An in depth review of Autodesk's Fusion 360

An in depth review of Autodesk's Fusion 360

Written in October 2015

I am writing this because in a quick search I was only able to find a couple reviews of Fusion 360 from people who had briefly tried it or who had recently signed up.
I am not a master of CAD design. In fact I still have a lot to learn. I have however used many programs in my career and then in trying to find a CAD program for my business. I have been fairly proficient in Solidworks at one point. It is the first CAD program I learned and I used it regularly for a couple years at my last job.
I then started my business. Using Linux and preferring FOSS I started out using Freecad hoping that it would grow with my needs. I stuck with it for about two years before accepting that it was not growing fast enough for my needs. At that point I started trying many different types of software. My business was new and it wasn't making money so the thought of dropping thousands to tens of thousands on CAD software was very hard to swallow. I found it very frustrating that most big CAD companies did not offer start up companies any sort of discounts or help to get them off the ground.
I tried some of the cheaper options focussing on Linux native software like Bricscad. Coming from a Solidworks background I found the AutoCad similar design style to be an evolutionary step backwards. It would have taken a lot of work to learn and once I did I still believed I would be frustrated by the methodology. So that led me towards newer style programs like Solid Edge.

I used Solid Edge trials for a couple months. I really liked it but since it was not available on Linux and would still be several grand to buy and another thousand or two to maintain annually I decided to keep looking.
Alibre looked promising. My friend got a killer deal on it a couple years prior and I thought I was in if I could do the same. Unfortunately they had just changed their policies and were trying to act like the big name companies and charge out the A but with a little less refined product. I decided that for the price I would rather pay just a little more for something like Solid Edge. I decided to keep looking and keep trying software. Around that time I stumbled across a paired down version of Inventor. It was affordable and did most of what I needed. It didn't have assembly capability and a couple other things but I could live with that at that moment. Sort of.
Then I heard about Fusion 360. At that point it could sort of do assemblies. You had to model everything in one file but could have individual components.
There were no drawings though which was a major inconvenience but the dev team promised drawings would be available in the next release. Being embarrassingly naive I assumed that meant a fairly full featured drawings package would be available soon.
So my first thought was to use Inventor LT for what it did well and F360 for what it did well. Of course this means a lot of transferring files back and forth which is by no means easy with F360s cloud based system. It also meant I was paying for two okay CAD programs. I also started realizing that Inventor was most definitely not for me. It is the most counter intuitive confusing and frustrating CAD program I have ever used. I probably should have taken that as a hint on whether I should give F360 a go but it seemed much more intuitive and as long as it kept progressing at the rate they promised seemed like it would be a great product very soon. I dropped Inventor and went back to doing drawings in Draftsight which again was very inconvenient. Around this time they also offered their promo deal where if you bought in to their annual membership then you would pay the standard $300 some dollars a year for the Ultimate version. This was a little annoying because when I first started using F360 and got involved in the forums the Dev team promised that F360 pricing would never go up. In a sense they didn't lie however what everyone was paying $30 a month for at that point and was under the impression they would continue to would now cost someone $1200 a year.
So anyway I jumped on the annual subscription and got locked into my $360 ish a year price.
It was also around this time that their drawings module came out. It was astonishingly basic. You could select a few 2D perspectives and do basic dimensions. Like linear, angle and radius or diameter.
Many of us were very frustrated. We had been promised drawings and they made it sound like it would be very capable. When a bunch of people raised their voices on the forums they promised that they hadn't had time to do it all in this update but that they were working hard and that much more capability would be available in the next update. The next update might have added one or two new little features. And again people were outraged. Again more promises were made. In a month of two there would be a big drawing update. So we keep waiting. Finally the new update comes out and we get balloons and parts lists. Now I understand that different people will have different needs but balloons before even basic tolerancing? Are you kidding me? It has been probably about a year and drawings are still barely useable. We still don't have GD&T. We still don't have a lot of basic drawing functions.
We don't even have bug or trouble free drawings. Aligned drawings don't work properly. I reported this as a bug 5 months ago in the idea station. It still hasn't been fixed and the idea got archived because it didn't have enough votes. Yep this happens all the time. You post something that is either a bug or common sense should be fixed ASAP and if it's not on their priority list it gets archived and forgotten about. But who needs drawings anyway? And who cares about being able to make aligned dimensions?

