Autodesk Fusion 360 Cloud CAD Now Available

What was hinted at in late 2012 during the Autodesk University 2012 conference just became a reality—Autodesk has delivered the first cloud-based computer aided design (CAD) software. Autodesk Fusion 360, now generally available, brings together capabilities typically found in separate mechanical, industrial, and conceptual design tools into one easy-to-use cloud-based service (that can be mastered in hours and days rather than weeks). The solution was created specifically for people looking to fuse aesthetic design (for product beauty) with great product engineering (for product functionality). While Adobe Creative Cloud tools offer similar features, in comparison to its traditional CAD archrivals, Fusion 360 offers a new and intuitive user experience, secure access to design information, and integrated social collaboration features. Users, i.e., design professionals, engineers, architects, digital artists, students, and hobbyists will now be able do the following:

  • Design faster—via a range of design modeling capabilities, such as assembly and mechanism modeling, in a direct interactive manner. Users can share any type of model and work with the most common CAD file formats, while major CAD translators, import, and export are included.

  • Work anywhere—all data, models, designs, and info are automatically versioned and managed.

  • Share design info, wikis, blog posts, surveys, portfolios, etc. with anyone—users can invite other folks to the site and join other sites and communities.

Fusion 360 is part of the broader cloud-based Autodesk 360 portfolio (see Figure 1). Autodesk wants to put an end to having to patch together specialized design and engineering tools that are either too complex or not sophisticated enough to address all the needs of the product development process.

Figure 1 – Autodesk 360 portfolio

Fusion 360 will be free for the next 90 days, and upon expiration of the initial offer, Fusion 360 will be available for purchase from the Autodesk e-store for $25 [USD] per month, per user, based on an annual contract commitment (although monthly and quarterly arrangements will be entertained). Special pricing is available for students and entrepreneurs. The product’s lower entry point (no need for major upfront CAD software license commitments and outlays, support, maintenance and training, and hardware and infrastructure investments) should be attractive for smaller companies and startups.

Since the beta release in early 2013, there have reportedly been 500,000 users, with up to 1,300 users signing up per week. The product’s partner ecosystem is also expanding slowly but surely. After the recent alliance announcement with NetSuite, Fusion 360 has been integrated with GrabCAD. The idea is to be able to design faster, with secure 3D collaboration, free CAD models, and access to a large community of mechanical engineers. The future will be about folks being able to share, exchange, and sometime even trade their design ideas.
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