Back in my days as a SolidWorks Application Engineer, I used to help design and manufacturing companies all over the U.S. with support, implementation, and training. No matter how big or small, one thing remained constant: Not once have I seen a case where their vendors, contractors, customers used the same CAD tools. In large companies, this can even be the case from team to team! Trying to get everyone you work with on the same application is like herding cats, but I have the perfect solution for you: Fusion 360’s AnyCAD.
AnyCAD provides the ability to link to vendor, contractor and customer data, negating the translation of their data into Fusion 360. For example, you can use Fusion 360’s AnyCAD to reference a SolidWorks part designed by a contractor. Once the file is in Fusion 360, there is a link feature in the timeline. Now, you can add parametric features in time that will rebuild when the original SolidWorks part changes.
But AnyCAD isn’t just about modeling more features on your SolidWorks geometry; it’s about the complete product development process. I can rant on for hours about the various benefits of bringing your desktop CAD to the cloud, but let’s focus on a few of my favorites.
Once upon a time –during the dark ages of product design– simulation tools were reserved for the PhDs with advanced degrees (oh yea that rhymed). There were a variety of reasons for this, but here are a few:
- A degree in cryptography was required to navigate the icons, menus, and results.
- The required computer hardware filled a small room.
- Simulation software is expensive.
CAD vendors noticed these trends and started to make some much-needed changes. First, CAD vendors added simulation tools to their offering. Unfortunately, these were “light-weight” versions of their more expensive big brothers. Maybe your boss ponied up for SolidWorks Premium, but that only includes linear static.
Engineering problems are getting increasingly complex, which require advanced tools and solvers to validate. So maybe you’re one of the few lucky ones who had access to SolidWorks Simulation, ANSYS, or Simulia. However, those tools can run in the tens of thousands of dollars depending on the package. Imagine having access to one of the industry-standard FEA Solvers: Nastran. Well, quit dreaming because Nastran has forced (literally) its way into Fusion 360.
Now you’ll have the tools to solve engineering problems which require thermal, nonlinear, shape optimization, and so much more. Not only do you have access to a variety of study types, but you can leverage the cloud to solve your complex simulation studies. The cloud enables you to offload time-consuming studies from your feeble laptop. On top of that, you can run different design ideas or different simulation scenarios in parallel to ensure you get to the best decision sooner.
Try that on your desktop simulation tool. Typically, that would require a fancy server farm to offload the simulation. The best part? Any changes to your SolidWorks geometry will automatically be updated in Fusion 360 leaving your simulation setup intact, so all you have to do is re-run the simulation. Hint: Cloud Solve again.
I’ve never been a great machinist, so I’ve been lucky enough to rely on my machinist friends to help keep me honest. My machinist, One-Ear Tim, would throw a S#!@ fit if I used an internal fillet on my design and didn’t apply 5-10% increase to the radius to account for tolerances. Making the radius to the exact size of his tool would still require him to use a smaller tool. Smaller tool = longer machining time. He used to always say “devils in the details, and we are in the details business.” The conversations between the person engineering the part and the person making the part are essential to decrease production time and cost.
Fusion 360 has integrated CAM to fuse the workflow from design to CAM, but a CAM programmer will see file types from almost every CAD package. Almost immediately after Tim finally finished programming my part, I had to give him some terrible news. The customer needed to make changes to the design which was made in SolidWorks. Of course, Fusion 360 can translate 25+ different file formats, but translation is where things break down. Once the translation occurs, the link to the original part is broken. Well, not anymore. Need I say it again? Yes, the CAM toolpaths will update when your SolidWorks data is updated.
Last and most importantly, store your SolidWorks data in the cloud. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed to send a file to a customer, make a design change, or simply measure the distance between two holes. This always seemed to happen when I was miles away from my work computer, and accessing the servers remotely often requires complex security protocols With Fusion 360’s cloud data you can log into a web browser to view, collaborate, manage, and even modify your CAD data. There is NO server installation needed; it just works the first time you sign in. Don’t believe me yet? Check it out.
Fusion 360 will even automatically version control your SolidWorks data in the cloud. When you save your SolidWorks data into Autodesk Drive (similar to a Dropbox folder in Windows Explorer or Finder), and your SolidWorks data will automatically be synced to the cloud. As your SolidWorks files change, versions will be created in the cloud. Teams can comment, red-line, and markup of different versions to produce an audit-able trail of design decisions throughout the product development process. Typically, this is a conversation that happens between multiple team members email boxes.
If you haven’t gathered the general theme of this article by this point, here it is: with AnyCAD, changes to your SolidWorks geometry will update in Fusion 360 seamlessly. Now you can avoid the high upfront license cost and maintenance fees for Simulation and CAM packages, but those are just a few benefits of Fusion 360. I didn’t have time to mention the different modeling techniques (Freeform, Parametric, Direct, Sheetmetal, Surface, and Mesh), additive tools, works on mac, mobile application, continuous product updates, free online learning, manufacturing network, and so much more.
Oh yeah! Traditionally, all of this functionality would come with a hefty price tag to implement into your workflow. Not with Fusion 360, all of this comes with your subscription.