Autodesk University Shows Off Big Changes to Fusion 360 Simulation

Simulation changes follow trends in human-computer interaction.

Where Does Fusion 360 Simulation Sit Today?

When Autodesk University 2021 kicked off on October 5, one of the big tentpoles of the conference was the state of Fusion 360 and upcoming changes to the software. Fusion 360 is the current Autodesk flagship product with the widest adoption in the product design and development realm. The software describes itself as a “cloud-based 3D modeling, CAD, CAM, CAE and PCB software platform for product design and manufacturing.”

Fusion 360 Thermal Analysis study of a speaker assembly. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Fusion 360 Thermal Analysis study of a speaker assembly. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

The short overview of features and goals listed on the Fusion 360 site reads like a product developer’s dream:

  • Design and engineer products to ensure aesthetics, form, fit and function.
  • Reduce the impact of design, engineering and PCB changes.
  • Ensure manufacturability with simulation and generative design tools.
  • Directly edit existing features or model fixtures with [a] truly integrated CAD + CAM software tool.

A strong commitment to product and process design, manufacturing, simulation and electronics design all exist together at the core of Fusion 360. As we move forward, Autodesk noticed some trends in the way we design and manufacture components, and some changes in the way that the world sees products and what we want the products to do.

Changes to the Way Fusion 360 Simulation is Offered

Rahul Patil, Product Manager for Fusion 360 Simulation, gave a rundown of the changes coming to the Simulation Extension. The extension is expected to be released around January and will build on the existing Simulation offerings.

Ten study types are already in place and users can pay-as-they-go to run studies. The Simulation Extension will move to a duration model so the users can use simulation on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.

Fusion 360 studies from the new Simulation Extension. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Fusion 360 studies from the new Simulation Extension. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Simulation is currently housed in three sections, starting with the Structural and Thermal Analysis track that asks how a part will perform and whether a part will fail under a specified load. Dynamic Analysis asks if a component can withstand a fall or sustain an impact. The Injection Molding Simulation asks if a part mold will fill during manufacturing, if visual defects will be present and if the amount of warping present in a given design is acceptable.

Simulation in Fusion 360 is tied directly to the specific user of the software. The overall goal of simulation is still to save overall time and cost in the design and build cycle of a project by doing some virtual prototype testing during the design phase.

Data is another selling point for the Simulation Extension. Changes to the design will flow into the simulation workspace and update the results of the simulation without having to re-save the design and run the simulation again. Additionally, in the simulation workspace the user can make proposed changes to parameters and see the effects on the simulation right away, without changing the design in the design space.

Options can be built into the simulation space and compared against each other without requiring several design iterations. Any new iteration made in the design space, or the simulation space, will result in a new version of the data. This means previous results are not lost and can be accessed again as a history of what ideas were attempted during the development process.

Collaboration is the third branch of the simulation value proposition. Users can give access to other people in the organization without exporting the model or taking screenshots. Controlled access can dictate whether someone else has viewing or editing powers, and the content can be viewed on a workstation, laptop, tablet or mobile device. 

Partnering with Ansys to Meet the Needs of the Next Generation

Ben Jordan, Senior Product Manager for Fusion 360 Electronics, and Matt Berggren, Director of Product Development for Fusion 360 spoke about the future of product and manufacturing design beyond making iterative changes to design software.

Jordan and Berggren explained how innovation is inevitable, and that as products get better and better they will get smarter and smarter. Design and development engineers are being pushed to become generalists to do their jobs today. Engineers need to design electronics, write some code and interface with the application programming interfaces (API) from Amazon, Google, Apple or future new sources.

Bringing a new design into the marketplace now requires all these things as well as requiring FCC compliance. Many startups and established companies are spending time and money to get their products or processes tested and certified to show compliance.

Problems can arise with electromagnetic interference or signal integrity issues where a product works for some period of time and then fails unexpectedly. This new landscape applies to every industry, and Autodesk is seeing the rise of specialists who do specific testing for specific applications. Larger companies can afford to have signal integrity experts running tests, for instance, but smaller companies and start-ups might not have the resources.

Concept of Ansys simulation extension for consumer electronics. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Concept of Ansys simulation extension for consumer electronics. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

This is where simulation can save lots of time, effort and money, and why Autodesk is partnering with Ansys to develop more electromagnetic simulation options. More parts today are operating with very high switching speeds, and this has the possibility of developing electromagnetic interference. Autodesk and Ansys are trying to create opportunities to do the simulation up front and eliminate the need for paying for multiple iterations of physical testing and certification payments.

Certification for a standalone computer electronics device can cost $1,000 to $5,000 and certification for a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi device can cost between $9,000 and $15,000. The options are to buy expensive and specific test equipment or to work with simulation to test your design.

Designing consumer electronics today has shifted from how it was done in the 1980’s. Where once a designer drew lines onto a printed wiring board diagram, now each piece of copper on a circuit board can have parasitic elements at high speeds and high frequencies. Each conductor, capacitor or resistor can interfere with the other components in its system. Ansys comes in with solvers that can take information about layer stackups and requirements, and then develop real-time insight into the circuit board layout.

A Fusion 360 extension using Ansys can give users immediate feedback about the electromagnetic characteristics of a design while the user is designing the component. Electronics designers don’t want to focus on lengths and widths but instead are concerned with picoseconds and microfarads. Capacitance and inductance are important to designers who want to know if their components can work together to meet requirements.

If design engineers are required to be generalists, Autodesk and Ansys hope that this new electronics simulation extension can help them to design and innovate with a new confidence.

Shifting the Way We Think About Products and Product Design

Autodesk is seeing its consumer product customers have a completely new set of problems. Many companies are finding their requirements shifting toward being smart and connected. Door locks, light bulbs, thermometers and clocks were all content at one time to simply do their one job; but to keep going in the marketplace, they need to upgrade. Creating products that are smart, connected and wireless will require more effort if it is to happen earlier in the product life cycle.

Design for compliance and design for certification are now shifting from the geometric CAD mindset to a more engineering characteristic model. The power and scale of the Autodesk Fusion 360 cloud-based model makes the company believe that doing more simulation will allow designers and developers the benefit of doing less work to validate things that have been pre-validated.

Matt Berggen explained that ideally users of the simulation extension will see fewer design iterations and fewer prototypes—the things that software providers have historically promised ECAD would do. Now this shift is driven by resistance, capacitance, inductance and conductance, characteristics that electronics engineers are comfortable with and can shift back and forth to create an optimized design.

Autodesk University takes place October 5-14 as an online event, with the focus on North American customers and products scheduled for October 5-7.