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Autodesk Fusion 360 or other free software?

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MrMetric

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cadsculptor... I don't think you'll have any complaints about Fusion's capabilities within this forum. However, I'm not sure I agree, respectfully, that it remains the best game in town after today though. I've started to check into OnShape and it seems like it could be a nice fit for what many of us want. No, it isn't the panacea but, frankly, neither is Fusion. And I can do stuff with OnShape that I'll no longer be able to do with Fusion.... Let me say that again.... OnShape will have more (CNC) capabilities than Fusion. That is a statement that I'm sure AutoDesk would rather not have widely discussed, but it is the reality of the free customer after tonight!

I must say that I'm wondering a bit how AutoDesk is going to handle the ATC thing. If they don't allow you to setup different tools, then that would be a major crippling of the application, I think (to the point where I might even argue, after trying it out to confirm, that the product isn't even functional). But if you simply have a place where you can easily (manually) insert a tool change macro into the G-code, then that seems like it just an inconvenience. Maybe that is the extent of what AutoDesk is attempting to accomplish; a business wants to have seamless flow, but hobbyists will always find a way around a problem.... I'll see how it all works over the weekend, I suppose, because I am *not* leasing Fusion... Rapids could be manually inserted too, I guess, although that would be ugly and probably a whole lot more dangerous.

I'm still looking at CamBam as my go to solution as I move away from Fusion. And, maybe this will encourage developers to make FreeCAD a better product. If we can get a decent 3D modeling application that is truly, and forever, free, then that would be good. I don't need all of the bells and whistles of Fusion for a hobby, and I can certainly put that perpetual $400 fee for Fusion each year to good use. And I really want to play with 5 axis someday. That would be an interesting tinker thing. If AutoDesk thinks this makes me a professional then they should go check out all of the forums and past KickStarter campaigns. They've been littered with people making cheap 3, 4, 5, and 6 axis machines.
 

SomeSailor

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I use both and I dont think there's really any serious comparison beyond CAD. You're saying CNC and onshape, but how are you gonna use Onshape for CAM? I have an ATC, 4th Axis and like my Rapids so I went ahead and upgraded from my free StartUp license just because the 40% was too good to pass on. $21 / month is no different than Netflix from a cost perspective. There sure is a lot of bitterness over what was never intended to be a free program and never promised to be forever.
 

MrMetric

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True on Netflix, although I don't have that. One of the few subscriptions I keep is Amazon Prime. I really don't believe in many others. I don't even have cable TV.

Bitterness? Perhaps, although I don't know that I would completely agree with the word. I fully understand that AutoDesk has the *right* to charge for their product. They own it, they manage it. I prefer to avoid being a pawn in their chess game, however. Fusion360 is successful *because* of the installed base provided by the free product. They had the right to change that, but so do the people who feel abandoned when they are the reason the product became great. As I've said in the past, even a user that pays nothing has significant value for a company... and I mean monetary value.

I like the ATC and rapids too. And there are plenty of products that can be *purchased* not rented which will allow you access to this. Most hobbyist needs are really quite moderate. We tend to gravitate towards all the bells and whistles, but the reality is that we can do with far less. To that end, Fusion is far more than most require. If you get used to something like CamBam, for less than one year's rental fee from AutoDesk, you'll have something that you can use for life (or until *you* choose to update it). I personally find that as an attractive alternative. But all of these are a personal decision. If you find the value in renting AutoDesk's software then for roughly a dollar a day, then that is great. By all means, I encourage you and everyone who feels the same to purchase the product. AutoDesk makes wonderful products and I hope they have a long and prosperous future.

There is another thing at play here too.... You are happy saving 40%. Good. But you are also just kicking the can down the road a bit. I look at it as, I may be saving 40% today but the real price *starts* at AutoDesk's non-sale today because in 1 or 3 years, that is likely what it will be. More accurately, that is what it will be as a *minimum*. So, the real question is, "Are you prepared to pay $500 a year or $1350 for a 3 year license?" I'd hasten to say that Fusion360 would be the single largest expense (on average) in your shop. I am not prepared to have CAD/CAM be that. You may say, "no, what about the machinery...." Well, I *buy* my machines (generally broken and I fix them), I don't rent them. With pricing increases, you could easily be paying 8K to 13K for your Fusion license. That is a lot of machinery. Even BobCAD/CAM is looking more attractive than Fusion360 right now (if you can buy it and suffer through its oddities).

