Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:
No doubt you’ve heard some buzz about Autodesk’s Fusion 360 CAD cloud-based service like I have. And, like me, you’ve been meaning to check this thing out. Well, I finally did, and suggest you do too. It’s a good time to do so because there’s no commitment and the link to sign up is right over there. Let me give you my quick take on Fusion 360.
The idea behind Fusion 360 is to offer you a single, any time access environment where you wield mechanical, industrial, and conceptual design tools to create models that are both functional and snazzy looking. Contrast this with the traditional shotgun marriage of discrete tools that you use in hopes of muddling your way to a design that’s both useful and not bad looking.
Fusion 360 seems to offer a full range of 3D design modeling capabilities, including free-form modeling. It has translation abilities for importing common CAD file formats. It comes with a collaboration tool and it has automatic versioning. The interface is easy to learn, and the workspace uncluttered. Right clicking seemed to offer all the proper context-sensitive prompts. Performance was surprisingly snappy on my sometimes-lousy Internet connection.
Autodesk seems intent on setting a new traditional way of coupling engineering and design. To that end, Autodesk recently announced a number of additions to their cloud-based portfolio of services of which Fusion 360 is a part. These are Autodesk Sim 360 for mechanical simulation and finite element modeling; Autodesk Mockup 360 for real-time collaboration and digital mockup; and Autodesk Configurator 360, a product configuration service. I won’t linger on these since DE’s Beth Stackpole has a terrific Virtual Desktop post on them here.
But Fusion 360 appears more than industrial design and mechanical engineering heads to the cloud. If you have the HTML version of this message, look at the image over there. You’ll see that Fusion 360 also provides functionalities for social collaboration, video sharing, creating polls, even building a Wiki page. This is neat stuff. The kind of stuff that the new generation of engineers and the old who are young of mind grasp intuitively and will soon both expect and demand of everyone.
So, who’s Fusion 360 really for? Well, most any designer and engineer working with designs. For example, the small shop and the lone dreamers who need to support design, engineering, and analysis with all the tools they can’t now afford like document management and collaboration. The good-sized engineering outfit that needs to bump up capabilities without bludgeoning the budget will find Fusion 360 useful too. Speaking of moola, after your test drive, Fusion 360 starts at $25 a month per user, with an annual contract.
OK, the elephant in the room is security. I know there are some who get their knickers in a twist at the thought of security on a cloud-based service. What can I tell you? This is a non-issue to me. Most people share their models through e-mail anyway, so I cannot understand the fear of flying into the cloud. Besides, you can take every security measure imaginable and still lose your intellectual property. Ask the NSA about that. I know that Autodesk does all it can in that regard. Like getting on a plane, you gotta have some faith in the people running the operation.
In the end, my feeling is that Buzz Kross and his crew at Autodesk are onto something with Fusion 360. It could be a little ahead of its time, or it could be that the times are a little behind Fusion 360. Or maybe the timing is just right. Whatever. This is very interesting, very useful stuff. It could change the way you’ve traditionally worked. Hit the link over there, watch the short video, scroll down a hair, and then try Fusion 360 yourself. Won’t cost you a dime right now so there’s no reason not to.
Thanks, Pal. – Lockwood
Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering