How and Why We're Building Fusion

Categories: Sustainability in PD&M

By Carl Bass, Autodesk CEO

We’re building Fusion because for 25 years the industry has focused on parametric solid modeling – but geometry is only part of the solution. We’re building Fusion to be a comprehensive product development system.

We're building Fusion because the environment in which our customers work has radically changed. 

We're building Fusion on the technology platform of the future. 

We're building Fusion so it is accessible and affordable by the broadest set of users. 

And we're building Fusion 360 openly and transparently in collaboration with the community.

I have been part of the CAD industry for more than 30 years both as a user and a software engineer. And while the technology is exciting, the best part of building CAD programs is empowering the engineers and designers who build great products. I like to think of those of us who build CAD programs as following in the great tradition of toolmakers – and just like analog tools, these digital tools really only come alive in the right hands.

                     Image courtesy of Jennifer Lin

While there are many capable software products in the market today, none comprehensively solve the major issues in product development. So people are forced to string together tools that make iteration cumbersome and working in teams difficult. We're bringing together the most important portions of product development into one comprehensive, integrated environment to help people go from concept to production – form, function, fabrication, data management and collaboration. 

Product development is fundamentally not about geometric description. But for most CAD systems that is their center, their primary focus and that's why they insist that detailed geometry is specified before we even know how well the design will solve the problem. In effect, we've traded in our 2D documentation tools for 3D documentation tools. Better? Yes, but not good enough.

Fusion starts with integrated mechanical and industrial design. No longer do people need to juggle multiple tools or contort their solid modelers to do industrial design — a task for which they were never designed.  We're building Fusion to allow for the easy exploration of ideas for the whole product – what it looks like, how it functions (the interplay between mechanical, electrical and software), how it performs and how it’s made. Simulation is critical to the process, helping designers understand both performance and the impact of design decisions. Integrated simulation should be available to everyone designing products. Not only does it allow for better understanding of how something will perform, using it in a continuous fashion helps build intuition and expertise. And when our designs are ready to go from one side of the screen to the other, built-in CAM tools for 3D printing and CNC machining make it simpler to fabricate our designs.

4CAM integrated into Fusion

The world of our customers has changed greatly. They are working in distributed teams with global and complex supply chains. When legacy 3D mechanical design tools were developed, competitiveness centered on quality. Today, high quality products are table stakes and companies who thrive are focused on innovation and shortening time to market. Just as tools like GitHub have made managing software projects much easier, we're doing the same for design and engineering projects. We're building a tool where everyone can work together and where data management and collaboration are foundational, not an afterthought. 

3Branching and merging workflow

The world of LANs, firewalls and identical workstations is aging and being replaced by cloud computing and a wide variety of devices, increasingly powerful and mobile. The architectures of the future will be tuned to combine what's best done locally with what's best done on the cloud, giving us access to nearly infinite amounts of computing power, letting us imagine how we would design differently if computing power was unlimited. As an example, Fusion completely utilizes the cloud to offload compute intensive tasks like analysis and visualization. The cloud also allows for fundamentally new ways to structure data so teams can easily share and collaborate, particularly as those interactions reach beyond the firewalls of a single company. And most importantly, this information needs to be available on every device — PCs, Mac, phones and tablets — allowing us to choose the most appropriate device for the task at hand.

All of the tools needed to comprehensively do product design add up to a lot of money. Maintenance fees alone put these legacy tools out of the reach of many. We built Fusion to be affordable and accessible.  For users of the basic product, Fusion costs $300/year. For the Ultimate version, it's $1200/year — the same price everywhere in the world. But we went one step further, for hobbyists, enthusiasts, makers and startups and in fact, anyone using Fusion whose business makes less than $100K per year, Fusion is free. Wait, there's more. And just like all of our other products, Fusion is completely free to students, faculty and institutions worldwide. Most important to me is that in order to get Fusion, we never ask anyone to compromise on functionality, performance or privacy. We think everyone is entitled to the best possible user experience.

2Blog posts about the future of Fusion

And while I’m proud of what we've built, I'm more excited about the way we've built it.  We think the process of building tools should include those who are to going to use them so we’ve built Fusion hand-in-hand with the Fusion community. We're doing it out in the open and as transparently as possible – no private betas, no secret handshakes.  Sharing ideas and direction is critical to building the best tools. Our tools come alive in the hands of some of the most creative people on the planet and we know they are integral to what gets built.

By many measures, Fusion is not complete today. We have a lot more work to do but together we’re building something really great.

1Collage of models from the Fusion gallery