OnShape does have CAM through FreeMill. However, it is limited, I believe. I haven't done much research about OnShape yet because it hasn't been on my radar. CAM may well be the sticking point because I don't really know if the free MecSoft product is going to do what I want. I really am thinking that CamBam is the route I want to go. But that gets back to the CAD side of things and whether or not I can export a format that CamBam can use. I really love the parametric capabilities of newer CAD, so I'd like to stick with that. Some of the open source products have progressed quite a bit, but I've also heard that they are still quite buggy. For 2D work, the free version of NanoCAD or QCAD are more than adequate. Those are perfect examples of products that work more than well enough as alternatives to AutoCAD, by the way. Are they as capable? No. But they are fine for our hobby (my opinion). I'm simply looking for the same conceptual thing for parametric CAD (specifically, alternatives to Fusion/SolidWorks)
 
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SomeSailor

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Well... I guess we perceive value differently. With my license I will have access to the most current version of their software, for less than 75¢ a day. I pay that much for the extra shot in my coffee each day. :)

You talk about the cost going up in three years, that may be true, but I have no more visibility of that than you do. If you want to use the free version of OnShape, there is no CAM, just CAD. If you want to make a dollar with you CAD, then you have to be OK with everyone who wants it being able to take your work AND you have to agree to their creative commons approach. Plus... the paid version is $1500/yr... and still no CAM

I spent $801 for the next 3 years... didn't have to as I'm on a StartUp license. See ya in three. :)
 

MrMetric

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I'm lucky if I can get into the shop for 4 hours a week right now.... and that is shop time. By the time I look at CAD time, I'd be paying $15 each time I logged on. The problem with AutoDesk's pricing structure, IMHO, is that it doesn't have room for the amateur that has more advanced needs than the basic (currently free) plan. I neither need, nor can afford, the full license version. And, frankly, its cost/value matrix really isn't applicable to me and most in the hobby (my belief).

I did get a chuckle about the coffee shot though. I was a late bloomer to coffee, and it started with some trips to Starbucks. I was appalled at the cost it was adding up to, however, (yeah, I'm sure you are laughing now... I agree) so I knew I had to stop. I ended up buying an espresso machine to solve the problem... Yes, I *own* it.

Ironically, I wouldn't mind buying Fusion360 as a perpetual *hobby* license for just about $800. That would be my maximum and I'd pucker for sure. I'm not sure I would "do it," but it would be a coin flip for sure. I just can't even come close to justifying it every 3 years. But... I respect both your decision and your ability to afford the purchase. I do wish you well Sailor, and any others, who have made that choice... When you see that poor slob out in the rain as you work in your warm houses on the computer, that would be me (OK, maybe not quite that bad....)

The commercial version of OnShape is never going to happen for me. Frankly, I don't know why anyone would want to buy it if it doesn't have CAM or any of the other feature of Fusion... unless it were a perpetual license. I can see how it might be worth it for some (not me) at that price.

Sadly, no... You likely will not see me in three.... I'll be using something like CamBam probably. Oh, I'll still keep the Fusion product around for some stuff, I suppose. But I will try to make a *conscious* decision not to rely on it.

Just to poke the bear a bit.... Maybe we (CamBam/FreeMill/whatever) will see *you* in 3 years if AutoDesk raises their prices! (OK, that was intended to be a friendly joke... I hope it was taken as such).
 

SomeSailor

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I'll give ya another example. I have owned EVERY version of Corel Draw from Version 1 to 2022 (22 versions now). I think on average they've gotta $295 or so for each "upgrade". I know I paid less for some, but also bought companion programs along the way. Do the math and I'm well over $5,000 in software that I "own" I have a closet full of it. :)

I run a business. I just spent around $40K on a mill and I have another $100K or so of other hardware and investments. This cost is just part of doing business. I'll wrap it in to my costs and write it off as an expense. I enjoy Fusion 360 and what it offers.
 

MrMetric

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Ah! That explains quite a bit then. I run no business where I can write Fusion off. Frankly, if you were using the free version (now or previously), you were likely violating the license terms because it precluded any commercial use (think there was a caveat there, but you get the idea). When I write a check for $801, I have to justify it to my wife. I have to explain why we can't go to dinner X times. Why the kids can't get that nice bicycle, etc, etc. I cannot explain it off as an offset against income that I'll derive from my work.

If I were a commercial entity, I would buy Fusion in a heartbeat. But my usage of Fusion is absolutely not-for-profit. I suspect that is the case for 90% of the people on this forum or, for that matter, those that had/have the hobby license.

