Autodesk Fusion 360 (let’s just refer to it as “F360” from here on out because I don’t want to type that a bajillion times) jumped onto my radar in a big way a while back when they began advertising the freeness of it all for startups and hobbyists. Making approximately negative dollars with the work on this website puts me in at least one of those categories, so I lost all excuses not to try it out.
Coming out on the other end of experience with F360, I have to say that It. Is. Great.
Do it All
As with SolidWorks (which I use professionally), and Onshape (which I wrote about last year), modeling is parametric, so you can go back in your feature tree and make changes that will be reflected in the rest of your build. There’s a bit of a learning curve if you’re coming from either of the aforementioned systems (the tree is on the bottom of the screen, which threw me for longer than I care to admit), but any differences are easily overcome.
Oh, are you looking for a CAD system that natively does simulation? With F360, you gets simulation! And you get simulation! And you get simulation! Everyone get simu-LAY-tion! Not only that, but Autodesk baked surfacing, rendering, animation, CAM, and now even mesh tools (which is super helpful if you want to work with 3D scans, but that is another story entirely) right into their standard product. There are no add-ins or modules to purchase and load.
I’ve been working with F360 for months now, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the extra features.
As a bonus, when you sign up and download F360, autodesk360.com can be accessed, and works as a pretty solid Project Data Management (PDM) system where you can arrange your projects and files, and collaborate with your friends and enemies.
Heck, go ahead and collaborate with the F360 team! They’re happy to hear feedback, and all of my correspondence with them thus far on the ups, downs, ins, and outs of the software has been excellent.
Did I mention that all of your meticulously-organized projects can remain private and without any caps on data storage? As our most-eloquent VP once said, “This is a big [blank]ing deal.”
It runs on Mac (thank-you-thank-you-thank-you) and Windows and while it is a cloud-based CAD solution, it also runs OFFLINE! This is life-saving for times and places where you can’t get access to the internet and you’ve got an idea in your head screaming to be let out.
Mobile apps are available for iPhone and Android, but the only drawback there is that they are more for viewing and note-taking than they are for doing any design work (basically a mobile version of autodesk360.com). Honestly, given everything else, I can live with that.
I’ve more-or-less become an F360 convert on personal projects (for those following close at home, you may have noticed a lot more of my posts have been categorized that way). It’s not a SolidWorks-killer, but boy is it getting closer with every update.
3D mouse is recommended. I can’t figure out how to operate that cube thing in the upper-right corner for the life of me.
Check the system requirements before downloading. I’ve been running on a 2012-model Mac Mini, and since upgrading my RAM from the factory-set abysmal 4GB, to 16GB, this sucker ROARS.
What are you still doing here? Go design all the things!
10/17/2020 UPDATE: Autodesk has been regularly changing and reducing functionality of the free/hobbyist version of Fusion 360 for a few years now. While I’d still recommend this software for small businesses, startups that qualify for a free license, or anyone else who can (or wants to) afford the full paid-tier of the product, I no longer see this as a viable solution for hobbyists and other makers.