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Fusion 360 - interesting developments

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Sgian Dubh

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About a year ago I started playing around with the free Fusion 360 drafting program offered by Autodesk. I did wonder when I started how long 'free' might be. I've now found out that 'free' lasts about a year. I guess I'd got reasonably good using the program and quite enjoyed both using it and the results, although I was always just a little frustrated that Fusion 360 couldn't access my files created in an old version of AutoCAD that no longer worked. And I also knew that it wasn't economically worthwhile for me to buy or subscribe to a newer AutoCAD version so that I could update drawings and maintain compatibility.

Anyway, about two months ago (~Feb, 2021) Fusion 360 placed a restriction on the number of files I could access and edit, ten I think it was. Then, some five days ago a notice popped informing me that my access to the free version would end in thirty days. A little investigating showed that I could subscribe to the program through the provider, Autodesk, at prices ranging from US$60 per month to US$1,335 for 36 months. Realistically, this expense doesn't make economic sense for me, so it looks like my adventures and explorations of the program's capabilities have come to an end.

I'm not complaining because I understand that every business has to make a profit, so limitless free access to the program for 'hobbyists' is surely unsustainable, and naturally Autodesk would be looking for 'free' users to be converted into paying subscribers. I've enjoyed the adventure of exploring the program's capabilities, learnt quite a lot, and if my little business was instead a bigger business that could justify the expense I'd probably become a subscriber.

Anyway, so there it is. I thought I'd post something here to let others know that 'free' has its limitations, as I sort of expected when I started.

So, maybe I'll have a look at buying TurboCAD, their 2020 Deluxe version for one-off price of about £180 seems like it might meet my smallish needs, and I like the idea of just paying once, and writing it off as a business expense for tax purposes, because I can't financially justify Fusion 360's ongoing subscription costs. I'm hopeful, for example, that TurboCAD can read my old AutoCAD files. I'm basing that on the fact that I had a now defunct version of TurboCAD from about 2007 that could read those files, so I'm hoping that compatibility still exists. Slainte.
 

paulrbarnard

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TurboCAD will read your old files.
I posted a month or so ago that I had a conversation with SolidWorks and they are going to be releasing a hobbyist subscription for SolidWorks later this year. Doubtless it will be a bait and switch plan to get you on the full package but might be worth not fully committing to another path in the short term.
I'm a TurboCAD user by the way. I am fortunate enough to have a Pro version with power pack provided by work. I love the ease of use of TurboCAD and it is certainly powerful. The ability to import from other CADpackages is realy powerful. Unfortunately it dosn't import Solid files...
 

Spectric

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I can say that Qcad is a good program, well worth the £28 per year cost and runs on Windows, macOS and Linux. It uses Dxf or Dwg for import or export and also list many earlier versions so should open autocad files.


There is a good forum where any issues are quickly resolved with expert help at hand. For £77 you can have the CAM version which will export G files, these being in binary geometry file format for use with CNC.
 

RobinBHM

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So, maybe I'll have a look at buying TurboCAD, their 2020 Deluxe version for one-off price of about £180 seems like it might meet my smallish needs
I am a user of turbocad deluxe.

There are quite a few tutorials on youtube for it which Infound really helpful.
Especially useful was tips on setting up the user interface, it certainly is easier once you change some of the default settings.

A few gripes (which might be my fault)

I find cancelling commands isn't consistent, sometimes it's the spacer bar, sometimes the escape key.

When inserting viewports into paper space it automatically includes a visible box and it's a few menu clicks to hide.

Some of the commands, like mirror for some reason don't show any indication when you hit a snap point.


Generally though it's a great CAD programme, I've got to the point where I can draw most basic furniture stuff without learning new commands.

Turbocad has a good forum and there are quite a few tutorials around the internet - most a bit old but still relavent.

Many of the lesser known cad packages have almost no community which is not great if you want to use it for business.
 

Ollie78

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You can still have more than 10 files, just not quick accessible. You can just transfer them back and forth whenever you want.
If you are a bit careful you can put more than one design in a single file.
Rather than making a file for each sub assembly, just put them all in one.
Also there is no time restriction you just renew it each year.


Ollie
 

Nelly111s

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There’s also a Fusion 360 “startup” licence for 3 years which is free if you are a small business
 

XH558

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One can renew each year:
I've just done it.
I have just joined up and downloaded F360. Seems very different to AutoCad that I used to use........... Version 12

Off to find some instructional Vids on YT.
 

Spectric

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Rather than making a file for each sub assembly, just put them all in one.
The best way to manage your CAD is to use libraries, this will have a folder structure and it is upto you how to organise it. In simple terms in a drawing you create components and save as a block which essentially collates them all together as one item. Now within the drawing you can re use the blocks many times, ie rather than draw 20 screw heads just draw one, save as a block and then re use at will. Eventually you will have your "sub assembly" as a complete drawing made up of lines and blocks etc and now you can save the whole thing as a single item in your library. Once all sub assemblies have been drawn and saved to the library you can now make the final drawing by pulling the sub assemblies from the library and completing the task. In reality the 20 screw heads would already be in a library so again making life easy.
 

Dr Al

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I can say that Qcad is a good program, well worth the £28 per year cost and runs on Windows, macOS and Linux. It uses Dxf or Dwg for import or export and also list many earlier versions so should open autocad files.


There is a good forum where any issues are quickly resolved with expert help at hand. For £77 you can have the CAM version which will export G files, these being in binary geometry file format for use with CNC.
If you're looking at qcad, have a look at LibreCAD as well. QCAD used to be an open-source project but they changed it to closed-source and started charging for it. LibreCAD is based on the last open-source version but has continued to be developed. I don't do much 2D CAD, so I can't offer much extra help with that.

