Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Autodesk Releases Cloud Based 3D Modeler Fusion 360 - available Now

Autodesk has released Autodesk Fusion 360 today.  From their press releaseAutodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK) today delivered the world’s first cloud-based software created specifically for people looking to fuse stunning aesthetic design with great product engineering. Autodesk Fusion 360 brings together capabilities typically found in separate mechanical, industrial and conceptual design tools into one, easy to use cloud-based service.”

Fusion 360 is a cloud based, free form, 3D design tool that I personally found easy to use and learn, even for an AEC designer like myself.


Pricing and Availability

Fusion 360 is available immediately. It is free for the next 90 days, and upon expiration of the 90-day initial offer will be available for purchase from the Autodesk e-store for $25 per month, per user, based on annual contract commitment. Special pricing is available for students and entrepreneurs.

What is Fusion 360?

Autodesk has based Fusion 360 on three fundamentals:

  • Design Faster
  • Work Anywhere
  • Share Data

That's exactly what Fusion 360 allows users to do. Fusion 360 provides a full range of design modeling tools, direct modeling, flexible assembly and mechanical modeling.  It is easy to learn and implement.

Background


About four years ago Autodesk introduced Inventor Fusion.  About one year ago Autodesk purchased T-Splines. Today they have converged the two technologies to create Autodesk Fusion 360.  Fusion 360 is cloud based in that the data is saved in the cloud and users need a “cloud connection” to run the software.  The software does not reside in the cloud but on the desktop.  The cloud in this case is a means of software and data distribution.  Traditional software licenses require the program to be installed on one physical machine (some licensing allows for two installations).  Network licensing for specific software is available form Autodesk and other developers but this is different.  There is one license for a user.  That user is allowed to install the software on any number of machines, work desktop, laptop, home computer, or any other compatible computer.  The data is stored and accessed via an internet connection with a logon and password.  Each user gets a “site” where their data is saved.  A valid license allows the user to edit and manipulate that data.  No license means the user can only view the files.  Yes a user has to have an internet connection to work, but it does eliminate the hassle of managing the software installs.  Users can quite literally work from anywhere in the world.

Data in the Cloud


Since the data is stored in the cloud, users can share said data with anyone at any time.  Users can share data, design information, announcements, wikis, blogs, calendars, surveys, and more.  Users can invite as many people to their design site (Fusion projects are called Sites) as they want or need and users can join as many sites as they need.  There is a hub for sharing this information that is simple enough to learn and use yet robust enough to get work done.

One of the great features in Fusion 360 is its ability to use data from many different other programs.  It can use data from AutoCAD, Inventor, Rhino, PTC, Siemens, and Dassault Systems products.  (It can also export to different file types.)  Simply load (drag and drop really) the file into your Fusion 360 account and it can open it.  These files are saved in Fusion 360 and translated into Fusions native file type.  Versions are automatically saved while you work and are available for future reference.  Don’t worry about storage space.  There is no maximum, no limit to the amount of data stored in your account.  Since Fusion 360 accounts are subscription based, users may fear what happens to that data if your account ends.  The data is saved in the cloud and is always (according to Autodesk) accessible to you.  In order to edit the files you have to renew your license.  Fusion 360 does have the ability to download your data to your local machine if you wish and users can upload data to the service as well.  Subscriptions are $25 (U.S.D.) a month and can be set up as monthly, quarterly, or yearly payments and there is a free 90 day trial period.  Fusion 360 is only available in English at the moment but is available worldwide.

Beta Tested


The Fusion 360 Open Beta program had over 500,000 “engaged” users and saw nearly 1300 new beta users join the group each week.  Fusion 360 has been tested by many people around the world and many of their creations are available to see on the Fusion 360 website library.

Partners


Autodesk has partnered with GrabCAD to allow Fusion 360 files to be uploaded directly to GrabCAD from within Fusion 360.  I assume that users will be able to download files from GrabCAD to Fusion 360 as well.  This will provide GrabCAD user with a great design tool that can handle many, if not most, of the files uploaded to GrabCAD on a daily basis.  Autodesk said that there are future partnerships to come.

Extra Bit of Fusion 30 news.  Right now there is new parametric functionality in Fusion 360, but Autodesk has said that it is a planned future feature that they are working on.

My Thoughts

As a CAD and IT Manager I'm excited to see this type of a pricing model.  It's relatively cheap and easy to maintain.  With a monthly billing cycle I can add a design tool like Fusion to my arsenal for a specific project then let the license expire.  My data is still there if I need it.  If a program like AutoCAD (as an example) costs about $4000 (just a random, close, but not quite number) per release, and I can get Fusion for $25 per month, that means I can get either one license of AutoCAD that can only go on one computer, or I can get Fusion for 160 months and install it on any machine I need to work on, even Mac OSX. That's 13 years worth of Fusion that will always be up to date.  I have no desire to work with AutoCAD 2000.

If I get a new employee that needs this program I can just ad $25 a month as the cost of doing business for them.  If they leave, I let the license expire the next month.  I expect to see more of this type of licensing in the future from Autodesk.  They are the really the first out of the gate with cloud based pricing (in the CAD software field) so they are setting the bar for others to follow.

Also as a freelance consultant I love this pricing.  If I get a job where I need Fusion 360, $25 gets me the program for a month.  I can easily add that into my proposal for work.  Once the project is over, I don;t need the program any longer.  This is exciting!


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