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Fusion 360 Update

I am liking it!

I am having the usual learning struggles as I expect with any complicated tool. Nothing that can’t be overcome with a little thought processing.

I have designed and produced a number of 3D printed items. Fusion360 produces ready to run .stl files. I haven’t dug into the CAM side of the software other than a little look-see. It appears to be very detailed and can be customized for the CNC machines I use. Tool files, configuration, etc.

I won’t be exploring the CAM until I have a real project. Here are pictures of the designs I have produced.

3D Printer part v2 cone vase v2
Bracket for holding filiment spool Single tool holder
hollow point v1 keyboard ramp v4
Hollow point type holder (tools) Keyboard support (2) used on slide out drawer.
split bushing 2 v3 Test2 v1
Split locking ring .Bracket design. (my first drawing in F360)

Autodesk is trying their darned best to make Fusion 360 a social club. Providing ranking and awards for the amount of contribution made to their support publications. I am not shy about blogging, but I have no interest in spending a lot of my time doing product support.

I appreciate having a place to share information and look for solutions to problems. I will contribute when I think I have something I have produced for myself. It is not my mission to be the person spending 90 percent of my productive time to earn the highest status award on a Fusion 360 support blog. I am all about making drawings for the things I want to make. I am not looking for rank and glory. That’s just me I suppose…

I am also assuming since Fusion 360 is a subscription and Internet connected, my usage and time spent is being monitored and reported. It can function off line (I haven't tried yet) but I will also assume it will report data once it is reconnected. Ther is no such ting as privacy when connected to the Internet. Never assume there is.

fusion360logoAutodesk Fusion 360

First look. I poked around looking at the trending in 3D CAD/CAM tools. Autodesk (AutoCAD) has always been at the top of my unobtainable list because of cost. I have a now quite old LT version which is strictly 2D. I also have a standard AutoCAD I think is version 4 or 6. Neither are installed on my machines. I need 3D.

In my web search I discovered a new tool from Autodesk called Fusion 360. I was actually reading about Apple’s new super powered iPad Pro. I thought if I owned an iPad Pro, it would have to do 3D CAD. I discovered a new 3D CAD program for the iPad Pro called Shapr3D.

Shapr3D looks very Avant-garde performing on the iPad Pro. Here is a quote from their home page: “All you need is your iPad Pro, an Apple Pencil and Shapr3D.” The program is listed as “free” but the first two requirements are a bit beyond my budget. That didn’t stop me from exploring the application features,

In the reviews I read on this product, there was a mention of the Fusion 360 application. I followed the hyper-link and discovered it is an Autodesk product. Now I am paying attention.

Fusion 360 is more advanced than Shapr3D. It is also one of the new wave “cloud powered" subscription products. For professional users, it is a subscription service with a monthly/yearly user fee. It provides a huge amount of professional services, sharing, cloud storage, etc. I expect something from Autodesk to reek with such high end features,

What is truly startling, is a full featured, fully operational, free installation is available for start-ups groups and developers and individual hobbyists (me), no strings attached. I will have to confirm my non professional use on a yearly basis. If I earn $100,000/yr from designs made with Fusion 360 I must pay the, less than $1/day owners fee. (Monthly or yearly) Truly a pittance for a tool that is producing that kind of return. What an extremely reasonable plan to build loyalty and skilled users.

Students and teachers have a slightly better offer as their continued free use is confirmed only every three years.

Autodesk is quite open about this free subscription. It runs on both Apple and PC computers. I don’t need to buy an iPad Pro. Ha!

DSC07470I was able to quickly grasp the fundamentals of the Fusion 360 3D drawing tools. In the first few hours, I made a few very simple designs and 3D printed the Sharpie holder pictured. But Fusion 360 does so much more. It has a full CAM interface built in for CNC G code machining, Material stress analysis, movable parts testing. Much more than I can mention in this “First Look”

I have only “played” with this tool for less than a day. I have a lot more features to investigate and discover. This could be a serious challenge to my Rhinoceros and MecSoft RhinoCAM because of the free cost. I have yet to explore the CAM features of Fusion 360.

From what I can determine, Fusion 360 has existed for about three years. I was unaware as I have not been looking for a new drawing tool. It appears to be under constant development and new features are continually being added. Easy to do with a subscription type service.

So there may be some rough edges I have not discovered. But I have seen enough to install it on my computer and write this “First Look” review. The professional user has a 30 day opportunity to run and test the program for free, From what I have seen in this short time makes it worth the investment of time to check it out in a full install.

