Autodesk Fusion 360 is a 3D design, engineering, and manufacturing software package.
It offers a wide range of tools and features for product development, including 3D modelling, simulation, collaboration, CNC machining and 3D printing.
Whether you’re a professional engineer, designer, or maker, Fusion 360 quite likely has something to pique your interest.
Let’s have a look in detail and see what it has to offer.
History of Fusion 360
Since its initial release, Fusion 360 has undergone several updates and improvements, adding new features and expanding its capabilities.
Here are a few major highlights of upgrades to Fusion 360:
2013 – Fusion 360 released as a cloud-based platform for product development, combining 3D modelling, simulation, and collaboration in a single package.
2014 – Autodesk releases a version of Fusion 360 specifically for education, enabling students and educators to access the software at a discounted price.
2015 – Mac version of Fusion 360 released.
2016 – “Autodesk Generative Design,” released which allows users to input design goals and constraints and then set AI to generate design alternatives based on those inputs.
2017 – the Slicer feature of Autodesk 123D was integrated, allowing routing and laser cutting.
2018 – Autodesk Generative Design integrated into Fusion 360 as its own workspace.
2020 – Eagle integrated into Fusion 360, allowing PCB design and component libraries.
2021 – Autodesk Meshmixer discontinued, and functionality integrated into Fusion 360
2021 – Netfabb merged into Fusion 360 adding enhanced features for 3D printing. Includes file preparation, cleaning, slicing, toolpathing, and even simulation for additive manufacturing.
How Fusion 360 is Used
Fusion 360 is a versatile software with many features, and the feature list is growing all the time.
Let’s take a look at some of the major capabilities of this software.
Fusion 360 offers a variety of tools for creating 3D models of products, including surfaces, solids, and meshes.
These tools allow users to create detailed, accurate models of their products that can be used for visualization, simulation, and manufacturing.
The software includes a range of simulation tools that allow users to test the performance and behavior of their designs.
These tools can be used to analyze, motion, and heat transfer, among other things.
Fusion 360 includes tools for collaboration, allowing multiple users to work on a single project together in real-time.
This can be particularly useful for teams working on complex projects or for companies with distributed teams – very handy in these post-pandemic work-from-home times!
Manufacturers will be pleased to hear that Fusion 360 includes tools for preparing designs for manufacturing, including CNC machining, 3D printing, and sheet metal fabrication.
It also includes tools for creating detailed manufacturing plans and generating machine code.
Creating realistic prototypes in the Manufacturing Workspace and integrated support and slicing functions, significantly improve the product development process.
Autodesk Generative Design is a software tool that uses artificial intelligence and cloud computing to explore design options and generate new ideas based on specified design goals and constraints.
It can be used to optimize shape, size, and material properties of a design to meet desired performance criteria.
The broad capabilities make this software very appealing to designers in a wide range of industries.
Fusion 360 can be found in such diverse industries as:
The software is widely used by engineers for product development and design. It offers a range of tools for 3D modeling, simulation, and manufacturing, making it a powerful tool for engineering projects.
From mechanical to electrical engineering and everything in between, engineers find plenty to offer in the software.
The software is used by manufacturers to design and prepare products for production.
It includes tools and workflows for CNC machining, 3D printing, laser cutting and sheet metal fabrication, among others.
Fusion 360 is used by designers in a variety of fields, including industrial design, product design, and automotive design.
Its 3D modeling and visualization tools are particularly useful for design projects, and its in-built renderer is handy for marketing purposes and presentation.
Architects, contractors, and construction professionals are using the software to design and plan building projects.
Its 3D modeling and collaboration tools are particularly useful for construction projects.
Fusion 360 is used in a variety of education settings, including universities and schools.
It is a powerful tool for teaching design and engineering principles, and the educational versions are available at discounted rates.
Getting Started With Fusion 360
So you have bitten the bullet, and you want to try the software for yourself.
The good news is that Fusion 360 is a doddle to install. Simply head on over to the website, download the installer, and run it.
