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Autodesk Fusion 360 or other free software?

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SomeSailor

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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?
No, I'm good.

I really plan to use the 4th axis mostly for fluting rifle bolts, and making some RC car parts. Continuous 3D and 3+1 ops will all be rather simple ones. The ATC option is super nice as I can touch off everything in the carousel and automatically at the beginning of an op to verify tool integrity and excessive wear.
 

MrMetric

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Cogsy... I've never understood people's perspective that AutoDesk is trying to address "industrial machine." It is, frankly, irrelevant. What matters is whether or not you are a commercial entity, not the capabilities of the machine. That my machine is *capable* of being used commercial doesn't mean that it *is* being used that way. And, frankly, it really isn't viable anymore, if that is what concerns you. The machine is from the 1990s, and by an measure of standards today, it is old and not that accurate. If you wanted to do small stuff, a Sherline is probably more accurate.

As for owning software. I feel like you are splitting hairs here. *Technically* you are both right and wrong. In historical terms of use, you are granted the right to use the software (in perpetuity) but not the right to copy the software, (often) resell it, or reverse engineer it. There are generally other terms too, but those are the right ones. You seem to be trying to connect this to a the modern subscription paradigm as being the same thing. Fine. Historically you rent the software in perpetuity, if that makes you feel better.

And, finally, where have I ever said that commercial entities that are making money from Fusion should *ever* have been able to use the free version. I steadfastly *agree* with you that this is not consistent with their licensing.... But, I *am* entitled to an opinion. I *do* feel that AutoDesk dropped the ball on the same community that helped grow the product to the point where it is today. To that end, I feel they failed us. This doesn't, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that they don't have the right to make that decision. They have the right to terminate all licenses and deactivate all usage of the product. Frankly, I am not too sure I really care if they do. OK, that is an exaggeration. I do care, primarily because I think it would hurt a lot of people. I don't think AutoDesk really cares though. They've exercised their right to care about dollars and cents. Again... my opinions which, the last I check, I am free to have.

To address your comment about manually adding tool changes. Yes, that is probably pretty easy to deal with. The bigger concern I have, however, is manually editing files. I have a healthy concern about doing that, particularly the feeds part. But editing in a tool change isn't that big a deal, I agree.

The real reason I'm likely to move away from Fusion is that I don't trust AutoDesk. They've already shown that this is a product that they want to move into larger income generating role within the company's portfolio. I don't believe for a second that the $1335/3 yr license is going to stay that price. And, even if I did, I cannot justify that amount of money. I *could* justify a one-time purchase of the product for about $800, but that is pretty much the top of what I can afford. You can do more? Great! You are a lucky man. Be generous and pay more taxes. In the grand scheme of things, however, that is all I can do. So, yes, a less capable product, but one that I can own (OK... rent in perpetuity) is a better use of those funds, IMHO.

Oh, and I still have Windows XT on a laptop for some applications which work well.... No problem there... And probably 80% of the machines in people's garages are over a decade old. Software doesn't magically become useless just because it is old.... But if it stops working because the developer added that into the licensing, that is another matter.

SomeSailor... Ah, now I understand. It sounds like your usage is similar to what I was talking about. In many ways, 2.5D is probably what you also are using. So, if you do decide that you want to see what other things exist, I'd start with MeshCAM and CamBam. But I don't really know why you would. Fusion is going to be a better fit. You are clearly OK with the subscription rental scheme, so I would suggest that you just stick with that. If it were not for the money thing, that is what I'd do, frankly.
 
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MrMetric

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I think we've probably beaten this to death. Although we have differing opinions on the *value* of Fusion 360, or whether or not they have made a good move or bad, the simple reality is that AutoDesk really doesn't care what we think. They are not reading this forum and even if they did, it would not sway their course in the slightest. So, we have to agree to disagree and move forward with what works best for each of us.

The simple reality is that I enjoy working on machinery. I enjoy learning techniques and sharing ideas. That is what makes HMEM great, not bickering over some piece of software. To that end, I want to go back to what I enjoy. I welcome ideas on alternatives to Fusion 360 and CAM, but I don't think it makes sense to continue beating the same horse.

This is a wonderful website and I think all that contribute here should be appreciated. We need to grow this hobby and welcome new people. So, let's get back to that business.
 

