Fusion 360 Isn’t Just a CAD Tool, It’s Also an Education Platform
Kyle Maxey posted on October 25, 2018 |

Fusion 360 has been garnering a lot of buzz recently for its ability to combine a number of design tools into one holistic platform. From seamlessly modeling in both parametric and direct modes to computer-aided manufacturing (CAM tools), data management, additive manufacturing tools and even rendering engines that make market ready materials, Autodesk isn’t just hyping its product when it calls it a Product Innovation Platform. Though the tools listed above seem numerous, they represent only a fraction of the capabilities the software has in its fold.

With all of its attributes, Fusion 360 is a robust design tool capable of helping any engineer, regardless of skill level or time in industry, realize their ideas. Perhaps maybe more important is that those same qualities make Fusion 360 an ideal platform for teaching budding engineers of all ages how computer-aided design (CAD) tools can be used to bring innovation to life.

Ease of Use Makes Education Robust

Mesa Inc. has been in the business of teaching CAD to students for over 25 years. As a reseller of Autodesk software for well over a generation, it has seen the industry transform radically and developed its curriculum to respond to the state of the art in the design field.

While Mesa’s client are typically corporate entities looking to onboard designers quickly, or get old hands trained on the latest version of a CAD package, it has recently started to reach out to students via ThinkEdu to help facilitate Fusion 360 training.

Steve Olson, Mesa manager of training services, has been working in the CAD training world for years. He recently worked with a team of students at Penn State that go by the name Digi Digits.

Digi Digits is a team of engineering students “dedicated to improving, designing and 3D printing prosthetic-like training devices for children who have hand/arm malformations or disabilities.”

Though most of the Digi Digits team had prior experience with CAD, the team lead wanted to standardize the modeling environment they were using. Fusion 360 looked like an ideal option. Once Olson got word of that news through his campus network, he offered to set the team up with an intensive tutorial of Fusion 360 via ThinkEdu.

“After a three-hour introduction to the software, the students were off and running with their designs,” Olson said.

This is both a credit to Mesa’s curriculum and the near lack of learning curve required to make Fusion 360 productive to a user’s end.  In fact, Olson believes in the power of Fusion 360 as an educational tool.

“It’s a great software for education folks because it’s fun and easy to learn,” he said.

More than being fun and a great utility, Fusion 360 has made it possible for the Digi Digit’s team to meet its goal of building prosthetic training devices. During the course of the project life, the Penn State team was able to reduce the cost of outfitting a child with a functional prosthetic for $60, a price well below the usual $20,000 to 100,000 charged by medical device companies. With these new functional prosthetics, children can regain the function of their arm or hand. This gives them a renewed sense of agency and teaches them that good design can enhance well-being and life.

To prove that Digi Digit’s isn’t an outlier in its success with Fusion 360, Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT’s) graduate program in design also uses Fusion 360 to produce designs.

“Industrial Design intrigued me because it provides that environment where I can be creative,” said Erica Nwanko, an RIT graduate industrial design student.

Through her courses at PIT, Nwanko has been challenged to explore multiple iterations in design to arrive not only at one design solution but also multiple design solutions to a problem from which the best can be chosen. One of her professors, Alex Lobos, is a big proponent of Fusion 360.

“Fusion 360 is very good for product design because it allows you to explore a lot of ideas,” he said.

Throughout their coursework, RIT students are asked to think critically about how the products they are trying to create will be used in the real world. With Fusion’s organic, push and pull modeling tools, students like Nwanko can create many design iterations on the fly and share them with peers via Fusion’s collaboration features. This level of feedback makes it easier to arrive at the right design solution quickly.

“I love Fusion 360,” she said.

Is Fusion the Future of CAD?

In the immortal words of Whitney Houston, “I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” If one of the last centuries greatest voices is right, then younger people’s adoption of Fusion 360 might just be the wave that brings the software to wider acceptance.

But that’s not really the point, is it? Fusion 360’s wide palate of tools makes it possible for anyone with a will to design, invent or play in 3D space, capable of reinventing the world around them. That kind of power is transformative. Having a tool that can take you from sketch to production schedule is ideal for anyone looking to begin their journey in design.

For educators or students, Fusion 360 should be an obvious choice if you’re looking for a CAD tool. It provides end-to-end support for design workflows and is easy to use. If you’re looking to teach anyone how to design, especially if they’re young, Fusion 360 should be your No.1 option. As Olson put it, “It’s a skill builder.”

To learn more about Fusion 360, read the recent engineering.com research report The Best CAD System for the Modern Engineer.

Autodesk has sponsored this post. They have had no editorial input to this post. All opinions are mine. — Kyle Maxey


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