I believe Fusion 360 is the future of CAD tech for many reasons. The CAD industry classically has had a high barrier to entry, mostly based on price. A new license of Solidworks can be around £10,000, not that the prices are actually given anywhere, you have to get a quote. We all know that if you have to ask… I think you know the rest. This is quite an investment for some Mech Eng graduate starting their own business, or anyone in fact who isn’t currently making any money. Most initial costs to startups are around the £25-30k mark. A way to cut 1/3 of that by opting for a yearly subscription instead of a full-blown CAD package starts to look very tempting.
Fusion’s business model flips that deadlock on its head, instead the price is right there (referral link, $15 for you, $35 for me). It’s also now half price until 17th July! If you’re a machine shop just starting out there’s no comparison between a 10k bill or this system. It’s also free if you’re earning less than £100,000 pa.
There’s other reasons why I believe most CAD systems will be moving towards the cloud, one is collaboration. Fusion Team is still in its infancy really, with only a few major features, but it’s still the only system that even brags about this kind of technology. This browser-first approach to collaboration will be the killer app in a few years time. Why? Because designing great products isn’t just about the Mechanical or Software Engineer. Great products require input from everybody that has a stake in them, most of whom can’t read an engineering drawing, let alone manipulate a product in CAD. A simple link they can click on that pops up with the absolute up-to-date part is needed to keep the non-designers in the loop.
Design is iterative
As described by kwokchain, in regards to a very similar winning product in the graphic design space, Figma, design is an iterative process. No-one I know produces a part in 25 minutes and considers it done. Even simple parts, once they take form, can be improved in a multitude of ways that only become clear when a certain amount of meditation on their current state has been performed.
This inherently iterative process clashes with our standard (read: old) style of collaborating on projects, by sending files over email. Once you’ve attached a part and hit send for a Project Manager’s comment, you’ve committed to that part. What if you come up with a new weight-saving feature? What if you forgot a chamfer or radius? What do you do?
You could change the part and resend it, but then you’re clogging up someone’s inbox, and you’re also back to where you started. Or you could not send the new part, and the PM might waste their time commenting on the same realisation you’ve made half an hour before.
Either way this is not easy or simple. However, with a cloud-first approach, this “living” document is available to everyone, whether they own a CAD system or not. Just send them a link, let them see it as you’re seeing it right now.
Open Post-processor language
If you’ve ever used one of the more popular Computer-aided Manufacture (CAM) systems, you’ll know the pain of getting post-processors set up. These are often a secondary income stream for most CAM companies. As a result once you get a new machine-tool or update an existing one, it might cost another few thousand to get a post working for it. This is because the post language is proprietary. Meaning only they and maybe their tech partners can develop post-processors.
There’s too much good future-proof tech in the Fusion package to go through it all. If you think I’ve missed something, let me know in the comments
I’d also like to hear your reasons why you think cloud CAD is or isn’t the future for CADTech, let me know below!