Then the last update they changed something so now you can't even use a line midpoint to associate to. Fix one thing and in the process mess up another.
In my year of using F360 this has been the story of my life.
They used to have an awesome file navigation system. Then they got rid of it and implemented a very basic file browser that had almost no functionality. To move files or do much of anything you had to log into your account in a browser. I couldn't believe this so I tried to get them to bring back the old interface. They said that many people voted against the old interface and found it too complicated.
So instead of running them parallel until they had a capable replacement they just threw away the really capable one that worked very well. I can't even name all the things that AD has done this with. Completely toss something that worked very well and replace it with something that is less capable and only half complete. Every update it's two steps forward and four steps back.

Their idea station is almost a great idea. It really makes you feel like AD is listening and cares. As long as you aren't paying much attention. If you actually really care and pay attention you will notice that the idea station is a place to make people feel heard. Not actually a place to do any good.
The same goes for the forums and the people who run around the internet trying to stomp out fires. On their facebook page or on other reviews online there is always an Autodesk employee there saying “We really want your input and we really want you to help us improve”. But then a dozen people can all be yelling the same thing begging for something to change or improve and if it's not on AD's task list it doesn't get touched for who knows how long.

I am not writing this in hopes that it will stop people from using F360. Honestly I hope it gets enough visibility and popularity to give AD more incentive to improve these things. Yelling about them on the forums definitely hasn't. Maybe more of a public audience will. And on that note please share this anywhere you can.
With that said maybe this will help someone make their decision about whether they want to jump into F360 or just keep looking. I can tell you right now that with their current pricing and knowing what I know now I would just keep walking. That is as a business owner who needs stable capable software. If you are your average DIYEr, the type of person who could fall under their free user pricing this software is a great bang for the buck and would very likely be worth the small inconveniences.
This could be really great software if the development team just pulled their heads out of their butts on some really stupid stuff.

While they tout this as being production ready software there are still a ton of bugs and a ton of crashes. I think the crashes have been worse for me than average but if you look on the forums you can find people with similar issues. I have crashes all the time. If I am doing a lot of CAD this can be several times a day. Their crash recovery has gotten better and now I rarely loose data or get set back too far but sometimes I do.

 


I realize some of the above may sound more ranty than reviewy. Maybe I can come back at some point and clean it up but right now I am very frustrated with Autodesk and Fusion 360 and the promises they have made compared to the product they have delivered.

If you care to know in more detail why I will share more examples.

1. Every single update many of my settings are changed. I have to go back in and reset grids, CAM settings and other things.

 

2. The idea station is awful. It could be great but it is not used well. There is no way to weigh votes. If 2 professional CAD users vote for something to be done this way and 10 non paying noob DIYers vote it should be done another way then the amateur non paying voters vote will get preference.
If someone posts an idea that there should be an oval tool in the sketch so people don't have to sketch ovals using arcs it might get 20 votes because a lot of people might kind of like it. On the other hand if someone posts an idea to fix a big problem in 3D CAM it might only get 2 votes because a lot less people use 3D cam. So the 2D sketch oval gets priority because more people vote for it even though it should be a much much lower priority.
This makes the idea station pretty much useless. It does however give AD ammo.
Me: Why did you implement balloons before dimensioning and tolerancing in drawings?
Them: Because it got more votes.
Me: That's weird, I went through the idea station and there are far more requests for dimensioning and toleranceing.
Them: Oh well we don't just use the idea station. We get input from many places.
Many places? Like where? A 6 year olds birthday party?

3. Marketing promises the world every update. Development delivers 1/1000 of that. Then admin get cranky when people complain about not getting what was promised.

4. No beta channel. Most of this stuff would be irrelevant if they had a beta version and a stable version that was purely just stable. Or even if there wasn't a stable version yet. Had I subscribed to a Beta when I started F360 well then it is what it is. But when you get sold on production ready software it better be somewhere close to that.
Unfortunately I left Freecad because I couldn't afford to be using Beta development software. I couldn't afford to invest a lot of time into helping them improve their software. I needed stable, functional software that allowed me to work efficiently.
Now I pay for my software and get the honor of volunteering to help them improve it.

 

5. Messed up priorities.
The development time that has gone into 3D rendering and simulation has to be insane and when sketching, drawings, and other basic CAD functionality still have big holes, crashes or flaws I think you need to adjust your priorities. F360 is so focused on the shiny things that will get people in the door they are going to start loosing people who need stability and basic functionality.

