Fusion 360 - Good enough to design complete robot?

Or team is thinking about switching over to Fusion 360, because it’s taught in local high schools and is cloud-based. When I looked at it a couple years ago it seemed to lacking features needed for complex assemblies, compared to Inventor or SolidWorks.

What about the latest version? Is it ready for serious CAD work? Are there teams out there using it for complete robot design?

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There have been absolutely no improvements on the cad side of things in fusion 360. The main improvements they have made are for CAM, and while it continues to be great for CAM, I absolutely would not use it to cad a whole robot.

Look into onshape if you are set on switching to cloud.

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The answer to your title is “yes”. That being said, if you are seeking a cloud-based CAD software just go with Onshape. As someone who has 2k+ hours in it and designed a fair amount of full FRC robots in Fusion (Example) I can tell you it struggles to handle large, high detail assembles. I would not recommend switching to Fusion for anything other than CAM and small hobby design projects (like small combat robots). All this being said, if you have enough time and patience you can produce designs equally complex as the other “normal” FRC CAD programs.

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If the local high schools are teaching it, that’s a good enough reason to switch over. Our 2019 and 2020 bots were designed in Fusion with no issues. I’m not sure where its reputation of being completely unusable for CAD came from - it’s more or less a slightly different version of Inventor.

However, I also feel like we’ve also missed out on a lot of the features Onshape provides, namely featurescripts. I’ll leave promoting it to those who have actually used it, though. :slight_smile:

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My only complaint is that Fusion 360 is super slow. Unless you have a great computer on a fast internet connection, it’s not worth it

Onshape is much better at loading fast. Fusion takes minutes to load, Onshape takes seconds.

The advantage to Fusion 360 is that it has CAM, which is good if you have CNC machining capabilities. Our workflow is now Onshape → export flat patterns to dxf → Import to fusion 360 and CAM

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Also, Autodesk educational licenses are a PITA. Onshape is much easier to get ahold of an educational license

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Not terribly helpful, but I know 4513 used it in 2018 and 2019 with success. They did choose to go back to inventor in 2020 though, but im not completely sure as to why.

Havent had this issue personally, getting edu licenses (as a student specifically, both HS/college) have been dead simple.

Every time I try it asks for official documents. It used to be very easy, where you just had to say you only used it for education, but they since changed that process and it’s been messy ever since. Onshape is dead simple

I should also mention that 7226 has used it in 2019 and 2020 successfully, but it wasn’t fun. The school’s wifi makes Fusion 360 incredibly slow for some reason.

I know 308 uses it successfully as well

Hot take from an Onshape evangelist - if your kids are coming in pros at F360 might as well go with that. That being said, if they are pros it won’t be too hard to switch 'em to another platform and if they are not pros then you might as well ignore the local schools consideration

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Its not even about having a good computer and fast internet connection. Fusion is slow regardless. We have ran fusion on a computer with 1gb/s internet, 4ghz ram, i9-10900k, and it is still so slow on complex projects.

If you have time in the offseason I would recommend switching to something else. If you want the best performance I would recommend Solidworks or Inventor but if you want cloud based and something that can be ran on any computer use Onshape. However, if you don’t have time to learn these new programs in the offseason, I would stick to fusion.

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I use/used Fusion extensively for FRC and personal projects. I developed a pretty good robotics workflow and had a whole personal library of COTS parts that I used. The direct McMaster import tool is a huge bonus imo. However, like other people have mentioned, Fusion doesn’t perform great with large, high detail assemblies so extra thought has to be placed into your level of detail and workflow. A few tips:

Don’t keep your whole robot in one file, split it into parts that combine together.

Use joints sparingly. These are pretty performance intensive, so using the align and capture position or rigid groups is more efficient for stationary parts.

Use component hierarchies to group hardware like bolts so they can be temporarily hidden.

Minimize features on parts (use 1 sketch for multiple extrudes, etc)

While I enjoy Fusion because I know it well, if your students aren’t proficient I’d definitely recommend Onshape. MkCad is a huge time saver, and there are a lot of great FRC specific featurescripts that will save you from tedious stuff.

TLDR: Use what’s fastest for you

How have you handled mentors who don’t have a school email?

I’m starting to mentor a team that uses Fusion for CAD, so I can report back eventually with results.

Check out how Martin from Wintergarten managed complex models in Fusion 360 for the Marble Machine X. https://youtu.be/9zL8pRDxPck

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This has been updated this year. As an educator you have 125 licenses you can simply email out now. This went live about 3 or 4 weeks ago I believe

Before I could assign licenses to specific emails, I, as a coach, wrote a letter of “employment” for the mentor that they uploaded to fusion as proof they were associated to the school.

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Disclaimer: We have used FUSION 360 since the 2017 season. We have ran into performance issues as others have mentioned when working with the final robot assemblies. However we have developed some strategies to overcome these limitations. Being mindful of rigid groups, not modeling threads on fasteners and importing/linking subassemblies has basically resolved the issue for us. If you are looking for a 100% web based solution, Fusion360’s browser functionality pales in comparison to OnShape but works well if you only need to edit designs on a chromebook or when away from your CAD stations.

However where Fusion360’s shines, is it’s integrated CAM functionality.
Our kids 100% CAD, CAM and machine the robot each season via an in house cnc router. Having CAM integrated into the CAD platform really improves our work flow as we don’t have to export files from CAD into a separate CAM utility every time there is a slight modification to the design. This allows us to iterate and test designs easier and faster. (For reference, if you need to move a hole a 1/4", using Fusion, change it in CAD and then go to the CAM tab and hit “update”, your CAM auto updates and is ready for machining). No need to export DXFs or go through the entire CAM process again, which for complex parts can take a significant amount of time.

Iteration and prototyping is good and having a tool that helps facilitate more iterations within the FRC season more than makes up for the slight hiccups we encounter. Also in terms of learning curves, you only need to teach new students one platform, rather than one for CAD and another for CAM. Less overhead to get kids operational.

Overall we have been more than pleased with Fusion360, as someone that uses PTC Creo, Solidworks and Inventor professionally, there is rarely an instance that I can’t accomplish something in Fusion that I could in those other platforms. However, if you think you are limited in CAD station hardware and you don’t machine most of your robot or iterate often on machined parts, OnShape might be a better choice.

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Thank you for all the great input. It appears there is no simple answer.

We’ll experiment with Fusion 360 during the pre-season & make a decision.

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