One of the things that drew my attention to Autodesk initially was the idea that they took customers seriously and were assembling a suite of products accordingly. Over the years regarding online programs we have had a chance to watch just who has been able to actually deliver. SolidWorks and Dassault had become famous for vaporware and programs rolled out at the annual SW launch coventions and gone tomorrow as they failed to work. SE had nothing and still does as far as I know although you can rent Solid Edge by the month rather than buying it outright. I can advocate this as a way of covering a temporary glut of work or to extend your “trial” until you are certain it is for you. Otherwise for most of us who intend to be around for a while it is the more expensive way to go.
Autodesk is a different animal though in this arena and they have made real working online programs that people are earning livings with. Going to the Autodesk CAM forums is kind of an eye opener to someone like me who has never considered this way of working to be anything I would want. Apparently there are a fair number that do want to work this way and money is one of the major considerations for them. First off I want to make clear that I have never used Fusion 360. It comes with Inventor Pro HSM and for a short while I had it loaded. I was just never interested enough to bother going there to learn yet another thing I did not need since I have a permanent seat of Inventor. So I uninstalled it. But going to the forums this morning reminded me that just because I was not interested did not mean others were not. It is surprising how many Fusion 360 guys are there and asking questions. The basis of the CAM program with fusion is the same kernal as Inventor HSM and SW HSM and so by virtue of the questions being asked by these guys it is clear working businesses are deriving a livelihood from Fusion 360.
Personally I don’t work online for a number of reasons but this is clearly not a barrier to many as evidenced by the frequency of posts there. This brings me to another aspect of the Autodesk customer paradigm and it is the idea that they want to have a working relationship with you and not bludgeon you with huge bills and yearly fees. I have corresponded briefly with a guy who is thinking of a start-up company and this is the reason for this post. If you have ever been there ( I have ) you are overwhelmed with how quickly the costs can add up. http://www.autodesk.com/products/fusion-360/try-buy will take you to a page you should consider if you are in this boat. As far as I know this is the only thing like it on or off the web of all the CAD CAM companies. In a nutshell if your start-up makes less than $100,000.00 per year the cost of Fusion 360 CAD and CAM is $0.00. Same for students or hobbiest’s although I am not sure of the citeria used to determine this. If you are one of these categories go there and see.
If I was a start-up company today I would most certainly try this out. It is a smart move from a company that does not fear what you may find under the covers once you start to use their product. They believe that you will in time be a cash customer and if Autodesk behaves themselves correctly probably be one for your whole small business working career. Politics can get in the way in bigger companies where different things may determine what is used. But I remember getting a free 2axis milling program from Surfcam in 2002. I had use of it for about a year when it went paying customer only. I stopped using it a year or so later when I adopted VX CADCAM since I needed to design as well as machine and Surfcam had no worthwhile design capabilities.
I left Surfcam because I needed CAD and CAM. In other words I needed a beginning to end manufacturing capability. If Surfcam would have had CAD and CAM who knows how long I would have stayed there. Lack of sheet metal and direct editing led to me leaving VX for SE. I have been a customer of SE for seven years now and only consider leaving because the ecosystem offered by Autodesk is so compelling. (Each time I moved what I was really looking for was a complete best in class solution to making things under my own roof.) To put it plainly because HSM which I consider to be a vastly superior product for what I do compared to CAMWorks for Solid Edge was now a part of Autodesk. I fully expect to remain with Autodesk for the remainder of my working career unless they do something really stupid. I happen to appreciate companies that believe in the old fashioned ideas of value and loyalty to their customers and Autodesk best measures up to that standard today.
The idea of manufacturing and having a company that gets this idea was over the last two years the single most compelling philosophical consideration for me regarding Autodesk and it should be for you to. Carl Bass can program up to at least five axis manufacturing equipment. He personally makes things and there is no other individual at his corporate level I am aware of that truly understands both the design and manufacturing equation with hands on time. So as the icing on the cake you have a company that may not have the absolute best program in any individual area but they do have an intense desire and corporate focus on becoming the best overall soup to nuts manufacturing ecosystem in mid range MCAD. Oh, and they are buying the tools to do so from Delcam to HSM and if you cut parts you need to check these guys out. Free + capable seems to be a good start up asset and Fusion 360 does apper to fill the bill. Have a look, after all just what does it cost besides some of your time. Know what I mean Verne 🙂
By the way, if you are a current user of Solid Works or Inventor and have no CAM program or have one but would like to have a try of HSM go here http://www.hsmworks.com/hsmxpress/ or here http://cam.autodesk.com/get-inventor-hsm-express/ for free 2.5 axis versions of HSM. This has been going on for some time and there appears to be no end to this in sight. I had to laugh at a CAMWorks 2.5 axis program for Solid Edge promotion earlier this year which would only cost $4,500.00 + maintenance. Does not quite stack up to free but sadly SE won’t work with HSM. Attention Carl Bass. Would you please buy SE too?