Fusion 360 Subscriptions, etc

I’m interested in learning some 3D software and have been researching and trying to find a “cost effective” way to see if I can master this format (I must be truthful that it really looks intimidating at this point). I know Fusion 360 was once offered for free for hobbyists, etc. and “start ups.” and I’ve read some of the discussions here:

A visit to their website clearly states that their policies have changed, and I know there has been other discussions of how this might be maintained in the future, so I would hate to invest a lot of seat-time in learning something that later becomes prohibitively expensive.

What I really need feedback on is the merits of the program and relative ease of use. I’ve looked at some of the video tutorials on the Autodesk website, and even they look very complicated and intimidating. Don’t get me wrong, I typically learn things pretty quickly and I am pretty computer literate, but if some of you guys who have made the transition from 2D to 3D could chime in and especially any of you who have direct experience with Fusion, that would be helpful–particularly as it relates to learning the software. Any other suggested relatively “low-cost’to-learn” software suggestions would also be appreciated.

Alibre Atom3D was bundled with our machines for a while — it seems a good value ($99, described as Solidworks Lite).

I worked up a basic tutorial on doing parametric design with it:


If you’re doing mechanical design, it should work well.

If you’re inclined towards programming there’s OpenSCAD. Other free/opensource options include Solvespace and FreeCAD and Blender.

Despite the risk that Fusion360 may not be free someday (I don’t think they will commit suicide by not letting pure hobbyists use it forever though), and even if it does have a significant learning curve, I have found that if you are willing to invest about 10 hours of your time in learning, you can probably acquire a basic working knowledge of F360 that is enough to start feeling good about using it (which is the key to then become proficient with it). Here’s an example.


Their policies have changed, but towards being more liberal than they were before in some ways. Used to be there was “education” and regular subscriptions. Then they added a start-up freebie and a hobbyist freebie license. So far, they’ve been making it more friendly to the non-payers rather than not. They have always had the “need to sign up every year” stuff, but as yet (several years in) haven’t been asked to do so.

A few weeks ago I wanted to switch to the hobbyist license from original free license, and they told me to just create another account - sounds to me like they’re being pretty liberal with this stuff in practice.


I got a start up license for free. Have not used it too much because of the huge learning curve. I have watched a ton of video on youtube and still cannot master Fusion 360. I have a computer and software background but the learning curve is quite steep. I bought a book on Amazon and still cannot seem to get it. Right now the Carbide 3d CC and CM are adequate for me but the future is murky for the Pro version. I think they will definitely have a Pro version but the cost is still murky. The Easel program has a pro version but it is strictly on line and my internet bandwidth is very low. So far I am very impressed with everything Carbide 3d had done. So there are many free programs or trail versions available to try out. Vetric seems to be king for the advanced hobbyist and/or professional but the cost is steep. So for now Carbide Create is my go to design software.

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The link @Julien posted above is great. I was having a hard time learning Fusion 360 but over the Christmas holidays I had the 10 hours to spend and watched the Paul McWhorter series. Well worth the time. I am using Fusion 360 about 30% of the time now. However, CC is still my go to.


I can add another “Highly Recommended” vote for the Paul McWhorter series on YouTube.
He succeeded in teaching me Fusion 360, where others have failed. Very well worth the time if you want to learn Fusion 360.

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If you just want to get by or do very basic CAM stuff mostly 2D stuff you’re totally fine skipping out on F360.

However, if you really want to take control or do unique features and geometry F360 is hard to beat. Free version is still powerful and it gets your feet wet in true CAD/CAM capabilities. There are other very costly and extremely powerful options out there and F360 is a great way to get a taste. The skills and mindset transfers over pretty well also to other true CAD/CAM software.

Do not be afraid. Fusion360 is no more involved than any other parametric 3D modelling package. There is, as said, a moderate leaning curve, and you never stop learning as you use it.

The “limited functionality” means no support from the company, and that the collaboration features (and a few others) are not enabled. Really shouldn’t be an issue for most hobbyists and new/learning users. There is little likelihood that further major restriction of features will occur, based on Autodesk’s past practice in this market, in part because the treat this license as the gateway drug to paid licenses. There are plenty of things to criticize about A.D., but the proactices in making powerful software available to non-pro market is laudable. There is a lot more to it (some I know, some I suspect, in the now long history of this software market sector), but not appropriate to go into here.

Whether it will be of use to YOU depends on what you want to do. Keep in mind when watching tutorials that there is NEVER only one way to do something, and there is often not one BEST way. Explore. Experiment. I use this class of software every day, and I learn new things every day, and I routinely find basic concepts that are hard to do (like bisect and angle in Inventor… Grrrrr)

If your goal is to move beyond the level of signs, simple reliefs, and similar, which are conceptually relief carving from a flat surface with profile cuts, then Fusion is a good place to start. Do be aware that a tool like Fusion and Inventor and SolidWorks are overkill for those types of task and make simple things like a nameplate quite difficult. Unless, of course, your nameplate will be engraved into a three dimensional Mobius strip (that is what is on my desk at work)

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Thanks for all the comments and encouragement. Thanks to https://community.carbide3d.com/u/Julien for the link. Guess I’ve got some video to watch. This forum is great and I always get some timely and worthwhile support. Thanks to everyone for that.

I’ll probably take the plunge and get whatever free version of 360 that is offered as I do anticipate needing something that will allow 3D modeling and production. Right now, I have been able to get by through using Inkscape and CC, but for my purposes and for my intent for the purchase of the SO3 I will eventually want a 3D production software. I guess the reason I dread the learning curve so much is that it slows me down on some of the things I want to do (time in the shop). Still being a working stiff, I rarely like to spend my free time sitting in front of a computer, but if the dividends are worth it (and many say they are) I’ll invest the 10 or so hours into learning to use it. Lord knows it took me longer than that to get Inkscape to work like I wanted it to work, and I have some experience using Google Sketch Up, before they decided to pull the plug on the free version.

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Word of advice: don’t try to carry old habits (e.g. from Sketchup)/expectations with you while learning Fusion. From what I see, what drives people crazy is when they try and do things the way they think it should work, and then Fusion “won’t let them do that”. This is why this particular video series is so cool: it starts from scratch, takes baby steps, repeats things a lot, and gives you simple habits that will make your Fusion learning way smoother than just trying to wing it and try things semi-randomly (which can work in other software, but is a recipe for frustration with Fusion)


Exactly what @Julien stated.

Totally get the limited time in the shop issue as well.
Do whatever is fastest when you need something done.
Last thing you want is to struggle and get a bad taste for F360 when time is of the essence.

Otherwise chip away at the basics as time allows with F360.
Follow along an exercise to a T and machine it as well with some scrap material.
Getting down the workflow and understanding how it works start to finish will make you faster - to the point F360 is no longer seen as a hurdle.


Update: I’ve been doing a lot of videos and have been able to get some designs created in Fusion. :grin: Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. Haven’t tried setting up toolpaths yet or running any g code, but I guess that will come.

I did want to post another link to a series of videos that I have found very helpful. McWhorter videos are very good, and this fellow’s tutorials are also extremely helpful. His “live feed” recordings for absolute beginners are especially informative.

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