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Friday 11 August 2017

Fusion 360 for 3D printing

I've only been using Fusion 360 for a day and already I am convinced that it is a very good tool for creating models to 3D print.

Autodesk have created an application designed for engineering. The starting point is a sketch, like you would draw on a bit of paper but this is online. You don't need to worry about exact sizes to start with because once you have your starting point you can dimension each edge and the shape adjusts to those sizes, angles and formulae that you enter.

In just a few hours I have recreated a model that I had recently printed. That time spent included learning how to use each feature I needed as I went. I watched a few starter videos and read a few of the beginner reference pages from the AutoDesk web site. The results of just a little effort are already very usable.

Having a little bit of AutoCAD knowledge may have helped because some of the interface was vaguely familiar. Getting my head round the construction and formulaic way of working probably took me the longest.

Unlike the vertex modelling that I am used to with Blender, Fusion 360 is a mathematical construction tool. Create shapes, called bodies, which can be used as part of the finished model or as a construction component to cut away at other bodies to leave the shape you want. Just hide the construction from the finished model. Parts can be kept as separate components or binary joined so they make a single object, ideal for 3D printing.

The construction lines and objects are still there, but not part of the finished object. If you change any dimension all those construction elements remain in the calculations so you can make changes to any part of the model and the finished object adjusts based on the way you have built it.

This makes changing things like lengths and thicknesses very easy.

The end result for 3D printing was very tidy.

I was a little sceptical about using an online application but it is still installed locally and in the event of an Internet outage saves files locally until the connection is re-established.

Files can also be deliberately archived locally or exported to a short list of other file types, if desired.

The only issues I've had probably relate to pushing the USB dock a bit hard. I use that with my laptop. It's not an ideal setup for 3D graphics work but it's done the job regardless most of the time.

Fortunately, for us home 3D printing enthusiasts, AutoDesk have made Fusion 360 available for free to hobby and education users and even very small businesses.

The implication from the wording is that it will remain free otherwise I would not be using it.

Update: One year on

I started to a see a countdown that the licence would end in x number of days time.
I was sure I had already signed up to a hobby, enthusiast account but I guess that needs to be renewed each year. The licensing terms are not clear on this.

I used the instructions on the following web page:

Where it previously had a count down in the title bar it now says '(Startup License)'.

I'm pretty sure licence, in this context should be spelt with a 'C' towards the end, not an 'S'. Probably an American thing.


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