The September update to Autodesk's Fusion 360 solid-modeling CAD/CAM/CAE software includes some upgraded capabilities. However, the software giant is releasing a new deployment of Fusion 360 every six weeks now, and these updates consist of much more than new features and tweaks to the user experience.
The September release spotlights Autodesk's long-term strategy for provisioning of design software and its commitment to cloud delivery. "The company has realized that to serve our customers better, we have to get ahead of and embrace how changes are happening in manufacturing," said Kevin Schneider, director of product development for Fusion 360, in an interview with Design News. "This means building new tools and improving existing tools."
Schneider said that Autodesk's customers have been profoundly affected by mega-trends like advanced manufacturing, worldwide supply chains, and additive manufacturing. In addition, today's consumers are placing new demands on designers. "Millennials have very different preferences and buying patterns. They have less brand loyalty and are more inclined to buy aesthetics, so styling is seeping into every stage of companies' product development efforts."
With Fusion 360, Autodesk is taking to heart the central lessons of cloud computing: Cloud-based software delivers affordability and greater opportunities for collaboration across teams and separate locations for customers. And perhaps more than anything, cloud-based delivery is allowing software developers to innovate and deliver products at a pace that simply wouldn't be feasible if they had to be installed one workstation at a time.
Autodesk is pushing its software development efforts to allow engineering and design teams to execute as much of the product-design workflow as possible on a single platform, including assembly, toolpathing, testing, and simulation. The platform supports distributed design and collaboration.
The September update focuses particularly on simulation, providing users with a greater capability to test new designs and identify flaws before prototyping. Autodesk said users can "define materials and add constraints, and add loads to solve for weaknesses in their assemblies, all while staying within a single design environment."
In Fusion 360's "workspace switcher," the user will now find a workspace called "SIM" that provides two types of simulation studies, Static Stress and Modal Frequencies. In a Static Stress study, the designer can constrain an area of the model, put a load on it, and see how that load will affect the design and determine what part of the design is more prone to fail. With Modal Frequencies, the user can identify the natural vibration frequencies of a design and determine "how much deformation will occur when it is subjected to a specific frequency.
Cloud computing naturally lends itself to greater collaboration, and in this release, Autodesk has added new live review capabilities that can bring together two or more participants to view and interact with a 3D design in real time.
"Our community realizes the benefits of having everybody on the same version or format," Schneider said. "Gone are the days when you had to worry, 'When I share this with someone, are they going to be able to use it?' When the entire community is able to use the service, you've completely removed the issue of data compatibility for sharing. It's been a huge pain point in product development. Now you have a single source of truth, in the cloud."
The new release has added keyboard shortcuts, enhanced features for the 2D drawing space, and the ability to apply patterns to components. Fusion 360 costs $25 a month per seat for a yearly subscription.
Al Bredenberg is a writer, analyst, consultant, and communicator. He writes about technology, design, innovation, management, and sustainable business, and specializes in investigating and explaining complex topics. He holds a master's degree in organization and management from Antioch University New England. He has served as an editor for print and online content and currently serves as senior analyst at the Institute for Innovation in Large Organizations.