Jasonb

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I don't think much of that traffic will be from commercial shops that don't want to spend much as Alibre for them would work out more expensive, they would really want Pro level and then there is the add in CAM that adds about £500GBP so not a lot cheaper than F360 if you allowed for wanting to update every few years. More likely knee jerk reaction form hobby users wanting a low cast CAD wrongly thinking they will not be able to do much with F360CAD.
 

dieselpilot

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If you didn't see the free license as a way of Autodesk obtaining a huge number of people to do bug testing, improvement suggestions, etc., that would one day come to an end, you were mistaken. CADCAM has real value in the marketplace, especially anything involving a rotary axis. Even long established CAM companies charge quite a bit for rotary add-ons.

To think that now you have to pay to get valuable features....

And that's the thing about virtually any hobby. If you want a full featured industrial machine like lets say a twin turret twin spindle lathe with 24 stations of live tooling, you won't get it at craigslist prices. All those ancient clapped out Southbends, that have no value in a modern machine shop, get passed around garage shops for pennies. CAD CAM has real value. Once an investment is making money, the math is very different, but you still have to make enough to keep the doors open.
 

bdrmachine

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If you didn't see the free license as a way of Autodesk obtaining a huge number of people to do bug testing, improvement suggestions, etc., that would one day come to an end, you were mistaken. CADCAM has real value in the marketplace, especially anything involving a rotary axis. Even long established CAM companies charge quite a bit for rotary add-ons.

To think that now you have to pay to get valuable features....

And that's the thing about virtually any hobby. If you want a full featured industrial machine like lets say a twin turret twin spindle lathe with 24 stations of live tooling, you won't get it at craigslist prices. All those ancient clapped out Southbends, that have no value in a modern machine shop, get passed around garage shops for pennies. CAD CAM has real value. Once an investment is making money, the math is very different, but you still have to make enough to keep the doors open.
I hope you guys don't find this message out of context but here are my thoughts on Fusion 360. I renew my license yearly. Currently, Autodesk is offering a discounted subscription price of $297.00/yr. That's pretty cheap compared to the alternatives. MasterCam gist quoted me $14500.00 That being said Fusion is cheaper than MasterCam's annual maintenance fees. Yes, Autodesk is continually upgrading and sometimes introducing bugs into their code but bugs are rare and usually quickly corrected. With a program this complex there is a learning curve to manage. Anytime I have issues Autodesk ALWAYs has had someone on the other end of the phone to quickly explain/help me thru them.
 

Foozer

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Fusion - I don't really make things, just like to do things. Getting a fundamental working knowledge of Fusion is a 'Do Thing' This new do thing is PCB. First bite was with Eagle, then noticed Fusion has PCB functionality and coupled with it's ability to G-Code, Hey, another bucket list 'Do Thing' in work. Always wanted to make a PCB, No reason why, just a thing to do and Fusion works fine for it.

Surprise to me was that my home grown stone axe and flint knife mill actually returned a decent end . . .
20201002_140509.jpg
 

nealeb

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Anyone actually used the new hobby version of F360? I "upgraded" a couple of days ago and have generated a few gcode files with it for testing.

1. You can export to .stp/.step. At least, the option exists although I have not actually tried it, not having anything to read it. Autodesk did back down on that one so some variant of "industry standard" export is possible.

2. Can't try 4th axis - never used it and have no models to use it with, but no reason to suppose that it is not disabled as per new features.

3. Rapids. Only rapid moves within a toolpath are converted into G1 and max feed speed. There is still an initial G0 to the start of the toolpath. This did concern me as I use a 1500x750mm router and a slow feed to the start of a cut half-way down the bed would be painfully slow. It does not look like an easy job to pick out the G1 commands within a toolpath that could be replaced by a G0, and the effects of getting one of those wrong would mean a broken tool at the very least.

4. Removal of ATC support. This is an interesting one. As far as I can see, all that has happened is that if you try to post-process multiple toolpaths, it complains and tells you to pay more money. If you PP each toolpath separately, it produces something that looks very like the previous output, complete with comment identifying the toolpath, and with an initial TxxM6 command. There is then the usual header and footer "stuff". Looks to me as if it's a simple editing job to just stick all the separate tool path files into a single file, trim out the redundant header and footer lines (easily identified) and you are back as you were. No, you wouldn't want to do this commercially, but for my limited hobby use it looks OK. I don't have an ATC but it's still convenient to have the embedded M6 commands that trigger a manual toolchange sequence on my machine.

