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Delivering the Future of Making Things With Fusion 360

The Future of Making Things

Recently, we’ve been reflecting on the trends that are shaping the future of how we design and make things – an effort we affectionately call “The Future of Making Things”. During this effort, we identified and analyzed the technologies, business models, and societal changes that are impacting the manufacturing industry, and grouped them into three main megatrends:


    1. The means of intellectual and physical production – how we design and fabricate things – are becoming more accessible to everyone.
    2. Demand – who the customers are, where they are, and what they want – is fundamentally changing.
    3. Products themselves are becoming smarter and more interconnected.

This thinking is not just an academic exercise. We are working hard realizing this vision with products and services – some of which are  are available today, others under active development, and still others brewing in the labs and minds of our own Autodesk Research group. In this post, I’d like to highlight one of our products that is delivering several key capabilities of this Future of Making Things vision today: Fusion 360.


Figure 1: The main three trends of the Future of Making Things

Figure 1: The main three trends of the Future of Making Things


Fusion 360: More Than Just Another Pretty CAD Tool

Fusion 360 is, at its core, Autodesk’s cloud-enabled mechanical 3D-modeling tool. And it’s a fantastic one at that, offering much more than the common capabilities of traditional 3D CAD (cloud and otherwise) —capabilities such as free-form modeling and sculpting with T-Splinesmesh modeling, powerful direct modeling and parametric modeling, and an API to enable third-party extensibility.


But we believe that product development is not just about the detailed description of the geometry. That’s why we added powerful capabilities around collaboration, simulation, fabrication (including 3D printing and CAM integration), and data management. We are building Fusion 360 to be a comprehensive, integrated product development platform.


Delivering on the Future of Making Things Vision Today

As it relates to our Future of Making Things vision, Fusion 360 is leading the way, delivering on one of the key trends listed above: the democratization of the means of intellectual and physical production.


Here’s why:


Because Fusion 360 is cloud-enabled and offered on a subscription basis, it is easier and faster for any organization—big or small—to get Fusion 360 into the hands of its users. No need for costly IT resources to support its deployment. No need to make impossible guesses about what your long-term needs will be and lock yourself into expensive perpetual licenses, which either go largely underutilized or are not enough to support spikes in business.


With Fusion 360, you subscribe for what you need, and adjust your subscription as your business needs evolve. It is also affordable: $300/year for the basic product, $1,200/year for the Ultimate version, and free for hobbyists, makers, startups, and students.


But access to the tool itself is just part of the story. What we are talking about is access to a sophisticated and powerful set of capabilities that was previously available to only a few companies—the ones with abundant resources and ample corporate “patience” to wait for these tools to start generating value.


This powerful set of capabilities includes the following:



The way design teams collaborate is evolving in significant ways. The way ideas and designs are created is increasingly more inclusive, participatory, distributed, and dynamic. Collaboration is transcending the walls of the design department, and even the company. Supply chains, customers, and communities are participating more actively—and earlier—in the design of the product.


Fusion 360 was designed from the ground up to be a collaborative tool – ideal for those development projects where ideas move fast, collaboration is largely social and unstructured, and discussions do not necessarily revolve around geometry. Fusion 360 provides the right blend of tracking, commenting and sharing, and version-management capabilities to enable this type of collaboration.


And we will soon be adding more collaboration capabilities such as distributed designs, in-use-by, and design branching and merging. And because it is cloud based, designs are more easily accessible from anywhere, including mobile devices using the A360 Team app (iOSAndroid), without the complications caused by tools and data living behind the company’s firewall. Need to finish a design during a flight or anywhere with poor Wi-Fi? Not to worry, Fusion 360 has an off-line mode, as well.


Figure 2: Fusion 360 can be accessed from multiple devices

Figure 2: Fusion 360 can be accessed from multiple devices


Figure 3: Branching and merging in Fusion 360 (coming soon)

Figure 3: Branching and merging in Fusion 360 (coming soon)



Also supporting the trend of wider access to the means of production is Fusion 360’s sophisticated simulation capabilities (and the vast computing resources needed to perform these simulations in a reasonable time). Fusion 360 includes assembly modelingmotion studiesrendering, and animations. And we will soon add linear stress and deformation, modal and thermal analysis, and drop tests. The program is designed to leverage the virtually infinite computing power of the cloud for these compute-intensive operations, effectively providing high-performance computing to everyone.


In addition, these simulation capabilities are delivered within the CAD tool itself–the tool with which designers and engineers are familiar and comfortable. They can perform some preliminary simulations without leaving the CAD tool to check that the product will not fail, freeing the analyst to use his or her expertise for more in-depth analyses and to optimize the product, as opposed to just checking to see if it fails. This reduces what our CEO Carl Bass describes as the “game of Battleship” between designers and analysts, where the designer figuratively calls “B2?” and the analyst replies “missed!” This is a painfully inefficient process that is repeated over and over again until the analyst deems the design satisfactory.


Figure 4: assembly modeling in Fusion 360

Figure 4: Assembly modeling in Fusion 360


Figure 5: Fusion 360 motion study

Figure 5: Fusion 360 motion study



Figure 6: Fusion 360 cloud-based rendering

Figure 6: Fusion 360 cloud-based rendering



Once we have the geometry of the product, the next step is to plan for its fabrication. This again is often a step that causes a lot of rework because designers often produce designs that can’t be efficiently manufactured—or manufactured at all. Fusion 360 again alleviates this problem by providing powerful in-product CAM capabilities to allow engineers to define tool paths and simulate fabrication. The CAM capabilities of Fusion 360 share the same proven CAM kernel as HSMWorks and Inventor HSM.


Fusion 360 also provides powerful 3D-printing capabilities, making it easy for designers to prepare their designs for 3D printing by providing the ability to preview the mesh structure, make pre-print refinements, and automatically create optimized support structures. Fusion 360 is compatible with a wide variety of known 3D printers, including Autodesk® Ember. It’s also easily used with 3D-printing software utilities, including Autodesk® MeshMixer.


Figure 7: CAM capabilities in Fusion 360

Figure 7: CAM capabilities in Fusion 360


At Autodesk, we are working hard to identify and understand the trends that are shaping the future of how we design and make things, and are building the products and services that will enable this future for our customers. With Fusion 360, we are delivering on this vision today, with powerful capabilities that provide wider access to the new means of production. For proof, just take a look at some of our customers using Fusion 360 today.


For details on features, learning and help resources, pricing, and how to try it for free, please visit our Fusion 360 page.



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