This past month we had another “big player of industry” come to town as our guests for the monthly meetup, Autodesk! More specifically representatives from Autodesk’s Manufacturing team near Novi, MI. They came to town to talk to us about Fusion 360 with a focus on its computer aided manufacturing (CAM) capabilities. This all started from a conversation I had at the Advanced Manufacturing Expo (see pictures below) with Jeff Jaje regarding how I was using Fusion. Autodesk had set up a booth at the expo and I was able to talk about our organization and they were excited about the possibility of doing an event!
Advanced Manufacturing Expo at The Delta Plex
Now I use Fusion primarily to design nerdy stuff like the original Red Ranger’s Power Sword but I knew there would be a lot of people in West Michigan that would be interested in it as a low-cost CAD/CAM software and actually use it for business purposes… not to just live out their childhood dreams :D. I have to say, I was BLOWN away by how many people we had at the meetup! I would guess at leave 60+ people showed up! As you can see in the picture, we had a full house!
My Red Ranger Sword designed in Fusion 360
Fusion 360 is a full-fledged CAD solution that works in the cloud. I actually didn’t know that when I started using it and I kept freaking out wondering where it was saving my files to locally. You can save the files locally, and I do from time to time as a backup safety precaution when I’m really far on a project but Fusion also backs it up and saves versions “to the cloud” as they say nowadays. It was very different for me because I’m used to traditional CAD and even a little of OnShape (cloud-based CAD). Well when I lose internet and don’t have access to the cloud with OnShape I am sunk! No work is getting done…. But with Fusion is actually stores a version onto your PC just in case you lose that connection and if you want to work offline. Then when you re-connect, boom! Saved and backed up! Another really cool feature of Fusion 360 is that you could have it installed on multiple devices and can log into it to access your files! Any of the other large CAD suppliers that I have had experience with will not let you have multiple installs.
Autodesk is also all about educational outreach with their software. You can obtain basically any of their software via an educational license. So if you wanted to learn game design Maya & 3D Studio Max would be what you’d want to download. They even have various programs for architectural applications and of course traditional type CAD software with Inventor and their new Fusion 360. Fusion 360 actually has the ability to be used free for both educational purposes as well as “hobbyist” and “startups (w/ less than $100k in revenue) licenses. This is great! It lets people play with and learn your software and those that get skilled at it could eventually be your customers down the road! If you decide to purchase a commercial license you can for $300/yr for the Standard plan or $1500/yr for the Ultimate one.
The difference between the 2 plans is the implementation of:
Advanced Simulation Processes:
- Advanced Analysis Tools – Use bolt connectors, multiple load cases, and rigid elements in simulation tests or simplify designs by cloning, removing faces, and replacing with primitives.
- Buckling – Predict unexpected failure modes for slender members under compression using cloud simulation.
- Non-linear Stress – Analyze permanent deformations and nonlinear materials using cloud simulation.
- Event Simulation – Ensure your design will withstand impact using cloud simulation.
- Shape Optimization – Identify unnecessary regions in your design for light weighting using cloud simulation.
Advanced Manufacturing Processes:
- Probing – Leverage on machine probes to locate work offsets.
- 3+2 Machining (5-axis positional) – Reduce the setups required for your job by positioning the stock in different directions through a combination of A, B, or C axis motions.
- 4-Axis Machining – Rotate the part using the A axis of your machine to create toolpaths for 4 axis indexing or wrap toolpaths.
- 5-axis Simultaneous Machining – Set up 5-axis operations with tilting, swarf, and multi-axis contour.
Jeff also took the audience through an example of using Fusion 360 for CAM functionality. I am used to designing parts in CAD and I even keep “how will they actually make this?” in the back of my head as I’m designing but I’ve never actually implemented the steps for CAM so it was very interesting.
You first take your part and determine how many different setups you will need. The example below would need 3 setups to manufacture. Then you determine a bounding box for the stock material needed to make the part. This would mean perhaps rounding up your parts dimensions to nominal values that you can buy from a material supplier and also allow enough cleanup material. A supplier will not necessarily stock a .375″ x 3.75″ x 4.75″ stock of aluminum. So we would probably have to order .5″ x 4″ x 5″.
Bounding box selection (stock material)
Face milling operation tool selection
Pocket/feature cutting operations tool selection
Pocket/feature cutting operations tool selection
You would do this process for all of the setups that you would need to manufacture your part. The process can be a lot more involved depending on your part’s features and your requirements. During the meetup they talked about optimizing toolpaths for various surface finishes that you may want or want to avoid so it can go pretty deep! The image below is an example of what a final simulation would look like showing all cutting operations.
Final simulation of material removal (no the same part as the other images)
One topic that I was clueless on but was a big reason people told me they came was to hear about Post Processors with Fusion. I saw people perk up was soon as Jeff mentioned this and I was like… ummmm ok? A Post-Processor is a unique driver that is specific to a CNC machine or other automated tooling machine. Post-Processors essentially allow the g-code that is output from Fusion or another software to communicate properly with the machine you are using. They act as translation devices so that everything is doing what you programmed it to do. Autodesk has created a library with these included for FREE! Apparently they can cost THOUSANDS of dollars elsewhere!
The night was a great success and I met a lot of cool people doing cool things!