We've pretty well beaten the whole license thing to death. And, in the end, AutoDesk really doesn't care. I can yell and scream into the wind, but I'm clearly not a customer they wish to placate. And, I'm not vain enough to believe otherwise. I'll adapt, and figure out a product that works better for me. I'll miss Fusion but, let's face the other reality... It is just software. It is good but it isn't the only thing that fits the bill. It isn't unique and it, like most everything else, is replaceable.
 

coulsea

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I hope that this thread doesn't put people off trying Fusion 360. I am sure that the people doing CNC have lost something important but for me it seems that it will still be a fantastic programme. I have only recently started using fusion but I am amazed at what it does compared to 2D. I am currently using it to design a part and print it on a 3D plastic printer to get an idea of look and scale before making it in metal, I also want to make patterns to cast some bits in the future,and can still do these things. It is difficult for a company like autodesk because the old free product would enable you to supply data to run a small scale factory and I wonder how many of the ebay hit and miss engines were made that way (maybe governments have had a hand in the changes).
 

MrMetric

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coulsea... I suspect that there will be a good number of people, such as myself, that move away from Fusion if they are interested in CNC. I think AutoDesk went too far in the restrictions there to make the product useful, compared to other options that are reasonable in price (owned, not rented, or free). People that are just using the CAD side are less impacted. As far as terminated licenses, my guess is that AutoDesk will see virtually none. But that doesn't mean the product will be used as much.

Whatever the case, I don't think it is going to die. As for it being difficult for AutoDesk... Ah, I don't think so. AutoDesk is a massive company with an extremely profitable portfolio. Fusion is a rounding error. And, of that, I think it would be everyone's dream in this hobby that AutoDesk's decision was based on pirated use of people designing engines (aka a commercial venture) and selling those on eBay! Why? Because that would mean that the hobby was thriving and a powerhouse of interest. The reality, however, is that we are dying a not so slow death. Every vendor I've talked to that sells castings has said that their business has dropped precipitously over the last decade. It is not a good sign. Ironically, this is part of the reason why I find AutoDesk's new licensing scheme to be frustrating. I think it serves to discourage people from this hobby because it increases costs significantly (again, this is more of a CNC thing). F360 has likely become one the single largest expenses we may have. Ironically, you don't even use CAD/CAM that much, which means that per hour expense of the product is even greater.

So, sadly (tongue in cheek), I think it highly unlikely that illegal use of the product for model engine production was even on the radar for the product team at AutoDesk, let alone the corporate folks there. :) No. This was about capitalizing on an installed base derived from providing the product for free, plain and simple... But... This is also what all businesses aspire to do, so there really isn't anything "wrong" with that.... Nor is there anything wrong for me saying that I don't believe the product is worth renting for $1335USD every three years.

SomeSailor... actually, I am not surprised. Based on your presentation, it seemed like you were licensing the product in a fashion consistent with your usage. And, given your ability to use the product in a business environment (and write it off on your taxes), it makes absolute sense that you purchase the license. I would too if I could figure out a way to do the same. But until that time, the money for the purchase competes with car repairs, food, soap, clothes, (ever increasing) medical expenses, and everything else that is truly required but never generates a dime for me. I'm married with kids... If I want to buy something like this, I have to run it by SWMBO... As my son, who has perfect grammar, likes to say, "That ain't happening, dad!" :)
 

SomeSailor

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I think AutoDesk went too far in the restrictions there to make the product useful, compared to other options that are reasonable in price (owned, not rented, or free).
What have you personally really lost other than time (No Rapids)? Do you have an ATC or 4th Axis?

Nor is there anything wrong for me saying that I don't believe the product is worth renting for $1335USD every three years.
It's not. It's $801 for three years, $267 a year, 73¢ a day. And you're not "renting" it. You own the license rights to use it. Much different and you imply you have no equity, but you do.

F360 has likely become one the single largest expenses we may have. Ironically, you don't even use CAD/CAM that much, which means that per hour expense of the product is even greater.
I spend more on coffee or carbide. :)

SomeSailor... actually, I am not surprised. Based on your presentation, it seemed like you were licensing the product in a fashion consistent with your usage.
I started with the personal license to see if I liked the product. Applied for and was granted a Startup License and saw the value of the deep discounts purchased a commercial three year license for the value it represents.

Every tool I own has value... or it goes in the bin. I have used tools others owned to see if they would suit my needs and this is no different. If you want to do CAM, and you want to do it well, there are only so many programs out there and frankly ALL CAM was out of my price range 10-15 years ago. It's amazing I can have a 4 axis mill in my garage shop at all. We live in amazing times. I have no calories to expend complaining about choices outside my control. Life is too short.
 

