Autodesk announces Fusion 360
CAD giant adds push/pull mechanical CAD tool to overall cloud strategy.
Once upon a time, Autodesk aspired to become like Adobe, a hip, artsy software company known for making household name products on the one hand and professional grade powerhouses used by the design elites, on the other. In many respects, they succeeded, albeit without the same notoriety.
Since last year, however, with the initial release of Autodesk Cloud (Now Autodesk 360) the company has begun to behave more like Google, by releasing a slew of Cloud-based applications traditionally only available as stand-alone, locally installed software tools. Instead of Google Docs, for example, Autodesk floated AutoCAD WS, a paired down, online only version of its 2D design software. Later came the online document storage, sync and collaboration service Autodesk 360, a la Google Drive. Autodesk 360 Rendering, Simulation 360 and PLM 360 – Cloud-based versions of computationally taxing and/or complex software – have followed.
At Autodesk University 2012, the company rolled out a 3D authoring tool as the latest addition to its 360 line-up: Fusion 360, a pay-as-you-go, Software-as-a-Service implementation of its direct push/pull and freeform modeling application.
Originally released (and still available) as a free tech demo, Fusion is in part, an answer to Co-Create, SpaceClaim and other non-parametric solid modellers. When paired with Autodesk Inventor, it also addressed the industry’s quest (e.g. Siemen’s Synchronous Technology; PTC’s Creo) for a grand unified modeller that can pass parts and assemblies from a rigid parametric environment to the freeflow of direct modeling and back again.
Now, with Fusion 360, the company hopes customers will open to the idea of designing, collaborating, testing, rendering and managing their CAD data without it ever physically residing on a local hard drive.
At AU 2012, the company provided few details of the new design software service other than an on-stage demonstration. Typical workflow begins with uploading just about any CAD file to a user’s Autodesk 360, the company said. After upload, the native CAD file (Solidworks, PTC, UGS, Catia etc.) is translated in the background to a neutral format compatible with Fusion 360.
Once converted, the company showed faces, vertices and edges or splines of imported parts being manipulated through a Fusion 360 thin client as one would expect from the stand-alone version. In addition, users can make annotations to parts and make them available to other Fusion 360 users for further editing. Once complete, the part can be saved back to its original format or saved for use in Inventor.
What wasn’t made clear were any feature differences between stand-alone Fusion and Fusion 360 or the graphics performance one could expect working on a largely server-based application. According to Autodesk, the product isn’t due to make an official available until 2013, but Autodesk will begin to show the application’s inner workings as the launch approaches.