Software to Watch: Autodesk Fusion 360

Alright, don’t start in on me. I’ve got a lot of misgivings about this software, just based on its name. First, Autodesk (or AutoCAD) to me means low-rent, underpowered software that runs best when its bootlegged. The name Autodesk also recalls the traumatic  experience I had as an early adopter of Mechanical Desktop 1.1. 360 in this case means cloud. So there isn’t much to like with 2/3 of the name. But Fusion sounds good to me. It sounds like they are merging technology, which seems right to me right now. I really like how Siemens has merged History and Direct into Synchronous. If Autodesk is copying from Siemens, and who could blame them for working from a great idea, then this Fusion 360 might not be what I typically expect from Autodesk.

First, you know they’re only marketing people, but you might expect them to get the priorities right. The huge font went to the cloud. The cloud should be a footnote in this story instead of a huge distraction from the real story. I think this is part where Autodesk is really missing it. Cloud isn’t the big draw that CEOs and marketing types think it is. If I were trying to sell CAD in the cloud, the first thing I’d mention was that it takes advantage of some great modeling tools. I wouldn’t even mention the cloud. CAD people don’t want the cloud, they don’t care about it. They care about modeling tools.

There has been a lot of controversy recently around Autodesk cloud announcements by Autodesk CEO and some other top level types. You can read more about this on Blog Nauseam, and Ralph Grabowski’s site, both places that tend to focus on Autodesk products. The discussion has centered around whether or not Carl Bass said/believes that all Autodesk tools are going to be cloud tools EXCLUSIVELY. It seems they’ve backed off of that, and everything will be available on the cloud, but there will also be unspecified desktop tools. This dance seems more than a little familiar. A CEO comes out with a brash and possibly stupid claim, and then everyone else is left scrambling either not saying anything or trying to do damage control to regain control of the message. All you need is one crazy, ambiguous statement. Just ask Jeff Ray, now picking cotton in some software backwater.

Anyway, to me, the most important stuff I’ve read about Autodesk Fusion 360 has been from Evan Yares. The first thing I like about what Evan says is that he’s realistic. There are limits to cloud capabilities, mostly imposed by connection bandwidth, and that there is much more to this product than just an internet connection.

The first thing that you have to notice with this is that Fusion 360 is a mechanical modeler with T-Splines built in. This is what SolidWorks could have been. So just to be clear, you might design a conveyor system, or you might design something organic without pulling your hair out. This is the system I’ve been asking for that combines NURBS and mesh-style modeling. If this interests you, I’d really recommend reading Evan’s two part article.

As much as it pains me to praise Autodesk, this is a product that looks interesting because of the modeling technology. To me, it wouldn’t be an entirely bad thing if a more reputable vendor were to offer something similar (like if Siemens bought Geomagic/Sensable). If we could only convince them somehow to shut up about the damn cloud.

Fusion 360 isn’t available yet (are all these cloud apps going to be released on the same day?), but you can sign up for beta, which isn’t out yet either. Autodesk’s incomplete cloud app that isn’t delivered yet sounds like Dassault’s scaled down “conceptual modeler” that isn’t delivered yet. Despite Mr. Bass’ best efforts, Autodesk has managed to create less of a PR disaster than Dassault, and they have offered some details.

So, this is one of those things that I’m watching with great interest. I’ve put my name in for beta, I’d love to get my hands on this. For all of Dassault’s bluster about bringing its customers new technology first, they are going to be dead last in the post-history era among the big 4. Even the deaf and blind PTC has an offering in this space.


9 Replies to “Software to Watch: Autodesk Fusion 360”

  1. Devon,
    I recently worked for a company making parts for company making prototypes under a pentagon research contract. Part of what I was doing was putting together tooling and machine proposals and budgets. One of the other managers had heard about the Volumill HSM tool path plugin for GibbsCAM (which was their shop CAM program). Because of the fact that it offloaded the actual computation of the tool paths to the Volumill servers it was shot down before ever even making it to consideration. Nothing in part or in whole could be stored or transmitted off site. Not secure. Period. In fact the computers that handled CAD and CAM were on a completely different intranet than the machines that had any internet access and that network was completely isolated for security. CAD in the cloud absolutely not an option there.

  2. What if PDM and file management were inherently built into the cloud end of the software? I have no idea if it will be, but PLM 360 is already cloud based.

  3. @Mark
    “It was designed in mind for smaller business and start ups, not large corporations (Autodesk’s words)”

    These are exactly the types of companies I’ve worked for the past 14yrs.

    Having to buy, build, maintain, secure, & configure a Private Cloud adds a level of complexity & cost that won’t be appreciated nor embraced.

    …”smaller business and start ups”… heck, these types of companies can’t even afford PDM, they’ll balk at Cloud Computing.

    Thanks for the links.

  4. Cloud computing; I’ll bring this up again;

    Yes I use online banking like millions of others. My bank accounts are INSURED AGAINST THEFT. So somebody hacks the account and withdrawals all my money, I’m inconvenienced, but I get all my money back.

    My engineering design files that reside on a remote computer; are they insured against theft? I haven’t seen any discussion or information about this, have you?

    Most companies and certainty the medical device companies I’ve worked for will be against any CAD files residing on or being computed on remote computers.

    Weekly I read about or hear about computers being hacked.

  5. Some other interesting things I saw with it…

    It has been in development for three years, and they kept the Fusion name because it already had some market footing with it being installed with about everything. Originally it was going to be called Autodesk Forge (now only referred to this in project terms).
    Its entirely multi-threaded (to release something that isn’t would be a joke)
    It can work on local data, not just the cloud
    The beta will be here VERY shortly, I attended three hands on labs at AU on it
    The FEA Simulation is baked in
    It will have HSMWorks integration by the end of 2013, some previews were already showing it.
    It was designed in mind for smaller business and start ups, not large corporations (Autodesk’s words)
    It will be completely free to the Student market (Carl Bass told me this)

  6. I wonder if they are all launching at around the same three-month window because none wants to be first, so that they can see what the other has done.

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