Fusion 360 Continues Its Push to Be Software Hub from Design to Manufacturing
Chris Fox posted on September 11, 2020 |
Notes from Autodesk’s Advanced Manufacturing Summit
Autodesk Fusion 360. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)
Autodesk Fusion 360. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

When COVID-19 hit earlier this year, many companies began to scramble to save their tradeshows and summits that were scheduled for later in the year. Autodesk was quick to adapt and speedily pivoted to online-only events. The Advanced Manufacturing Summit showed what an all-digital event could look like, and the company did so by embracing the challenges of the COVID-19 narrative.

Since Fusion 360’s unveiling, Autodesk has been touting the software as a hub for everything that engineers and makers need to create. Over the years, Autodesk has added a number of capabilities, like 2D CAD, sheet metal, a full suite of CAM tools, machining, and more, and during its Advanced Manufacturing Summit, the message was no different.

Autodesk aims to make Fusion 360 a cross-discipline center for the full spectrum of design, simulation and manufacturing needs—all while in the cloud.

While many were (and some still are) skeptical of tools of this nature being cloud based, it can’t be denied that COVID-19 has changed the way we look at work and working remotely. While the world of design and manufacturing has changed with the pandemic, stuff still needs to get made.

What can't Fusion 360 do? Fusion 360 brings design, simulation and manufacturing all under one roof. And if you want to go outside for some special machining, Autodesk is throwing in advanced machining apps. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)
What can't Fusion 360 do? Fusion 360 brings design, simulation and manufacturing all under one roof. And if you want to go outside for some special machining, Autodesk is throwing in advanced machining apps. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Jack of All Trades Under One Roof

We’ve seen the world of manufacturing change—those on the shop floor need to know more about CAD and design, while those doing the engineering work are required to have a better understanding of manufacturing methods. The mantra for Autodesk’s summit was “Manufacturing Through Change,” and it’s a fitting idea to match the company’s push to have everything centered on one platform. 

Srinath Jonnalagadda. (Image courtesy of LinkedIn.)

Srinath Jonnalagadda. (Image courtesy of LinkedIn.)

In his opening keynote, Srinath Jonnalagadda, Autodesk’s VP of Go To Market Strategy and Marketing, mentioned that the company’s goal with Fusion 360 is to provide “a simple way for different disciplines and teams to come together in one product development and manufacturing environment.”

He explained that Autodesk is hoping to simply enable its customers to make things, touting Fusion 360’s cloud-based platform as a solution to connecting internationally distributed teams with various needs and workflows.

Manufacturing Is Changing

While the mantra for the summit was “Manufacturing Through Change,” there was an underlying sense that manufacturing is changing in general. Obviously, our industries continuously change with the market, but with COVID-19, there is even more pressure to change. But as many manufacturers are well aware, change in this world of manufacturing is like steering a barge … turning the wheel does not immediately change course.

Ian Pendlebury. (Image courtesy of LinkedIn.)

Ian Pendlebury. (Image courtesy of LinkedIn.)

Ian Pendlebury, associate VP of Engineering at Autodesk, explained in his keynote that beyond the pandemic, the other major market trends that are reshaping manufacturing include products that are getting smarter, a rising demand for customization, and economic challenges that are testing the supply chain.

In fact, Autodesk cites a Microsoft study that found the pace of change has compressed significantly throughout most industries due to the pandemic.

Adding Manufacturing Tools

Autodesk’s (and Fusion 360’s) presence in the manufacturing space has grown significantly over the last few years. While Fusion has had CAM capabilities for a while, Autodesk made the acquisition of Delcam, a UK-based CAM vendor in 2014.

Until now, the Delcam offerings—PowerMill, PowerShape and PowerInspect—remained as stand-alone products. During the summit, Autodesk announced that it has wrapped these manufacturing capabilities into Fusion 360. According to Autodesk, this means that, in most cases, current Fusion 360 subscribers will get access to a broader range of manufacturing functionality at a lower price point.

This also means that the PowerMill, PowerShape and PowerInspect tools will be functional in the cloud.

Generative Design Meets Manufacturing

Autodesk has been toting its generative design capabilities for some time, but there has always been an uncertainty about what generative design can actually do for manufacturers—besides giving the machinist who has to make the generatively designed part a headache.

Matsuura is well known in the world of CNC machining and subtractive manufacturing, but it added an additive department when it started reselling 3D printers for HP. During the process of developing ways to show the strength of its plastics, the Matsuura team started printing workholding parts for its CNC mills. 

Matsuura partnered with Autodesk to help develop a fixture for a part to show that you can make 3D-printed workholding parts. While the part itself isn’t complex, Autodesk walked through how it created a usable fixture without the need for valuable hands-on hours from engineers or machinists.  

Because the fixture was developed using an algorithm, the two companies had to develop parameters for the software to follow. After providing the holding points, machining forces, materials, and so on, the software created a fixture that could properly hold aluminum billet through a machining process—all without touching CAD. 

Hybrid Manufacturing

Hybrid manufacturing is still hyperspecialized. It’s typically relegated to specific use cases that simply can’t be created any other way, but it is essentially combining metal additive manufacturing and machining.

Obviously, dealing with more than one manufacturing process increases the design and software challenges immensely. Not only do you need to be concerned about holding a part for subtractive manufacturing but also tolerances of additive manufacturing or how the different processes change the properties of the raw materials.

During the summit, Autodesk showcased an example of hybrid manufacturing with Mazak, which has an array of machines that are capable of these hybrid processes.

Its demonstration was a turbomachinery component comprised of both a rotor disk and blades as a single part, also known as a blisk. The blisk was made of Inconel 625 on the blades and Inconel 718 on the hub. To make the blisk, the team used arc and wire additive manufacturing, followed by conventional methods including forging, milling and polishing.

Designing for hybrid manufacturing required the team to design in Fusion 360, toolpath planning for both additive and subtractive manufacturing in PowerMill, and process simulations in Netfabb. While this process seems linear, it is in fact, a series of loops.

(Image courtesy of Autodesk.)
(Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

This is where the value in having everything in the same platform really rings out. Jumping between software products to do each element of this process is tedious—and potentially disastrous, depending on how well your various applications work together. The Autodesk version of this process keeps everything under one umbrella, theoretically minimizing the challenges.

Design to Manufacturing in the Cloud

Autodesk’s Advanced Manufacturing Summit offered a lot of insight into what the company considers the future of making things. Autodesk has long been aggressive in establishing Fusion 360 as the application of the future—even giving it away in the early days of its existence. The company is now pushing to centralize the product life cycle, from idea to factory floor, within Fusion 360.

According to Autodesk, “This single platform [Fusion 360] makes it easy to experiment with transformational new tools for design automation, such as the generative design extension we recently announced.”

The Advanced Manufacturing Summit provided lots of insight into where Autodesk is headed and how it wants to bring the worlds of design and manufacturing closer together—whether that’s adding software offerings under the Fusion 360 umbrella or developing workflows that are easier to manage. 

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