Jasonb

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Maybe it's all these people cutting their engines from solid on their CNC machines that is seeing the casting set side of the hobby shrinking plus the loss of small foundries and people wanting to make something different rather than the same old subjects. Since getting my CNC I've found myself doing even more engines where it would have been very time consuming but not impossible to carve from solid or even even engines where I would have fabricated everything except a flywheel which would have been a bought in casting I can now cut a fancy spoked flywheel from a billet of iron or steel so no longer limited to available flywheel castings..

I draw in Alibre so only use F360s CAM, don't have quick change tooling let along an auto changer so that won't affect me and my rapids are not set that fast so don't really mind if it takes a bit longer for something to run as I can be doing something else at the same time and still way faster than manually machining the same part. Having Steep & Shallow already moved to Extensions is the main downer but I'll see how I go before rushing into anything.
 

MrMetric

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Jason, whatever you are doing (castings, from stock, etc)... Good for you. And show your kids, neighbors, or anyone how it works so that we can ensure the future health of the hobby.

Sailor, Yes... I have an ATC and I'm just finishing up on a fourth axis. I resurrected a small industrial VMC (Dyna DM4400m). It was literally given to me for the cost of moving it out of the old shop (and moving two other machines into the newly vacated space). It has some problems, but nothing too horrible, and it is the perfect size for the garage. It actually came with an SMW indexer for which I've made an adapter plate and mounted an AC servo. Because this is a Mitsubishi control, it is rather picky about amplifiers, so that was a challenge to get working.

Anyhow, the ATC and fourth axis are my pain points with the new Fusion licensing... And I beg to differ. The normal pricing is $1335, so that is what is appropriate to use as the baseline for the license, not $801 which is a temporary 40% discount. And, I contend that it is renting, not ownership. Just as with an apartment, I rent the right to use something for a period of time. There is no equity in either the apartment or the Fusion license. If I had a perpetual license then that would be equity.

You are clearly able to afford and justify Fusion. You are lucky that you are able to do so. I do OK, but this expense puts me 'over the top' of reasonable hobby expenses on a perpetual basis (i.e. not an perpetual license but a rental). Am I frustrated with AutoDesk. Yes. Do they have the right? Yes. All is good there. It is all opinions and I agree about expending calories over this. AutoDesk isn't going to change their mind; in fact, I fully expect that in 3 years the price for Fusion will be $1500, not $1335, and so on. I've made my peace on it all... But I'm not going to congratulate AutoDesk on it's decision either.
 

MrMetric

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I draw in Alibre so only use F360s CAM, don't have quick change tooling let along an auto changer so that won't affect me and my rapids are not set that fast so don't really mind if it takes a bit longer for something to run as I can be doing something else at the same time and still way faster than manually machining the same part. Having Steep & Shallow already moved to Extensions is the main downer but I'll see how I go before rushing into anything.
To change the topic a little.... I've been looking at Alibre as an alternative to Fusion. You can buy their hobby version (buy == perpetual license), I think, for a reasonable price. What I don't know is whether or not it is very functional. So, I guess I have a few questions for you. First, why are you not using F360 for your CAD work? It is quite capable, so using Alibre (which costs money, which F360 used to be free) is an interesting choice and I'm very curious what the rationale was for that. Second, have you been happy with Alibre? And, third, which version are you using?
 

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To change the topic a little.... I've been looking at Alibre as an alternative to Fusion. You can buy their hobby version (buy == perpetual license), I think, for a reasonable price. What I don't know is whether or not it is very functional. So, I guess I have a few questions for you.
Alibre's Atom 3D is $199 and there is a free 30-day trial so why not try it out?


Here's a comparison chart between the two upper tiers of Alibre and Atom 3D if you want to see what each version gets you.
 

Jasonb

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Having been using it for about 10years now I had a lot of things already drawn and knew my way around it so why change. Yes happy with it, it does all that I really need. I started with their "PE" (personal edition) which would be similar to what the current Atom3D gives now being a cut down version of the more expensive one and ran that as a one off payment with no updates or support. When the latest team took it over and started updating and supporting it more I upgraded to their Professional level which is still not the top option but does have a few things that the basic Atom does not and I'm paying the yearly cost for support and current updates..

You can use their free trial for a few weeks to try it out.
 

MrMetric

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Having been using it for about 10years now I had a lot of things already drawn and knew my way around it so why change. Yes happy with it, it does all that I really need. I started with their "PE" (personal edition) which would be similar to what the current Atom3D gives now being a cut down version of the more expensive one and ran that as a one off payment with no updates or support. When the latest team took it over and started updating and supporting it more I upgraded to their Professional level which is still not the top option but does have a few things that the basic Atom does not and I'm paying the yearly cost for support and current updates..