6. 3 steps forward two steps back. Every time they add something or fix something it messes up something else. Then every time they change something you have to spend a day learning how to do it again.

7. Pay us for your production ready product but volenteer your time like this is a FOSS community.
Every time I complain about something being broken, wrong or a bug on the forums they want me to spend my time to make videos and examples of what it's doing. They want me to share my files and information so they can play with them and see the problems. Many of these things they could replicate in house in 30 seconds but instead they would rather I spent 30 min making a vid or uploading examples to the forums.

a. This means that I am volunteering massive amounts of time to help improve the software that I pay for and that was sold to me as production ready, to help them improve their software so they can sell it to more people and make more money off of it.
b. There is no sense of privacy. I look at CAD design as a private thing. If you use CAD professionally then chances are most of your work is protected under NDAs or is at least somewhat private or sensitive. Having someone immediately ask me for my work so they can see the problem file feels about the same as someone on the internet asking me to post a picture of my junk. It's not an environment I feel comfortable in. In fact I would usually rather post a picture of my junk.

c. I am a business owner who works 80 hours a week. When it's 11 PM and I am under a deadline to get a project done I don't have an hour to volunteer to troubleshooting when I just lost an hour due to my CAD software not working properly.

8. Idea station, forum or other, when someone tells you that something is actually wrong with your software, whether it's aligned dimensions in drawings not working properly, sketching not working properly or anything else this should be made a top priority to fix. It should not need a certain number of votes. It should not take 5 months to fix.

 

9. When Linux support is one of the top most voted ideas in the idea station and when people are constantly asking for a Linux version it might not be the most tactful option for your admin to take the stance that only basement dwellers with old equipment too cheap to upgrade run Linux and that it has no real users or market share. I should leave just for that.

10. Information has disappeared regularly. A few files have gone corrupted or have caused catastrophic failure but more often it's things like your CAM library disappearing and needing to spend two hours figuring out where it went and how to get it back.

11. Run new features parallel until they are voted in or at least as capable. Give users the right to choose between the old way and the new way until everyone is happy with the new way.
This has happened with the browser interface, the CAM interface and dozens of other things.

 

12. Smarter saving behavior.
A few weeks ago I posted an idea that F360 should choose a save directory like every other program in the history of programs have. Instead if you save a file to one folder, then navigate to another folder, open a file and try to do a save as the program will default to the last folder you saved to. Not the current folder you opened the file in.
This idea got archived because it didn't have enough votes. Because I guess common sense isn't enough.

 

13. Hasty releases.
A couple weeks ago they released an update. After that update I (again 11 PM with a deadline) went to print out a drawing. Couldn't open it. After an hour I realize that I can open new drawings but drawings more than 3 months old can't be opened.
I lost hours because of this and fell behind.
When I posted about this on the forums the developers response was that they knew about it before the release but didn't think it would inconvenience anyone.

Similar issues with bugs or lost features due to updates are still very common.

 

14. Lack of action

As I said above if AD sees anyone post any discontentment they jump into action asking how they can help. Then if it's not convenient they don't do jack. It really appears as though the priority is to look like they are active and helpful to others who may be looking in on the situation.

 

I could go on and on but hopefully you get the picture.

At the time of writing this my advice is to do your research and see how the software really meets your needs. Ignore any promises from Autodesk about what the software is or how it will improve in the immediate future and maybe you won't be disappointed.

For the general DIYer or anyone who can use this for free for personal use and just messing around or for small projects that aren't under a tight time restriction I think you would be for the most part very happy with this software.
For the startup companies, or small one person businesses where money is more valuable than time proceed with caution. If your time isn't worth much of anything you could still come out better off than you would spending thousands on other CAD software.
For bigger companies who have to pay their employees for their time. Your dollar is still best spent on high end CAD software. The money spent on the software will be higher but the money saved on your employees not wasting their time dealing with bugs, shortfalls and lack of features or capability will be enough that you will still come out ahead.

Fortunately I am still a small one person business and my time apparently isn't worth anything.
If I had an employee making $20/hr and if I paid that employee for all the time I have lost or wasted on F360 with that money I could have bought a seat of NX and a good CAM program.

 

courtesy of webmatter.de