’ve been trying to convince other CAD vendors are the really necessary tools needed to go forward: Mesh, and T-Splines surface design. To get this stuff outside of Fusion360 is going to set you back $20k for enough NX to cover all the bases. This is why I want to take a look at Fusion360. Can it really break the cheap junk impression I have of Autodesk software?

So I signed up for my free trial. I’m working through the software because I want to have some experience with it. I’ve crashed it once in about an hour of work, but as promised, it recovered everything I had done. Did I mention it’s another cloud CAD?

I’m tracking down someone to interview about Fusion 360 – maybe a combination of Autodesk employee and expert user. Still also looking for someone to interview on cloud security, post Equifax. That just to say that we’re going to have more articles here about Fusion 360, and I want to prime the pump a little to see if any readers have anything to say about it, or if there’s a lot of curiosity out there about this product that promises everything before I start digging into it.

7 Replies to “Fusion 360: What Is It?”

  1. I’m happy to answer questions as both an autodesk employee and an expert user. Should you want to chat you can reach me at Kevin dot Schneider at autodesk dot com.

  2. Matt, Long time no see always a pleasure . I can say over the course of the past 20+ years I’ve pulled into my wheel house zBrush, Modo, Rhino with T-Splines, and Solidworks (this is on top of Alias, Maya, and C4D….though I always keep my eyes out on Solidedge because the ST paradigm is very compelling) as my main softwares of choice. Once AD purchased TSplines they did promise to “not discontinue” support for Rhino. Hahahahahaha

    On to the next point, if F360 came out about 10 or so years ago I’d say they would have been ahead of the curve, now that I’m heavy into SubD modeling I can really say that it many areas it falls short of what features are offered in Modo or zBrush….not just by yards but by miles. CAD companies really don’t know what it means to SubD model, unless you’re in that upper tier (NX, Creo) and even then they still “don’t get it”. This is again mainly pointing towards the modeling aspect not security or the likes in this post. I’ll add that I’m not expecting F360 to be as mature a product as some of these other SubD packages. I also do understand that the code of T-Splines and SubD aren’t the same, but the fact they call it sculpting when it’s not is just one of the many failing points of their misunderstanding of terminology.

    I’ve a client that really wants to incorporate F360 into the workflow so I’ve been diving into it heavily…looking for tutorials, videos, at the higher end of the spectrum, not just for show to “wow” people. There’s a shoe, one guy that has a few videos to make cars (styling is a bit questionable….but that’s more of a subjective design thing), but it’s really painful to drive a Nissan Cube when considering I’ve already put my hands on the wheel of Audi R8…;)

    If you do ever want to chat about this more in-depth about any of this let me know.

    1. Arthur,
      Thanks for stopping in and commenting. I really need to work through some of this myself. Engineers do need a place to start, and I think its ok if a real CAD product isn’t up to the level to compete with modo and such. Eventually they will need that, but we need to start integrating the data types and workflows. I’d be glad to talk about it with you.

  3. Fusion360 where do I start. Last time I looked at it as a part of my soon to expire Inventor Pro HSM Ultimate or whatever they are calling it now it was cloud only. You could not save native Fusion files to your PC but had to archive them in a neutral format. Any edit or file save had to be done online to remote servers whose security you had no control over and if you read the Autodesk TOS or EULA there was no guarantee of safety of any sort for your IP either online or where ever archived.

    It is rental only. You have to pay forever and once into this ecosystem they are not forced to continually improve it. You have to rent it from them forever to keep working so they do not have to improve it each year like they do with perpetual seat customers. Take me for example. I have my perpetual seat of Inventor I can use for years to come and they wont make another penny from me because I am an unhappy customer but not a shut down one. When they start jacking up the prices to meet their internal financial goals these Fusion people have no recourse but to either pay or leave entirely.

    Anagnost has already cut the R&D budget at Autodesk. It is you see a cost of doing business that he regards as to high. Autodesk is going on ten down quarters in a row now and they have to tighten their belt.

    Who really owns your IP if you can’t create it and keep it offline in a secure way? With all the huge hacks being done by bad guys out there and the TOS and EULA’s lawyers make you agree to to use Fusion360 it is clear to me they fully expect a percentage of their customers data to be stolen BECAUSE they were forced to go online to create and save it. Unlike credit cards and bank statements there is no monthly accounting of what exactly was done and accessed and when you lose your IP you find out when the Chinese knockoffs show up. Or you file for a patent and discover someone else swiped your work and applied before you did using your design data.

    Fusion360 is a curiosity only for any shop worried about security and should never be considered for anything you want to keep private. Autodesk has also proven they are not beholden to promises they have made and can and have changed things after the fact. They are making no long term commitments to yearly fee caps for this reason as they intend to raise them as fast and as much as they can once they have a captive market.

    None of what I am saying here is to do with the technical capabilities of Fusion360 as a pure design and machining program and this is for a reason. The conditions under which you have to use it preclude me from ever considering it for anything I would do and it is a “free” to me part of Inventor.

    1. I’m ready to see history-based modeling die, or at least take a back seat where it belongs. It is not the answer to everything just because it’s the only thing available to engineers right now. We’re probably going to have to take a couple of steps back to move forward, although there’s no real reason why that should be the case except that the software developers can’t get it together.

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