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Autodesk Fusion 360 or other free software?

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MrMetric

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AutoDesk rocks, IMHO, with its support of the hobbyist and small business community. This does *not* mean that I am comfortable with the product though. I've been around long enough to know that the DRaftSight/Alibre model of "hook 'em and then X%@#$ them" can happen anywhere, even AutoDesk. My hope is that they are big enough that they can see the value of the noise (us) and realize that hooking them may mean sales in the future. Let's face it, sales through conversation of goodwill (such as here) are also directly related to their current practices.

However, not all big companies think that way. DraftSight is developed by Solidworks, which was bought by Dassault Systemes. Their yearly revenue is 3.2 billion dollars which is effectively the same as AutoDesk's 3.3 billion dollars. There is a very real possibility that AutoDesk may pull the plug at any time, which is why I've continually looked for products I can buy, not rent, or which are freeware. QCAD is definitely an interesting play. I suspect it will do 95% of what most people want to do here, but it is not 3D. I've not had great luck with FreeCAD or other parametric solid applications.

I generally try not to fall in love with things like Fusion 360 for the above reasons. Usually this is a "must..... resist...." thing though because I think F360 is very very very cool. And it beats the socks off Solidworks because I can use all of those cool features for free. I have a yearly license for SW (through a membership to an organization), but a fairly limited set of modules, so I don't really use it much. A lot of that has to do with my distrust of Dassault after the DraftSight debacle. So far, AutoDesk has been far more friendly to hobbyists.
 

RonGinger

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I always expected Autodesk would cut off the free version, and today I see they have severely restricted what works in the free version. No more dxf output, several CAM features removed, lots of other restrictions.

All the old sayings- No free lunch, you get what you pay for, etc.

Damn, I think I will go back to Alibre, at least it is a price I can afford for hobby use.
 

JCSteam

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I always expected Autodesk would cut off the free version, and today I see they have severely restricted what works in the free version. No more dxf output, several CAM features removed, lots of other restrictions.

All the old sayings- No free lunch, you get what you pay for, etc.

Damn, I think I will go back to Alibre, at least it is a price I can afford for hobby use.
Can you elaborate for the lesser knowing, what do you need dxf for, is it for printing, laser cutting, or just to export an entire model with all parameters, dimensions included.

I still finding my way through Fusion 360, and CAD in general, and I have a free licence for personal, not for profit hobby use.

Regards
Jon
 

xpylonracer

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I always expected Autodesk would cut off the free version, and today I see they have severely restricted what works in the free version. No more dxf output, several CAM features removed, lots of other restrictions.

All the old sayings- No free lunch, you get what you pay for, etc.

Damn, I think I will go back to Alibre, at least it is a price I can afford for hobby use.
Hi Ron
Only problem I have with your plan is the Alibre package I use has no CAM feature and when I last researched it the price was OTT for my hobby use, have you found a reasonable priced CAM/Post processor to export your files to ?

xpylonracer
 

coulsea

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I have the free personal licence and can export to DXF. fusion 360 is the first 3D program that i have used and find it really easy to use but i would really like something that i can load onto my computer and not work in a cloud
 

OllyM

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I've *just* (as in yesterday) started trying CamBam for generating g-code for a little desktop milling machine I've just finished building. So far so good! Not as pretty as Fusion, but pretty easy to pick up. Evaluation version (which I'm using) gives you 40 free sessions until it limits the amount of g-code it will generate, and costs £93 to buy a license. Also, doesn't appear to use the cloud in any way, so no net connection required. I have no affiliation, just like what I've seen so far and like to support little independent businesses.

Cheers,

Oliver
 

xpylonracer

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Hi Oliver

Looks impressive except for not supporting G91 Incremental moves, will have a deeper look and trial the program to see if it suits me as well as my machines, does it output post processor for mill and lathe using Mach 3 ?

xpylonracer
 

BaronJ

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Can you elaborate for the lesser knowing, what do you need dxf for, is it for printing, laser cutting, or just to export an entire model with all parameters, dimensions included.

I still finding my way through Fusion 360, and CAD in general, and I have a free licence for personal, not for profit hobby use.

Regards
Jon
Hi Jon,

I use Qcad, having originally used Autocad ! I've used Qcad for a few years as the free community edition and bought a license for the things that the professional version offers.

