Here we are, 2016, and as you know, SolidSmack likes to look at what’s pushing product development ahead. Well, to look forward, it helps to look back… unless there’s a large bear, then you just want to skip the reminiscing and jump forward, hastily. We’ve got time, no bears, and a hefty dose of speculation that Autodesk is preparing something big for Fusion 360. So first, we’re going to look back at what set all this in motion.
It seems like such a short time ago that Autodesk’s wee seed of Fusion 360 was planted, growing into a dense forest of cloud-driven modeling power in just a few short years, with collaboration options and tools to match each stage of the product development process.
If you read our last series on Fusion 360, you’ll recall those tools and what makes Fusion 360 different. I wrapped it up by saying, “The sculpting, part and assembly modeling are so different from what I’ve experienced before, and when you combine that with the collaboration, and then the simulation, and then the CAM capability, it’s certainly more than just CAD.”
I’m familiar enough with Fusion 360, but to get a broader view, I wanted to talk with someone who has been there all along. Steve Hooper is the Senior Director of Manufacturing Strategy and Business Development at Autodesk, so I’m pretty sure he’s spent some time among the roots of Fusion 360, wrapping his arms around the trunk and swinging gleefully from its branches.
I asked him a few questions. Some of it is what you would expect from someone at the corporate level of a software development company. But some of it provides those gems of someone involved in the inner workings of the software and knowing the struggles of the engineer or designer who needs the tools to get the job done.
Milestones. Every project has milestones. What are the top five milestones for Fusion 360 over the years?
It goes without saying, that the first key milestone would be the fact that we successfully changed the industry by launching the first cloud-based product development platform. This was magnified by being the first to market with a CAD/CAM solution for Mac. From there, we’ve advanced over the years, releasing new functionality just about every six weeks. Within that, we’ve hit milestones for the first cloud CAM solution and integrated simulation.
What has been the most unexpected outcome from a new feature in Fusion 360?
The creative use of Fusion 360’s sculpting tools. When we introduced sculpting we were aiming at industrial design and styling but I’ve seen a lot of unique applications that go way beyond what you’d expect. Users absolutely love the intuitive behavior, a more fluid approach to design and results they can achieve in a shorter space of time.
There’s this guy, Ed Eaton, Senior Industrial Designer and Principal at DiMonte Group. Ed’s a huge SolidWorks fan, but used Fusion 360 for a charitable project he was doing in his local neighborhood. He was designing a skate insert for a kid at his local hockey team who has one leg shorter than the other. The spacer helps ensure the blades of his skates are in line. At Develop 3D Live in Boston this year, Ed demonstrated this process using Fusion 360 mesh and sculpt tools to capture the existing sole of the boot and then generate the spacer insert matched to the scan with a sculpted body. It took him about 20 minutes in Fusion 360 compared to the four hours he would have expected in SolidWorks. If you have time, I’d highly recommend checking out the recording. Ed’s a great designer, an authentic speaker and his presentation was highly informative.
A company named Grovemade collaborated with renowned audio designer, Joey Roth, on a set of desktop speakers so gorgeous, your jaw will drop. They used Fusion 360 to design and machine these works of art. At one point, right up against deadline they decided they needed to redesign the amp that accompanies the speakers. It was a risk because they had less than 48 hours, but with Fusion 360, were able to iterate quickly, collaborate remotely, and the result was stunning.
How is Fusion 360 complementing/changing the product dev process? What are engineers and designers telling you about?
Fusion 360 is redefining the product development process, which historically has been defined by traditional silo’d software categories like CAD, CAM, CAE and PLM. Fusion 360 includes all of these capabilities in one single, accessible cloud solution. Not only is this a whole new category, but our accessibility (free for students and startups, $25/month for everyone else) levels the playing field.
This level of integration is unparalleled. One of our customers, Backhand Bikes, told us they were able to reduce their design and manufacturing software packages from eight to just one. And, as a result, they feel they’re bringing much more sophisticated products to market.
What are the game-changing capabilities that Fusion 360 has brought to product dev?
There are so many capabilities Fusion 360 brings to the table — CAD, CAM, simulation, T-Splines, cloud rendering, drawing, documentation on Mac, mobile or PC at $25/month… need we say more? – but it’s not the individual capabilities that have been game-changing alone, it’s that all of it is integrated in one cloud-based, collaborative product development platform. That’s what has really set Fusion 360 apart from past software options for product developers.
One of my favorite Fusion 360 customers is a Dutch company called K-M-P Motorsports. They design and manufacture custom race car parts for some of the best brands in the field. They used to design in SolidWorks and ProE and primarily off-shore their manufacturing. They are now adopting Fusion 360 and bringing it all in-house, allowing them to model, simulate, visualize, collaborate and manufacture on a single platform. They aim to get to 70% self-machining by the end of this year, and Fusion 360 is at the heart of making that possible. In fact, they attribute 60% productivity efficiencies as a result of using Fusion 360. That is game-changing because it’s directly impacting their bottom line, and their ability to stay innovative and cutting-edge.
What are the capabilities designers and engineers need to know about in Fusion 360 now to help them throughout their careers?
Fusion 360 is more than a collection of capabilities, it’s a new way of collaborating as a designer or engineer. It enables global teams to collaborate on a project, all the files, with all the tools needed, and the cloud to help power them–it’s the building blocks of design, made accessible, so more people can go from an idea to a manufactured product. Today it includes industrial design, mechanical engineering, simulation, documentation, data management and CAM.
Next time, we’ll take a look at the future of Fusion 360. From what I’ve heard so far, there are interesting things afoot and a few hints that now is the time to try Fusion 360.