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Distributed Design in Fusion 360

A few Months ago, Will shared a post outlining the future of data management and collaborative workflows within Fusion 360. In May, we’ll take a big step into that future by providing the ability to distribute creation of your designs among multiple contributors.


Distributed Components

Fusion 360 was born a top-down design tool. It was optimized, from the start, to simplify and accelerate design that originates from a single form. Each Fusion 360 design document begins life as a part, and can then grow into a rich, highly structured assembly as your design and manufacturing processes demand. This isn’t an easy feat to accomplish in design tools with a more rigid notion of part & assembly documents.

Top-Down Design.png










Of course, not all design begins in such a top-down manner. Evolutionary changes to existing products and ideas usually begin with reuse of existing components. Common components may be reused frequently, and designs in which they are used need to update when referenced components are modified. These types of design revisions naturally demand a more bottom-up approach that streamlines component reuse.

Distributed Components.png



Distributed Contribution

Additionally, members of a team often need to distribute design efforts among multiple contributors. They need to work on the design concurrently, and see real-time updates as the design progresses. They also need to control those updates to ensure that an oversight by one contributor doesn’t compromise the entire design.

Distributed Contribution.png






Enter Design Referencing

The Fusion 360 team has been working to evolve the manner in which teams work together, and changes are on the near horizon. In our May update, we will introduce Design Referencing; the ability to insert one Fusion 360 design into another, and maintain an associative link between the two.


Inserting a design from the same Project will create a link to that design. If the linked design is modified, the referencing design can easily be updated to reflect the changes. This supports bottom-up reuse of existing components, and also allows multiple contributors to create and modify referenced components within a single assembly.

Referenced Designs.png


While this brings parity with similar capabilities that you may be familiar with in other design tools, Fusion 360 Design Referencing brings two unique advantages:


  • First, because historical versions of your design are maintained, Fusion 360 designs can open just as you left them, even if drastic changes have been made to referenced components. Fusion 360 will highlight referenced components that are “out of date”, and allow you to update them individually or as a whole. If a component update causes model failures for any number of reasons, Fusion 360 will allow you to roll back to any previous version of the design until you have a chance to speak with your colleague who was responsible for all those unruly component changes. Finally, a design tool that understands “as built” and “latest”!


  • Second, because all of these design references are automatically tracked and maintained in the cloud, renaming or moving components to new folders won’t result in broken links. Try that with your desktop design tool…


Of course, we’ll maintain Fusion 360’s flexible component structure, allowing you to blend top-down design with distributed design – the best of both worlds.


The Fusion 360 team is really excited to get Distributed Design into your hands. Look for it sometime in May. As always, we invite your questions and feedback.



But wait, there’s more…

With Distributed Design in place, we will continue to evolve collaboration with Branching & Merging. This will allow you and your team to “branch” designs and freely explore design alternatives in a manner similar to Git, or other software development tools that support distributed, non-linear workflows. We’ll follow up with another blog post on Branching and Merging soon.


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