DXF is drawing exchange format and besides allowing you to export your drawing for almost any manufacturing purpose also allows you to import the files into almost any drafting software.

You can freely share your work using DXF where Autocad's DRW format isn't always readable.
 

stanstocker

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Hi Folks,

As for Fusion 360, well... anyone remember 123D?

Alibre has been mentioned. I played with Atom 3D, and like the application itself as an affordable 3D CAD package. Very clean, quick, flows well in use. It just feels good, very few awkward bumps while making a widget.

It all sounds good until you dig into the licensing:

"You own it, no cloud" is their pitch. Yeh, right, OK, how come it has to call home every month to stay active? If you OWN it, why do you need Alibres permission to use it after the sale? Want updates? Buy maintenance. Can't have it on more than one machine unless you go online and move the license... Wonder what happens when they decide to take down the license server. It isn't like Alibre hasn't boned their customers before. Darn shame, it's actually a very nice package to use.

I bought the full Vectric VCarve several years ago. They don't require you to pay maintenance. They provided several upgrades for free, and I've only purchsed one upgrade over the years, for around $90 USD. It's on several machines in several of my shop buildings, obviously working alone only one copy is in use at any time. Vectric doesn't call home to mommy to get permission to run, with or without a network, it just runs. Somehow they make money and sell well regarded software. I wish they had a 3D cad module, you know for $300 or so I'd buy it if it works as well as their other apps. Quite often I just use the 2D drawing tools in Vcarve to get things done.

Guess it's FreeCAD, seems OK but it just feels awkward in places. I keep having issues with either not being able to fully constrain or ending up over constrained. Probably me being dense, it will likely fall into place after a week or so of beating it into my head. At least it runs pretty well on linux and windoze, can't comment on the Mac version.

Blender is great for organic shape sorts of stuff, but it's always seemed too different from CAD for mechanical "drafting" sorts of uses, and their constraints seem all or mostly related to objects and actions on objects rather than to the relationships between line segments and such. I may go play a bit and see if it makes more sense this time around, it's been at least a year since I last played with Blender.

Best to all,
Stan
 

kquiggle

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I'm going to put in another plug for OnShape which also has a free version.

I looked at Fusion 360 but they stopped offering a Linux version so not an option for me. Now they are cutting back further on their free version. I have no inside information, but if I was going to bet I would bet that further restrictions on free use will be coming. Possibly free use will be eliminated altogether. My guess is that Fusion 360 is either moving to a strictly corporate customer base, or possibly selling the company or merging with another company. I can't see them making a move like this unless it was part of a larger plan.

A few additional comments :

I have no financial connection to OnShape; I'm just a satisfied (free) customer. Free tutorials are also available.

OnShape is cloud based and works on Linux, Mac, and Windows.

The only real limitation on the free version that am aware of is that al of your files must be public. As a hobbyist I always put my work in the public domain anyway, so this is not a limitation for me. A further clarification: Making your files public does not automatically put them in the public domain, but of course it does give access to the world.

OnShape does not currently have a CAM output option, so anyone needing this would have to export STL to another program.

There is of course no guarantee that OnShape will not put further restrictions on free use in the future, or revoke free use altogether, just as Fusion 360 is doing.

There are numerous import and output formats with OnShape :

OnShape exports parts, Part Studios, Assemblies, Drawings, and tabs containing other imported CAD files to these CAD formats.

Parts and Part Studios
  • Parasolid B-rep (.x_t or .x_b) from v25 to v33
  • Parasolid mesh (.xmt_txt or .xmt_bin) from v28 to v29
  • ACIS (.sat) R21
  • STEP (.step) AP214 (geometry only)
  • STEP 3D AP242 E2
  • IGES (.igs or .iges) 5.3
  • SOLIDWORKS (.sldprt) 2004
  • STL
  • GLTF
  • Rhino (.3dm)
  • Collada (.dae) 1.4.1 without joints data (with meters as default units)
Assemblies
  • Parasolid B-rep (.x_t or .x_b) from v25 to v33
  • ACIS (.sat) R21
  • STEP (.step) AP214 (geometry only)
  • IGES (.igs or .iges) 5.3
  • STL
  • GLTF
  • Collada (.dae) 1.4.1 without joints data (with meters as default units)
Drawings
  • DXF (.dxf) Release 11-14, 2000, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2018
  • AutoCAD (.dwg) Release 11-14, 2000, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2018
  • DWT Template (.dwt) 2013, 2018
  • PDF
 

MrMetric

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Wow. Did I call it on Fusion360 or what! Frankly, I'm happier buying a lower end product and dealing with oddities, I think. Get something you *own* and not any of this subscription BS. I steadfastly refuse to become a party to monthly fees. And, no... I don't have cable TV. I grudgingly DO have a cell phone, but I don't subscribe to AppleTV, NetFlix or any of the other subscriptions. I add up how much they'll cost over the year and 9.5/10 times I quickly decide I don't want to pay that much. I'm cheap.

