Autodesk Expands Its Vision, Offerings for Fusion Platform
Kyle Maxey posted on May 23, 2016 |
Autodesk builds out the infrastructure of its Fusion platform and previews a big future for integrat...

Since its inception, Autodesk’s C-team and engineers have pushed the message that Fusion 360 was more than just an MCAD platform. In presentation after presentation and update after update, the company would insist that offerings like integrated CAM, 3D printing support and finite element analysis meant that Fusion 360 was more than just a piece of software, it was a product development platform.

Who could argue?

Fusion 360 was offering a number of technologies that, when combined, looked to be an all-in-one solution for product design. Well, in an announcement earlier this week, Autodesk took its idea of Fusion being an all-in-one platform a bit further by introducing two new pillars, Fusion Lifecycle and Fusion Connect, both of which will greatly expand the reach of the Fusion platform.

Autodesk’s new vision for its Fusion platform is expansive.
Autodesk’s new vision for its Fusion platform is expansive.
Fusion Lifecycle

While it has a new name, Fusion Lifecycle is a rebranding and repackaging of Autodesk’s cloud-based product lifecycle management (PLM) software, PLM 360. With Fusion Lifecycle, users will retain all of the functionality of PLM 360, including bill of materials and change management, tools for product introduction, quality and cost management and, of course, tight integration with supplier networks.

So, you might be asking, what’s the difference between PLM 360 and Lifecycle? Well at the moment, there’s little that differentiates the two, or if there is, I’m missing it. However, Autodesk’s goal, as it was related to me by Stephen Hooper, senior director for manufacturing industry strategy, is to unite the entire Fusion platform into a single integrated interface. From this single cloud-based dashboard, users across the company will be able to interact with data, make design changes and plan manufacturing strategies in a more efficient manner.

In my mind, this means that any designs being developed in Fusion 360 will be automatically populated into Lifecycle with the click of a button. With project templates already built out, PLM operatives within a team could begin advising suppliers, designers and decision-makers about what changes needed to be made to a design, or if everything was ready to move forward.

Fusion Connect

The second pillar that’s been added to Fusion’s infrastructure is Fusion Connect, formerly SeeControl. As we’ve all come to learn over the past few years, the biggest thing happening in product design today is Internet of Things (IoT) integration.

Consumer products these days have to be capable of being upgraded, connected to apps or enhanced by the other machines that exist around them. To build products with these type of capabilities, designers not only have to choose the right chips and displays that they use in their products, but they also have to build out an infrastructure to support these sensors and gadgets in ways that communicate info to the owner of the device and the maker as well.

That’s where Fusion Connect comes in. With Fusion Connect, users can develop IoT infrastructures for their products in a protocol-agnostic, no-coding environment. Once an IoT infrastructure scheme has been developed, users can monitor how their products are performing in the real world and leverage that data to build better versions of their product in the future.

Fusion 360

Although Fusion 360 hasn’t been called out by name in Autodesk’s latest update, the CAD package wasn’t left out of the teasing graphic that Autodesk attached to this release. In the graphic, we see that Autodesk seems ready to begin adding generative design tools to their Fusion platform. Until now, Autodesk’s generative design tools have existed in their own ecosystem. Take for example, Within, a generative design tool has been a standalone appliance for nearly a year, and the company’s more ambitions generative effort, Project Dreamcatcher, is only beginning to see the light of day. Will one of these two products soon become part of the Fusion platform?

Though Autodesk’s graphic might be more speculative than concrete, when it comes to the design portion of the pie chart, I wouldn’t be surprised to see generative technologies added to the platform in the near future. I mean, the technology is already there, and from what I’ve seen of Dreamcatcher and Fusion 360’s interface, they do indeed look very similar. 

How Will This Effect the Market?

While Autodesk’s newest additions to the Fusion product innovation platform are undeniably alluring to CAD users and managers, what makes them even more impressive is that they’re just the beginning of Autodesk’s push to expand the Fusion platform. In the future, the infrastructure that Autodesk is building out today will become the foundation upon which additional modules such as generative design tools, support for metal additive manufacturing and end-to-end PLM insight will be added to the platform.

“The old way of doing product development required multiple disconnected software tools, often costing tens of thousands of dollars apiece. It was cumbersome, slow and expensive. Autodesk is working to fix this with a single cloud platform that is affordable and supports the complete product development process–not just design and manufacturing, but even the post-sale period of product monitoring and innovative sensor-driven services,” concluded Hooper.

Though the vision for the Fusion platform is rosy, one has to wonder, is it conceivable that Fusion might become a piece of bloatware, too big to be fully understood or effectively used by a design team?


That’s always a possibility for ambitious pieces of software.

However, for now, it seems like Autodesk’s Fusion team is on the right track, and if I were the competition, I’d be getting worried. The San Francisco company is articulating their vision for a single design ecosystem so well that they’re distinguishing themselves from the rest of the pack.

That’s great news for designers, just maybe not for the rest of the competition.

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