Probing in Fusion 360: Engineering moves to the next level.

Philip Hewitt
by Philip Hewitt 1 year ago 4 min read




What do customers of smart technology really want?


Most would say something like “I want powerful capability, and sophisticated control, in a package that is easy to learn, at a low price point. I want the power of a professional tool with the usability of entry-level.” Technology vendors frequently struggle with such incompatible demands.


Autodesk’s Fusion 360 does all of this, helping every designer, inventor and engineer from the school maker space to the professional machine shop. Designed from the outset to be powerful but intuitive, affordable and flexible, Fusion 360 now includes extended capability so that users can access advanced functionality as and when their projects require it.


The Manufacturing Extension introduces professional level features to the intuitive, easy-to-learn platform of Fusion 360. The additional functions are powerful and assist with the trend for automation of design and manufacturing, while remaining extremely easy to use.


Measurement and probing are examples of features that previously were available only in specialist standalone software packages but are now integrated in Fusion 360.


Surface Inspection


Surface Inspection is a powerful Fusion 360 Manufacturing Extension feature that allows the user to check complex freeform surfaces directly against CAD. In combination with existing features in Fusion 360 it provides a coherent extended workflow, creating a single solution for part manufacturing and verification, making it easier to create a continuous shop floor process.


surface inspection


Autodesk’s PowerInspect OMV already provides the ability to measure complex surfaces, but PowerInspect covers the inspection activity in isolation. Operators would mill in one package and then transfer to PowerInspect for validation, often with two different users individually creating NC programs for milling and probing with separate post processors. The Fusion 360 experience is joined up – in a single environment you can program a manufacturing sequence starting with probing for part setting, followed by a series of milling toolpaths, and finishing with additional probing for checking or validating the finished part. You can output a single NC program combining all the different operations punctuated by the appropriate tool changes, making it easy to program a continuous process.  It also simplifies operations on the shop floor, reducing the need for operators to manage the strict order of a complex sequence of programs.


This saves time and it will also accelerate smart factory practices, especially for new digitally native manufacturers who want to set up more unattended processes.


Probe Geometry


Another clever probing feature is Probe Geometry, which measures and verifies the geometry of specific critical features such as holes, bores and faces. Users can set operational limits and stop the machine with a message if measurements exceed the acceptable tolerances. Tool wear compensation updates tool parameters according to the measurement results to improve the accuracy of subsequent machining. This feature also measures and manages tool wear, a substantial cost for engineers.


During machining the cutting tool experiences wear as it removes stock from the work-piece, so over time the tool gradually gets smaller and removes less material. Probe Geometry provides a tool wear compensation feature. When you need to maintain accuracy in an unattended or semi-attended operation, Probe Geometry gives you the ability to machine a feature and check how much the size has varied. By measuring the feature you can quantify the change in size caused by the tool wearing out and compensate for it, allowing you to maximize tool life and improve accuracy.



probe geometry


Steep and Shallow


Another feature of the Manufacturing Extension, typically used in professional CAM solutions and now available in Fusion, is Steep and Shallow. This is a high-end finishing strategy that is very good for creating the kind of flowing freeform shapes that can be inspected with Surface Inspection.


Steep and Shallow calculates a tool path for both steep walls and flat or nearly flat flowing areas, common on mold tools. Typically, you would use different strategies for separate areas, but managing the transitions between them becomes a task in itself. Steep and Shallow is a single strategy that deals with the shallow areas, the steep walls and the transitions in between, making the programming process quicker and giving a better finish.



steep and shallow


Fusion 360 adapts to the market


Surface Inspection, Probe Geometry and Steep and Shallow are part of the Manufacturing Extension which users can access as they need more advanced capability.  Fusion 360 combines easy-to-use functionality for beginners and generalists, with expert tools for specialists.  Everyone involved in the process can access the data they need in a seamless way.


We have re-imagined tools that were originally developed for PowerMill and PowerInspect to make them accessible to a wider audience. This is not just a slavish copy- rather we have tried to make complex processes easier while still providing the necessary control.


With Fusion 360, we provide a powerful platform which can be used by hobbyists and in education, but can also be extended to cover the needs of expert professional users.  The Manufacturing Extension can be selected month-by-month with no lock in contract and is flexible. This promotes experimentation in manufacturing engineering, where more people are designing and making more complex parts in-house because advanced capability is becoming so accessible.



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