I'm happy with 2.5D on my CNC. I was looking forward to tinkering with 3D, but it isn't that important to me. CamBam is probably where I'm heading next. I've looked at them in the past with interest. I've not been super thrilled with the output from QCAD. The gcode it produces is *very* primitive, which makes it difficult to read/check. Pecking for drills is literally a separate call for each up and down versus letting the control do it. But... it does work.

I think I'd still like to use Fusion360 but the big problem there is that I simply don't trust AutoDesk. I don't think they are selling the company, or the product; I think they are just trying to capitalize on the installed base now that people have gotten used to it. They put out a sparkly lure with nice bait... let it sit in the water, people bit, and now they are reeling it in to see what flops in the boat. OK, that is their right, I get it.... Just as it is my right to say, "no... I want to *own* a product, not lease it"
 

Cogsy

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I steadfastly refuse to become a party to monthly fees. And, no... I don't have cable TV. I grudgingly DO have a cell phone, but I don't subscribe to AppleTV, NetFlix or any of the other subscriptions. I add up how much they'll cost over the year and 9.5/10 times I quickly decide I don't want to pay that much. I'm cheap.
I don't know what free-to-air TV is like in your area but where I live it's terrible, so I do have cable and Netflix as well. Cable supplies my sports and some other general interest stuff, and Netflix lets me watch a movie or TV series when I want to. I just had a quick look at 'buying' a couple of shows on DVD, Trailer Park Boys (which I watch) and Friends (for the wife). Complete box sets of them both would run me around $220 but for my $15 this month I can binge watch the whole lot while the kids are watching something else on their personal devices (if I had the time and inclination anyway).

I think subscriptions have their place, especially when you're getting frequent valuable updates and access to support which happens on some of the software that I use. Some of the products that virtually every one of us uses are subscription based and we just take it for granted (insurance, electricity, drivers and vehicle licenses, etc.). It's a business model that works and provides the companies incentive to continue supporting and improving their product to remain competitive in their fields. We're all extremely lucky we get provided as much as we do for free - imagine having to pay for your internet browser or subscribe to a search engine service!
 

MrMetric

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All true, Cogsy.... I can't disagree with you.... And yet, my parents didn't have any of this stuff and they were extremely happy. They were also, in many ways, better off financially. We are bled in so many ways that we often forget. It is one of the reasons that so few people really save for retirement. But, no problem there... The government will always take care of us.

OK, that last bit was punchy... But I can't fault companies for wanting subscriptions. I just think people should push back on it. It is not, in general, a good idea for consumers. The software companies I've worked for wish they had more subscriptions. I remember a very interesting conversation with some people from Adobe. It was roughly the same size as my employer. But, Adobe had very little subscription based products and we had quite a few. They were trying to figure out how to migrate to our model. Needless to say, they were successful in the endeavor. Adobe now forces subscriptions on most of their products and have a constant stream of revenue. Of course, there is also a pretty strong crack market that has developed as a result.

I love machining and I hope to continue to do it for the rest of my life. That said, it *is* a hobby. When the cost gets prohibitive, I'll drop it long before I drop my medical coverage. Subscriptions encroach on people entering this hobby all the time by virtue of an added cost of access. I suspect that as time goes on, the trend of the younger generation becoming engaged in model making will continue to drop, which is unfortunate for all of us. I am a firm believer that things like subscriptions are an impediment towards growing the model making, and other, hobbies.

I do put my money where my mouth is. This is why I bought QCAD. I hope to grow its base; it is my own little protest against the growing market model.
 

SmithDoor

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I use AutoCAD 2000lt on my Windows 10 64 bit.
It works great better than when I use on Windows ME.
I see AutoCAD 2000LT come up on ebay for low cost.

Dave

I've been using Inventor on a student license for a few years now, however will be graduating university in 2021 so this will no longer be valid.

