First Look — Autodesk Updates A360
Kyle Maxey posted on October 26, 2015 |
Autodesk has updated its cloud-based collaboration tool, A360. With an upgraded look and added collaboration features, the new release looks like it’ll be a much more powerful tool.

What Is A360?

Autodesk’s A360 is a browser-based platform in which project files can be stored, viewed and shared to make design collaboration quicker and easier. Built around a centralized workspace, A360 is a hub for viewing 2D or 3D CAD models.

Though A360 is an Autodesk tool, the platform will accommodate more than 100 different file types, making nearly any 2D or 3D CAD file accessible on the platform. In addition to CAD files, A360 can house image files, spreadsheets and a host of other file types, making it an excellent platform to launch design investigations, collect feedback and facilitate work even when your team’s on the go.   

What’s New in A360?

Autodesk’s newest release of A360 is a nearly top-to-bottom re-imagination of the tool. Firstly, A360 has a new look. While its previous incarnation had a more social look, the new edition presents a more business-like, data-centric appearance.

In its new incarnation, A360’s engineers have made a point of keeping relevant data front and center. Immediately upon entering a product’s A360 page, versioning, recent comments and related files are at a user’s fingertips.

 If an assembly component needs a modification, that process is two clicks away. If simulation data tables need to be pored over by engineers, they’re right there, on the main page, no searching required.

Easy access to your information is one thing. Doing something with that information is another, and that’s where A360 shines.

Given that collaboration is at the heart of A360, Autodesk’s engineers have added new features to the platform to improve ease of use and communication. First off, sharing and tracking the actions taken on a project have never been easier.

Once a project has been created and its relevant files (whether they be CAD files, drawings, renders or data sets) have been put into place, users only have to send out email invites to add team members and clients to a project. Once members are added, administrative options like read and write access can be assigned to each project member based on their role in the project.

With a team assembled, A360 can be used to inspect, correct and finalize a design. Without having to leave the A360 browser, multiple users can work on project’s critical documents, tossing around ideas via chat, correcting errors and discussing manufacturing strategy. If revisions have to be made, any CAD file can be sent to Fusion 360 with a single click and saved back to A360 just as easily.

For me, that’s one of the most astounding features of A360. With its tight integration with Fusion 360, A360 becomes an impressive platform for managing not only a project, but also a business.

While you may not have tried it out yet, September’s update of Fusion 360 has a killer feature called Fusion to Web that really emphasizes A360’s value. With Fusion to Web users can project their Fusion session to a browser so collaborators anywhere can work on a project simultaneously. Say a complicated revision needs to be made, but the person driving the change can’t use CAD. Well, now the CAD tech can get online and interact with that change-maker and remodel a component in real time.

Communication Barriers Are Leveled

Making quick changes isn’t the only thing that A360 facilitates. Alongside its ability to move a project forward, A360 also provides accountability throughout a project. Whether you’re viewing a drawing file, CAM tooling paths, or even a render, each file has its own associated activity list. Whenever a change is made to a file, or a comment attached, the author of that modification is added to the history of the part. And while that may seem like a ton of metadata, that, by and large, becomes irrelevant. Within hours of its creation, it serves as a powerful institutional tool for clarifying and centralizing design intent and successful manufacturing and design strategies.

For some people, Autodesk’s A360 might seem like a gimmick whose only trick is to tie a company closer to the CAD giant. In the past, that may have been true, but with A360’s new release, the tools are there to make that argument harder to justify. In my mind, A360 is powerful because it provides a space for those with and without design tools to work together. With its streamlined interface, A360 is a much-needed upgrade in the world of design communication. Now engineers don’t have to be separated from marketing, and clients can interact intuitively with design teams.

Put simply, the new A360 makes it much easier to be a designer, a team and even a client. 

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