Be aware that there are some prerequisites for running the software, though.
As with most software, there are some requirements for running Fusion 360. You can’t just install it on a 20-year-old laptop and expect it to run!
- x86-based 64-bit processor, 4 cores, 1.7 GHz or greater; 32-bit not supported
- Apple silicon processors will require Rosetta 2.
- Memory: 4 GB of RAM (integrated graphics recommend 6 GB or more).
- Graphics Card:
- DirectX11 (Direct3D 10.1 or greater)
- Dedicated GPU with 1 GB or more of VRAM
- Integrated graphics with 6 GB or more of RAM
- Disk Space: 3 GB of storage
Fusion 360 officially runs on Windows and macOS only.
For Windows users, it is supported on the following Windows versions:
- Windows 11
- Windows 10 (64-bit) Version 1809 or newer
- Windows 8.1 (64-bit) (until March 2023)
For Mac users, it will run on the following operating systems.
- macOS 12 Monterey
- macOS 11 Big Sur
- macOS 10.15.7, or newer, Catalina (until March 2023)
Even if not officially supported, there are options to run Fusion 360 on Linux.
Fusion 360 has a large cloud-based component and so an internet connection is required of 2.5 Mbps or faster download, 500 Kbps or faster upload.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Fusion 360
This software is generally an all-singing and all-dancing software solution, but as with all software, it may not be all things to all men.
There are pros and cons to using Fusion 360. Let’s look at them.
Some of the main benefits of using Fusion 360 include:
Fusion 360 provides a single platform for the entire product development process, from initial concept to final fabrication.
This streamlined workflow can save time and improve efficiency.
Collaboration has also been significantly improved in recent years, allowing multiple users to work on a single project together in real-time.
This can be particularly useful for teams working on complex projects or for companies with distributed teams.
The file-sharing feature allows also share your designs outside of your team or company. Every project participant can comment on specific parts of the design.
Another great thing compared to other similar tools is the user management. With a clear role and access definition, the project leader has absolute control of who can edit or just view the designs.
An intuitive interface, accompanied by extensive tutorials, makes it easy for users to quickly become proficient with the software, regardless of their previous experience or knowledge.
As already mentioned, the software is used by professionals in a variety of industries, including engineering, manufacturing, and design. It is a versatile tool that can be used for a wide range of product development projects.
Some of the main potential downsides of using Fusion 360 include:
Fusion 360 is a subscription-based software, which means that users need to pay a monthly or annual fee to access the software.
For some users, the cost of a subscription may be a barrier to using the software.
The annual subscription plan costs $545 and should you decide on a monthly plan, this comes at $70/month.
Fusion 360 is a comprehensive tool with a broad range of features and tools.
This can make it a complex software to learn and use, especially for users who are new to 3D design or engineering.
And for users of other platforms, it can be a bit annoying to adapt to (speaking from experience).
Fusion 360 is only compatible with certain operating systems and devices.
Users may need to purchase compatible hardware or update their operating system in order to use the software.
Luckily the educational version runs on the cloud, so you can run it in many browsers, even on Linux.
This is quite a big one. Fusion 360 is a cloud-based software, which means that it requires an internet connection to use.
This can be a drawback for users who need to work offline or who have unreliable internet connectivity.
As we’ve seen, this tool has a lot to offer. For startups and students, the software can be obtained for free, which is even better value!
The integration of Autodesk Eagle provides outstanding functionality for those involved with electronics design, especially thanks to the parts library.
Overall, it is easy to get started with both in terms of installation and productivity. This is thanks to the focus on usability. However, being so feature-rich, it could take some time to master the whole suite of features.
One feature that does stand out is the Generative Design tool, and while it has been available as a stand-alone add-on for a while, recent integration as a workspace into Fusion 360 makes this a great addition to the software.
All we can say is, download the free trial for yourself today, and see how you like it!
And in case this powerful CAD does not satisfy your needs (which I believe will not happen), you can try other Fusion 360 alternatives available on the market.