What free or low-cost software does everyone use? Fusion 360 seems popular with model engineers and I imagine will be quite similar to Inventor. Is this my best bet going forward or is there anything else I should consider?

Sorry if this is a question that comes up a lot.

Cheers,

Calum
 

Oldiron

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The only problem is Autocad won’t activate anything 2000 or older
even though you “own it”. I tried to reinstall 2000LT on my computer after a reformat and was told by Autocad, your out of luck. This was a full, paid for version too.
 

KellisRJ

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Sorry if I missed any earlier comment.
Anyone have experience with DeltaCAD? 2D, it is limited to DWG, .DXF, and .DXB files, but is also "stand-alone" based on a licensed personal copy of the application. They do mention "True 32 bit program for improved performance." so obviously not 64. Sadly no Linux version.

Delta Cad - World's easiest CAD program, CAD software

Ron
 

MrMetric

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Kellis... I'm glad you brought up DeltaCAD. That is inexpensive, indeed. Heck, I am going to buy it just to throw the developer a bone so that he is encouraged to continue developing the program. And it supports Macs to boot. I do wish that it had a CAM module that could plug in though. Anyhow thank you for bring it up!

Smith... Those eBay ones are almost certainly illegal. There is a great deal of debate/shunning regarding sources such as this on the forum. Frankly, I think it is a personal decision that everyone needs to make for themselves, the same way it is as to how fast you drive down the street. When making that decision, however, there is another component that you should probably consider. Because the software likely comes from dubious origins, it is entirely possible that it could have added Trojans and viruses in it. I think I'd be more than a little concerned running it on a computer that wasn't sandboxed in its own space (not on the private network), etc. I personally have elected to go down other routes (QCAD, NanoCAD, and researching low cost CAM.... with a Fusion360 in there for tinkering).

Oldiron... That is a problem with the "modern" software approach, and something that I hate. You are absolutely correct... Even if you own something, it doesn't mean that you can activate it again. The years of license keys are over with, sadly. Now it is all about leasing and activations. But you brought up a good point. In my diatribe against subscriptions, I did neglect to express my angst against activation processes. I used to own ACad Rel 19, I think it was (so long ago I forgot!). I should have kept it because it probably would be something worthwhile to have now. It would be ancient compared to modern versions but you know what? It worked; it worked consistently, and there as none of this activations/subscriptions stuff that exists now.

Kestrel... I've said it before, but I'll do so again... There are two programs I'd look at. One is QCAD. I can't say I'm 100% thrilled with it, but you can own it for a reasonable price and it does work pretty well. Sadly, it is *not* ACAD-like command structured though. That is my biggest frustration point with the software. Beyond that, check out the free version of NanoCAD (v5, I believe). Sadly, it *is* activation enabled so God only knows how long you can actually get it. And, it is no longer developed; plus, the new versions of NanoCAD are, yep, subscription based and pretty expensive. So, I personally would approach the free version with a little concern. Fusion360 is an excellent product that you'll fall right into if you are used to Inventor. However, if you have followed this thread, you'll see that AutoDesk is in the midst of changing the free version on it right now. Frankly, Fusion still has a LOT to offer. The big elephant in the room, however, is how long that will be the case. ADesk is definitely a bait and switch company, so you can probably expect to have to pay a subscription within a few years, or sooner. I personally don't want to fall more in love with Fusion than I already have, so I am kind of moving off the platform. Oh, I'll still use it, but I won't depend on it.

There are also some organizations that have low cost license agreements with SolidWorks. Those may be a little more stable than Fusion and AutoDesk. That said, the modules you get are generally pretty limited.
 

L98fiero

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Anyone have experience with DeltaCAD?
For $40 it's pretty close to Drafix 2D cad I had on an Atari ST in the late 80s but it was more complete and a lot more polished. Learning DeltaCAD should be fairly easy and it opens dxfs that LibreCAD won't.
 

OllyM

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I use Rhino3D for my CAD modelling. Originally got it for designing model planes and drones, it's curved surface tools are superb. Mainly use it for mechanical design now and like it alot. Costs a bit under £1,000 for a perpetual license key. You can buy a CAM plugin, but it costs more than Rhino itself which is why I'm exploring Cambam. I've also used OpenSCAD for generating gear and timing pulley profiles for 3d printing.

Cheers,

Oliver
 

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