Conturo Prototyping Gets the Job Done With the Fusion 360 Machining Extension

Clinton Perry Clinton Perry June 10, 2021

4 min read

This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)

A look at how Conturo Prototyping unlocks a vast array of advanced tools for CNC machining with the Fusion 360 Machining Extension.

When you think of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, you may recall its identity as a blue-collar steel town. But the days of traditional manufacturing are changing faster than you think, especially at Conturo Prototyping

Founded in 2016 in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Conturo Prototyping began as a 1,000-square-foot shop. It has quickly grown to a 17,000-square-foot facility complete with ten multi-axis CNC mills and three CNC lathes, primarily because of its agile manufacturing workflow and world-class engineering customer support.  

“We work with engineers that have very complex goals and make very advanced mechanical assemblies and components,” says Andy Lawniczak, Chief Operating Officer. “But they’re used to the old-school ways of manufacturing and machining. So, when we get back to them within a day with a design for manufacture analysis, they say, ‘Wow, that was fast!’” 

Conturo prototyping specializes in short production runs that support OEMs during product development cycles, allowing them to bring products to market faster. Image courtesy of Conturo Prototyping.

A key element of the shop’s success is Autodesk Fusion 360, which allows the teams to simulate and automate many of the initial steps that used to be done manually. And in the digital world, each of these steps can be accomplished much more rapidly. 
“As soon as the customer comes to us with a problem, we load it in Fusion 360,” Lawniczak says. “Right away, we can start looking at geometries, measuring different aspects, making slight changes, and putting it in our machines to see how it will fit and how feasible the job is. What’s really important about these advanced tools is we can be so much more agile than we used to be.” 

Engineers use Fusion 360 and the Fusion 360 – Machining Extension to operate their 3- and 5-axis CNC machines. Image courtesy of Conturo Prototyping.

A traditional job shop with a few CNC programmers and a large crew of operators might be able to program a handful of parts in a week. Conturo Prototyping, on the other hand, can program that many parts in a single day. From Lawniczak’s perspective, the versatility of Fusion 360 contributes directly to the shop’s ability to solve customer problems more rapidly. 

“We had a client on a very short timeline making robots, and they wanted to cast a lot of the parts, but making a casting mold is really expensive and really slow,” he says. “They asked us if we could CNC the geometry so they could get to market sooner.” 

A typical prototype component produced using 5-axis machining. Image courtesy of Conturo Prototyping.

Conturo Prototyping ended up programming the entire part in Fusion 360. The level of complex, intricate geometry meant it would have been almost impossible to produce using 3-axis machining. Instead, the Conturo engineering team decided to purchase the new Fusion 360 Machining Extension, which unlocked 5-axis functionality inside their existing Fusion 360 software, meaning they could quickly produce the NC code they needed to run their 5-axis mills.  

“We were able to get the prototype back to our customer in a few weeks as opposed to six months or more from a casting vendor,” he says. “This is how we end up solving so many client problems.” 

The Fusion 360 Machining Extension is a cost option that unlocks a vast array of advanced tools for CNC machining. In addition to 5-axis functions, including automatic collision avoidance, the extension unlocks access to machining strategies like steep and shallow that simplify the machining of complex, feature-rich parts. The extension also includes dedicated toolpaths and workflows that can be used with spindle-mounted probes to measure components throughout the machining process to help speed up set-up and improve overall part quality. The extension is considered as being extremely powerful, according to shop supervisor Patrick Fee.

“The Fusion 360 Machining Extension can do some really advanced stuff on the CNCs,” Fee says. “For example, part alignment typically involves a lot of shimming to make the part really flat. It can take hours, and it’s really stressful. With Fusion 360, the probe does all the work. That’s immensely time-saving and valuable to us.” 

Spindle-mounted probes are used to simplify setting up parts, such as castings, prior to CNC machining. Image courtesy of Conturo Prototyping.

Tight schedules and complex parts are just a normal, everyday expectation for shops like Conturo Prototyping. But with help from Fusion 360, the shop can do more work in less time. “We know everyone’s on a tight timeline, so we make sure we’re using the most cutting-edge tools we can, and that’s why we’re using Fusion 360,” Lawniczak says. “it really embodies the whole agile movement in engineering.” 

Learn more about Conturo Prototyping here, and learn more about the new Fusion 360 Machining Extension here.

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