For the hobbyist, it seems almost too good to be true. I won’t know unless I give it a try.

caddrawAlternative CAD

This week in mid January, 2017 started a new adventure for me into the world of 3D CAD drawing. FreeCAD is now installed on both the Ubuntu and Windows 10 computers in my design studio. Here is a link to the FreeCAD Website. I don’t need to go into detail about the all the features and details of the product. Follow the link if you want the full scoop. I practice conservation of computer resources. That’s what links help do… Ha.

The reasons and the learning experience are what I want to communicate. The primary reason is having a low-cost alternative to high cost for the home and in my case retired person budgets. The initial and ongoing costs of good 3D CAD is not friendly to the non-professional user.

The second reason is an alternative to the MS Windows operating system. FreeCAD works the same on Windows, MAC and Linux. I haven’t tried MAC but I am sure it is just fine. I do have the other two OSes with which to experiment.

Linux (Ubuntu) is a free operating system so is in keeping with the low-cost user system. Let me point out that Linux Ubuntu is making huge advances as the system of choice for all my 3D printing and soon CNC machining operations. Three time so far, I have had Windows 10 kill a long running printing operation, do an OS update and reboot the computer. All while I was away. Linux has never done that. The only cure is to stay disconnected from the network. But then I must “sneaker net” files from the design computers to the printing computers with a mem-stick. Back on topic…

I will use FreeCAD on Windows 10 and Ubuntu since I have both and can manage OS issues with either.

FreeCAD is what is called a Parametric CAD program written in Python language. You need to look-up those two P-words. They are bantered about freely in the 3D printing world. Every line and point in a drawing is defined within a written text file or table, in every parameter of its creation. It’s the use of parameter files that can be edited that make CAD Parametric.

I also have Blender on the Linux computer which is a more graphical or artistic 3D Parametric CAD and animation software also written in Python. It is far more graphical than is required for engineering type CAD drawing. I will be investigating what I can do with Blender when I need to create more organic 3D artistic drawings. It has an optional $10/month Cloud service fee which I have not yet required.

OpenSCAD is also a no cost parametric type CAD but doesn’t appear to be written in Python. No drawing with the mouse is utilized. Every object is created by written text in an executable program. I find it very unusual. I like the use of the mouse in CAD rather than just writing lines of code.

Parametric CAD is a totally new concept of drawing for me. At the moment, I find it horrendously non-intuitive because I am conditioned to AutoCAD and Rhinoceros type interface and mouse drawing moves. FreeCAD and all the others, require spending time reviewing the how-to tutorials. There are plenty of them available.

The software investigation here is a work-in-progress. The various programs are also in constant development and will certainly remain that for some time to come. Since this is new for me, I have no idea how the revisions will change the programs I use in the future. My goal is to have a useful and most importantly free tool for creating 3D CAD.

My very first positive impression of FreeCAD is that it is a viable alternative to expensive commercial CAD software. I have used other free (but 2D) CAD programs in the past with success. Free and open source software is not bad software. So far FreeCAD is totally free, contributions welcome, of course. If I can make money using it, I will be glad to contribute. That is a wonderful way to operate.

I will certainly fall back to my Rhinoceros 3D as it is very comfortable for me in creating CNC milling objects. I invested in this software long ago because of its tie to RhinoCAM, the program that creates CNC G-code from the 3D drawings.

I also have Vectric Aspire for 3D CAD creation and it too includes G-code generation. It is not free but I am highly dependent on this easy to use software. I use it probably more than Rhino these days.

With the drawing slicer used in 3D printing creating the G code, the CAM portion of Rhino and Aspire is not required. That makes FreeCAD suitable if the only need is to produce the .stl or .obj files used in 3D printing.

I’ll post more on this CAD software investigation and also post whatever CAD I have used in designing a new project.

The Author

Ramblin' Dan Kautz

dankautzThere is no doubt one of my hobbies is writing about my hobbies. I read somewhere a long time ago, the best things to write about are the things you know very well. I have been writing and publishing long before the personal computer became the tool of choice.  My first printed and published club newsletter was created in the late 60's.

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The intention of this web site and “Ramblin’ Dan’s 3D Print Design Studio” is to promote creative design thinking and demonstrate how ideas can be changed to tangible creations through the proper application and use of Three-Dimensional Printing systems.

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