What’s New in Autodesk Fusion 360?

Between the November update and the Wednesday keynote at Autodesk University, there is a lot happening in the world of Fusion 360.

Fusion 360 in the Browser


Fusion 360 in the browser is upon us. Project Leopard is now in beta and seeking testing participants.

As I still don’t have access (hello? Autodesk?) however, check out the review by the good fellows at Develop3D

“That’s not a traditional install, rather it updates itself automatically and streams the updates in. This is a different beast. Grab your Fusion 360 log-in (assuming you’ve been accepted), log-in and the tools are there. No install, no client.”

As it stands the browser is by no means a replacement for the current locally installed Fusion 360 client. The browser version contains less functionality. It is more of an extension and provides an alternate method of accessing your data.

Let’s Create Something Truly Remarkable

At the second day keynote (you can watch it here) at Autodesk University, Steven Hooper told us it’s time to create something truly remarkable and inspirational. He showed us an image generated by Fusion 360 that was so realistic it was difficult to tell if it was computer generated or an actual photo. Fusion 360 is the next generation platform capturing the complete product definition.

Steven Hooper is the Senior Director of Manufacturing Strategy and Business Development at Autodesk and ultimately the man responsible for Fusion 360. [Side note, for someone with a self-pronounced hatred for public speaking, he did quite well on the big stage at AU]. Their goal for Fusion 360 is a completely connected process starting with conceptual and moving through industrial (t-splines), 3D modeling (freeform and solids), documentation, simulation, and CAM.

“Fusion 360 is the next generation platform to unlock creative freedom”


Steven’s session started with a kickass video about the Briggs Automotive Company. Their racecar was developed completely in Fusion 360.

Electronic Design (PCB)

Fusion 360 is going to have Electronic Design based on the technology Autodesk acquired with the purchase of CADSoft.

This feature set means you’ll create the physical board layout in the mechanical 3D model. This includes incorporating important items like the mounting points and clearance requirements for the PCB casing.

“The only cloud-based solution for integrated PCB design”

With the board layout defined you’ll flip into the schematic environment and insert the components required. Fusion 360 maintains all the physical requirements. You can flip back-and-forth between the two environments making changes as they are synchronized and associative.


Reading a between the lines, take note that the slide states “Access” to PCB Design. To me this seems that it will be an add-on and not part of the standard Fusion subscription.

Nastran Simulation

Released in the November 9th update, Fusion now includes access to the Nastran Solver.

This integrated simulation is to understand mechanical behaviour. The process is “radically different” as Fusion is moving beyond  just validation. Autodesk is putting the tools where they belong; “at the point of creation.” You will optimize your designs instead of just validating using the now embedded demand or pay as you go advanced simulation.

What makes Nastran so special? Things like event based (loading over time) simulation, non-linear plastic deformation, and buckling. Tools to see not just that it fails but why it fails.


Shape Optimization is also on its way including the option to perform the calculations in the cloud. What was shown is no different than the shape optimization features included in Inventor.

“A complete disruption to the design process… but not a far off research project”

Fusion 360 - Shape Optimization at AU

Using the new simulation and shape optimization features within Fusion 360 allowed Briggs Automotive “to go fast safe.” With only 20-cloud credits they were able to strip all the weight to a predefined safety factor. Briggs estimates this saved them $20,000 over traditional testing processes.

New features to Fusion 360’s Simulation environment (courteous of the Nastran Solver)

  • New Contact Manager
  • Better Mesh Control and Accuracy
  • Bolted Connections
  • Multiple Load Cases and Compare Workspace
  • Structural Buckling
  • Event Simulation Preview
  • Nonlinear Static Study

According to Mr Hooper, Autodesk is “evening the field for all designers.

Sheet Metal

“Product development is as much about the physical manufacturing process as it is about the design”

Not a secret as it’s been discussed for months, but Sheet Metal is coming to Fusion 360. More than just adding bends and reliefs, Fusion’s feature set includes fabrication information. You’ll specify the fabrication details about how the feature will be manufactured.

Fusion 360 Sheet Metal at AU

The Sheet Metal environment will be “smart”, for example automatically apply setbacks. As CAM is already integrated, Fusion 360 will automatically produce the flat pattern AND the G-Code required to drive the laser cutter. It is associative so that as you add and remove features both the flat pattern and G-Code automatically updates.

A nice bonus, Fusion 360 will include nesting capabilities!


From what I heard around Autodesk University this is the feature set the furthest from release.

Additive and 5-Axis

Software typically flows linearly from ideation (concept) to product manufacturing. This “couldn’t be further from the truth” of how it actually happens. Typically the design is series of explorations often in parallel to each other. However, how do we know which one will yield the best results?

Traditional systems don’t support this agile approach. We lose our best ideas in “the chaos” and because of this Autodesk is introducing merging and branching into Fusion 360.

Fusion 360 Branching Merging at AU

The example shown at AU was one branch utilizing shape optimization. The second route was utilizing the new mesh-based generative design. You then chose the best one, which then becomes the dominate design.

If you’ve modeled something that can not be produced with traditional subtractive manufacturing then use Fusion 360’s new additive build solver. This ensures there is no shrinkage or warpage.

To complete the product, Fusion 360 now includes full simultaneous 5-axis machining. Another area where Autodesk is “leveling the design playground.”

Ultimate is Back

With the new features and toolsets, Autodesk has re-introduced the Ultimate version of Fusion 360. This means two versions to choose between when subscribing (check out the FAQ if you have questions).

Fusion 360 Standard remains at $300/year or $40/month. The re-introduced Fusion 360 Ultimate jumps up to $1500/year or $190/month. Fusion 360 remains free for students, hobbyist, and startups making less than $100k per year. All versions include 100 initial cloud credits.

For those currently on Fusion 360 subscription, you “early adopters” will receive the benefits of Ultimate will no increase in your monthly or yearly fees… for as long as you stay current.

For those of us accessing Fusion 360 as a benefit of our Product Design Collection (or Suite), it will remain as Fusion 360 Standard… no access to Ultimate (booooooo!).

The differences between Standard and Ultimate? Advanced Simulation and Advanced Manufacturing.

fusion 360 standard vs ultimate

Fusion 360 Ultimate includes advanced simulation tools, buckling, nonlinear stress, event simulation, and shape optimization. It also includes the advanced manufacturing feature probing, 3+2 (5-axis positional), 4-axis machining, and 5-axis simultaneous machining.

Missing in Action

I found it odd that there was no mention of Fusion Connect or Fusion Lifecycle during the Keynote. Not one slide, image, or even off-hand mention. I thought they would take the opportunity to discuss (even quickly) the rebranding of  the two products and bringing of them into the Fusion family.

There also has been very little on the ConfigureOne product even though it was acquired just about a year ago. It might be just me, but doesn’t this product just scream to be included in Autodesk’s cloud platform Fusion ecosystem?

Final Review

Exciting times in the world of Fusion 360. The inclusion of 5-axis machining and the introduction of the Nastran solver (and the features that go with it) are a big deal. Even with the re-introduction of the ultimate tier, I can’t think of another product that offers the same level of concept-to-product manufacturing as Fusion 360, for the price. For individuals, startups, and small companies I’m not sure why you’d use anything else.

I do not want to come across as a complete mark, while Fusion 360 is still not for everyone. Since I’m still fully entrenched in Autodesk Inventor, moving away from Inventor full time is not even on the radar. However, if you are in a similar position as me, remember that as an individual you can use Fusion 360 for free. Use the opportunity to play, test, and have fun.