If you're more interested in 3D CAD, check out onshape (free licence for "public models") and FreeCAD as well. Onshape is (in my opinion) better than Fusion 360, which in turn is better than FreeCAD, but FreeCAD is free and always will be and Onshape may be less likely to keep changing licensing terms for free users (as Autodesk have a lot of history of doing). If you use 3D CAD with Onshape or (especially) Fusion 360 (or any other software with time-based licensing), it's very much worth getting in the habit of exporting your models as STEP files - then if Autodesk do their trick of making free licences disappear like they did with Draftsight et al, you can open your models (without history editing) in another CAD program.
 

Dr Al

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Oh and another option I haven't explored but would very much tempt me if I hadn't already bought a commercial CAD application: apparently if you join the EAA (the American Experimental Aircraft Association) for $40 a year (assuming they allow British people to join), it includes a personal-use licence for Solidworks for no extra cost. If that all works out, it's an amazing deal for one of the best 3D CAD applications out there (although it'll need a much more powerful computer than Onshape will as a lot of the hard work in onshape is done by their servers rather than your home PC).
 

Spectric

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I did look at Librecad as well as many others but these days 2D is all I need, used to use programs like Catia and Solidworks amongst others but not these days. I think I went for Qcad because although it is £28 a year I found it to be more organised because it was not open source.
 

Sgian Dubh

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One can renew each year
Many thanks for that information, pils. I'd not realised that was possible, but your link enabled renewal. I think one problem that was making things difficult for me is that I have two Autodesk accounts, one personal which I used originally to download and use Fusion 360 in the first place, and one that was created when I worked for a university, therefore it's an academic account. Without going into too much detail, at some point I must have signed out of Fusion 360 in my personal user capacity, and later I must have signed in again using my academic account. The program still worked, but I found that all my saved projects had disappeared, which threw me. So, now that I've reactivated the account, it's usable again, but I've already noticed there's still a limit on the number of projects or drawings I can edit. I'll see how things work out. Slainte.
 

Sgian Dubh

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Thanks to both Robin and Paul for their information. I think I'm almost certain to get a copy of TurboCAD Deluxe 2020 to supplement my renewed access to Fusion 360, see my message above to pils). Paying for it just once is an attraction, although like other computer programs it may need updating with a new version every now and then, much the same as other programs. I like that it can read my old AutoCAD files, for one, which means they're accessible to me for updates, modification, and so on. I suspect that it has similarities in the way it works to AutoCAD, which may be helpful to me. When it comes to creating working drawings I, for the most part, don't need 3D capabilities being more than happy to work from traditional working drawing, i.e., front elevation, side elevation, sections, and so on, and I suspect TurboCAD can work satisfactorily for that. But the fact that TurboCAD has 3D capabilities is no doubt something I'd explore. As for rendered presentation drawings, I can still fall back on paper, pencils, pens and markers to get across an idea to someone.

Finally, just a general note of thanks and appreciation to others I've not named for their contributions and useful comments. Slainte.
 

DBT85

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You can reactivate the free year for as long as you like. I had the same issue about 2 weeks ago.

They don't make it abundantly obvious though.

Edit: I see I am late with that particular pearl of wisdom.
 

pils

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You can reactivate the free year for as long as you like. I had the same issue about 2 weeks ago.

They don't make it abundantly obvious though.

Edit: I see I am late with that particular pearl of wisdom.
You're right though "They don't make it abundantly obvious".
 

pils

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Many thanks for that information, pils. I'd not realised that was possible, but your link enabled renewal. I think one problem that was making things difficult for me is that I have two Autodesk accounts, one personal which I used originally to download and use Fusion 360 in the first place, and one that was created when I worked for a university, therefore it's an academic account. Without going into too much detail, at some point I must have signed out of Fusion 360 in my personal user capacity, and later I must have signed in again using my academic account. The program still worked, but I found that all my saved projects had disappeared, which threw me. So, now that I've reactivated the account, it's usable again, but I've already noticed there's still a limit on the number of projects or drawings I can edit. I'll see how things work out. Slainte.
bl**dy h*ll. I'd have gone mental! thinking I'd screwed up (again!) I hate (continually) misplacing things...
 

mr rusty

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Another long-time Turbocad user here - in fact right back to V1.0 for DOS! Couple of comments. The latest version of Pro does open Solidworks - opened a few things from grabcad - not sure how integrated it is ultimately.

3D is a bit of a learning curve, but once you get your head around working in 3D on a 2D screen, it saves a huge amount of time - draw it once and get all the aspects! Also great for drawing joints - you can draw one part in 3D and then subtract it from a primitive to get the other part, then measure off all the dims. - In fact I use this method for many parts - subtracting one 3D part from another is an easy way to modify something to the size you need.

I found the trick to working in 3D is always to make sure you place the workplane first - everything is drawn from the workplane. Get your head around that and it becomes easy.
 

paulrbarnard

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Another long-time Turbocad user here - in fact right back to V1.0 for DOS! Couple of comments. The latest version of Pro does open Solidworks - opened a few things from grabcad - not sure how integrated it is ultimately.

3D is a bit of a learning curve, but once you get your head around working in 3D on a 2D screen, it saves a huge amount of time - draw it once and get all the aspects! Also great for drawing joints - you can draw one part in 3D and then subtract it from a primitive to get the other part, then measure off all the dims. - In fact I use this method for many parts - subtracting one 3D part from another is an easy way to modify something to the size you need.

I found the trick to working in 3D is always to make sure you place the workplane first - everything is drawn from the workplane. Get your head around that and it becomes easy.
What file format are you selecting to import for Solidworks? I’m on the latest version but can’t import.
 

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