5. No "drawing output to PDF" Well, that's a bit misleading. What has happened is that you can no longer use the "Output to PDF" button to create PDF versions of drawings directly. So, what you do is use the "Print" command (via the File menu) and then select a PDF "virtual printer." Yes, this does work as I have tested it myself. Created a drawing from an existing component, added a few random dimensions plus an isometric view, then went through the File->Print->Adobe PDF process. The resulting output file looks exactly like the version I would have obtained via the "Output to PDF" button. Yes, you need a few more mouse clicks but in practice - no real loss of functionality.

I wonder if one reason for the removal of "commercial" features is less to do with the odd model engineer earning a few quid/bucks on the side via eBay and more to do with small commercial outfits using the hobby licence for genuine commercial purposes. Could understand Autodesk being a bit upset about that.
 
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xpylonracer

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Even with the recent restrictions Fusion 360 is by far still the best game in town for the truly hobby user.

xpylonracer
 

awake

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With respect to CAM and 4th axis - FreeCAD v.19 has added some "preliminary 4th-axis" features to its CAM capabilities. I'm not sure what that means, since I don't have a 4th axis, and indeed don't have a CNC mill. But just a word of encouragement that FreeCAD might be, now or in the near future, a viable alternative.
 

Muzzer

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Deskproto is another option for 4th axis - DeskProto offers CNC machining for non-machinists

Not got round to looking into it in any detail yet myself but I suspect it's likely to be less buggy than the FreeCAD, which is a WIP. Not free (248 Euros for multi axis hobby users) but you actually get to own it.
 

MrMetric

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Neal. Thanks for the update.... I have concerns about hand editing too much. It seems like a good way to have a crash. The tool change isn't the hardest thing in the world, but a changer is generally pretty far away from the part being machined. So now you will slllllloooooowwwwwwly go to that location, change the tool, and then sllllooooooowwwwwwwlllllllly return. That is painful. The other looming issue is that I don't really believe that this is the end of AutoDesk's changes. In a few years, I'm pretty sure the hobby license will be further curtailed or removed. Although I suspect that the commercial people using a hobby license was a concern, the bigger consideration for AutoDesk was probably the pure monetization of the product. If correct, that sets a trend that will never end.

awake... thank you for the information. I didn't realize FreeCAD was moving into 4th axis world. Frankly, I don't need to make pretty pictures with threads, etc. I'm not trying to make reference documentation, only parts. So, if I can get decent interference checking with FreeCAD, I'm completely fine with using that over Fusion. But.... I do have to say that I'm a little nervous about FreeCAD right now.

muzzer.... I'll look at DeskProto too. Thanks

Alibre hasn't, to the best of my knowledge, announced any pricing on their MeshCAM integration. That is something that interests me very much. Both of those products are perpetual licenses, not time-based subscriptions (rentals).

I was also looking at Dolphin. That is far more primitive than parametric modeling, but it might be worth looking at. Dolphin, like Alibre, is a perpetual license.
 

nealeb

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Neal. Thanks for the update.... I have concerns about hand editing too much. It seems like a good way to have a crash. The tool change isn't the hardest thing in the world, but a changer is generally pretty far away from the part being machined. So now you will slllllloooooowwwwwwly go to that location, change the tool, and then sllllooooooowwwwwwwlllllllly return. That is painful. The other looming issue is that I don't really believe that this is the end of AutoDesk's changes. In a few years, I'm pretty sure the hobby license will be further curtailed or removed. Although I suspect that the commercial people using a hobby license was a concern, the bigger consideration for AutoDesk was probably the pure monetization of the product. If correct, that sets a trend that will never end.
I should have added that the code generated for each individual toolpath includes both the initial G0 to move it to the start of the cut and finishes with a G28 which will bring the tool back to (usually) the toolchange position. At least, that's the way my G28 position is defined and I think it's a common choice. As each toolpath includes that G0/G28 at top/bottom, just putting them end to end in a single file (and removing a few clearly identified header/trailer lines) will avoid those slow moves except during the toolpath execution itself. A long way from ideal but an equally long way from being unusable.
 