You can use their free trial for a few weeks to try it out.
So... I looked at Alibre and I talked with their sales guy. He said they are getting a lot of traction from the F360 licensing change (no giant surprise). And, yes, they have real, honest to God, perpetual licenses. That is something that is a differentiating factor from F360. It actually looks pretty decent. The Atmo3D version is very inexpensive too. AND, they are coming out with a cooperative relationship with MeshCAM that will apparently give you 3D... Oh, with tool change and rapids. Sadly, no 4th axis. Pricing was not something he could give, but that will be published next week.

All in all, this is becoming the front runner for me. I have concerns about OnShape. You can also apply any purchase price to an upgrade at Alibre. This means that if they come out with a good deal, I can think about going to their pro version and get a perpetual license there.

To me, I think having the knowledge that I have some security in *ownership* is a huge piece of mind. Even if I bought Fusion today at 40% off, in 1/3 years, I have to assume it will be full price and that is just waaaay too much. Plus, why get more invested in a platform that is obviously changing to something more monetized. So, yes, I think I am going to give Alibre some serious thought. Thank you Jason and Mike for the head's up. I had completely forgotten about them.

If anyone has ever gotten this far in the thread, you're probably interested in alternatives to F360, so check out Alibre and MeshCam.
 

MrMetric

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I'm actually a little baffled there, Sailor... As you obviously have F360, you have access to the non-neutered CAM capabilities. Is there a deficiency in that which is causing you to seek an alternative?

Tormach is a fairly common machine now, so I would expect most people to have posts for it. That might not be true for the really expensive CAM system, though, because I doubt many owners of Tormach are buying those. The really expensive CAD/CAM clients are using far larger machines, some of which are really really interesting (take a look at DMG machines... very cool). The other thing is that Tormach's later generation controls are built off of LinuxCNC. As such, I would think that you can modify posts for that, of which you generally can find something suitable. If you are talking about their older controls, then that is a different beast that I know very little about.

Anyhow, the hunt is definitely on... I don't know how much success I'll have though. The kicker is the 4th axis. Finding 3 axis has gotten a lot easier over the last few years, but that rotary guy is causing some grief. That said, for ages I was using an old Hurco. Ironically, it was all conversational, so my g-code skills are actually fairly weak. But the thing I learned is that there haven't been *that* many times when I've really felt a huge need for 3 axis. 2.5D is generally fine for most of what I want to do. That is good too because I have a nice selection of small flat endmills, but I have very few ball endmills. The latter can be pricey and, well, you know how I like to spend money! (see, I can poke fun at myself). I think the salient point here is that for over 100 years people were making things on manual mills and lathes. We don't *have* to have CNC to survive, and 3D is not generally mandatory. I've seldom seen a model motor here for instance that required it. Fortunately, finding 2.5D CAM is *much* easier. I had hoped to build a hexapod and try that sometime for fun, but my days of doing that are completely gone now (the whole topic of the last 40 messages).
 
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Cogsy

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Sailor, Yes... I have an ATC and I'm just finishing up on a fourth axis. I resurrected a small industrial VMC (Dyna DM4400m). It was literally given to me for the cost of moving it out of the old shop (and moving two other machines into the newly vacated space). It has some problems, but nothing too horrible, and it is the perfect size for the garage. It actually came with an SMW indexer for which I've made an adapter plate and mounted an AC servo. Because this is a Mitsubishi control, it is rather picky about amplifiers, so that was a challenge to get working.

Anyhow, the ATC and fourth axis are my pain points with the new Fusion licensing...
This is interesting - you have an industrial machine and you want to run it at industrial rates (rapids), so what would stop you producing commercial parts at commercial rates? I believe this is exactly what the Fusion license restrictions are for. Now you might be a hobby user and never going to make a cent with it but if the capability exists to generate parts at commercial rates with a free license then why would the 'shadier' commercial companies (especially prevalent in some countries) invest in a paid license at all?

A technical point but I don't believe we actually 'own' any software, no matter what the pricing structure. We certainly can't access the source code (which is irrelevant for most) but how many on here have complained/commented on struggling to keep 15+ year-old computers alive so they can keep using their legacy products - and when they finally have to upgrade they find they've been missing out on 15 years of innovation and improvement and wish they'd updated years ago?

I understand you don't want to use Fusion any more but honestly I can't see what they've done wrong as a company. If you manually add your tool changes (from my understanding) all you're really losing is rapids which is just time. As hobbyists, and especially with 1-off parts, the time shouldn't be much of a concern to us so I don't see the big deal. I wonder how much of the 'traction' that Alibre is getting is from small commercial shops who actually need the industrial capabilities and have been getting by with a free Fusion license. The ones making money from the product should certainly be paying for its development in my book.
 

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