SomeSailor

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For $23 a month I'm not doing any gcode editing. The time I'll save in rapids alone will pay for that. :)

I guess that begs to ask what you value your time at, even as a hobbyist? I terms of dollars / hour?
 

nealeb

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It's an interesting question - reminds me of that old one that goes something like, "At your usual hourly rate, what's the smallest denomination note/bill/coin it's worth bending down to pick up?"

As a model engineer, I'm not sure that I can value my time in any objective sense. I make things that would be cheaper and quicker to buy just because it gives me more satisfaction that way. I don't like wasting time but I recognise that my time/money trade-off is a whole lot different now I am retired than when I was working.

The new F360 constraints around rapid speed are not going to make much difference to me. I stress "to me" because everyone's situation is different. I use a home-built CNC router for everything from plastic to steel. I often create (well, created) gcode files with multiple toolpaths with embedded M6 toolchange codes, but I do not have an ATC. So, the process used to be rapid feed to start of cut, cut, end of toolpath, rapid to toolchange position, then a couple of minutes to change tools, maybe with change of collet as well, reset tool height/Z zero. Hit start then next toolpath starts. I could edit together a half-dozen toolpaths in less time that it takes me to change a tool. Or maybe I don't need to bother - I just select the next toolpath file in the series. I'll try it and see.

Similarly, I doubt if the lack of rapid feed during a toolpath execution will make much difference for the kinds of toolpaths I typically use. None of the other restrictions will affect me much either, from what I can see.

So, $23 is about £15 - that's about 50% more than minimum hourly rate in UK. Very rough approximations here - I'm an engineer! I can't see the file edit or file switching, whichever way I go, adding more than 30mins to my monthly tasks. A subscription (and I'm thinking of what it will cost, not the special offer price) isn't worth it TO ME - I stress that this is a very personal decision. Yes, it's not what it was and they've taken some of my toys away. Does it suit me better than anything else around? You bet it does!
 

SomeSailor

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I think too many times, people have or take no real time to value their time. It's the one no one can give you more of. As they say "Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend" so if you truly value your time then assign a value to it and make your decision. I work all day at in aerospace R&D... I have very little time to contribute to my machine business but I do use it all to it's fullest. Anything I can do to increase my efficiency, conserve my time or my bottom line... I'll invest in. :)
 

awake

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I think too many times, people have or take no real time to value their time. It's the one no one can give you more of. As they say "Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend" so if you truly value your time then assign a value to it and make your decision. I work all day at in aerospace R&D... I have very little time to contribute to my machine business but I do use it all to it's fullest. Anything I can do to increase my efficiency, conserve my time or my bottom line... I'll invest in. :)
So here's the flip side: putting a value on the time I spend in a hobby (intended to be relaxation) seems like an excellent way to turn it into work (and therefore stress)!
 

nealeb

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Difference between hobby and business? Closest I get to "earning" from my hobby is helping a friend with something and getting a bottle or two of decent wine as payment! Common payment method in this part of the world...

I doubt that any of the "making" things I do would earn me anything like a decent hourly rate. Fortunately, they don't have to!
 

awake

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A long-ago seminar on managing stress suggested that most human beings need a certain amount of relaxation time to counter the stress of work. Unfortunately, most of us tend to turn our "relaxation" into work.

According to the seminar, work is characterized by schedules, goals, and assessment. So, if we go fishing in order to relax, but we spend most of our time seeking to catch a certain number or type of fish by a certain time, and assessing whether or not we succeeded, we have turned fishing into work.

There is a danger in a hobby that has inherent goals - to finish a working model - that it may not truly provide relaxation for us. The key for me is to make sure I enjoy the journey, that I value the journey as much or more than the end product. I don't always do that, of course ... but I can tell when I am starting to turn this hobby into work, by the way it begins to stress me out that I have to make more progress, speed up, etc.

I should note that all of this is framed in terms of "most" humans - but of course, all of us are wired differently.

If you are a natural workaholic, someone who genuinely enjoys working constantly, the above may not apply.

On the other hand, as my brother once said to me, "If you enjoy wasting time, is it truly wasted?"
 

Apprentice707

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The old adage, "We are cash rich and time poor", comes to mind. We can always earn more cash, but time is finite and unknown. I also value my time more as I get older since it is an ever decreasing commodity.

Just select something you like and have a go at it. Oh, and get a big scrap bin you will need it. The bar stock idea seems a good one, castings are expensive.

Good Luck.

B
 

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