I’m just waiting for the free version of Carbide Create to match Fusion 360’s capabilities in every way.
EDIT: I’ve tried Fusion 360 a couple times, and if this were a business for me, I’d probably pay for it. As a hobbyist, my biggest complaint is that NOTHING is intuitive, you have to go watch a video to figure out how to do anything, and if you’ve been away from it for more than month, you have to start all over again.
I have paid for VCarve Desktop, and it’s pretty good and they don’t hit you up for too much money too often. Also, unlike Fusion, which is all things to all people, VCarve is a dedicated CNC woodworking application.
I’m also getting better at Carbide Create. It’s design features at the free level are decidedly on the level of 1984-era MacPaint (sorry guys, I call 'em as I see 'em) but in the same that 4 base pairs of adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine can combine to create all life as we know it, there are ways of using the relatively simple set of tools in Carbide Create to get pretty sophisticated.
I was lucky enough to be paid to learn to use Fusion 360. If it weren’t for that, I would probably hate it. Only 8+ months into learning do I finally realize the tiny nuances of parametric modeling that will make today 2x slower but tomorrow 20x faster. I don’t have my ShapeOko yet, but I got a pro xxl and I’m looking to make a business from it. I feel like the $60 a month I pay is justified. I might even feel that way as a hobbyist since I paid for the software even when I wasn’t earning from it. The whole reason I picked fusion was knowing that I wanted to get into MFG in a serious way.
I’m hoping it integrates as seamlessly as I hope it will. If it does, it will be a game changer.
I use F360 free version, have done for a long while, and, like @Julien said, I’m ready to jump once it becomes too unfunctional. For my hobby work it is fine. The bit I missed was board layout but I paid a small sum for a plugin by mapboardspro which is great.
The limitations of Carbide Create are why I use other programs for all but the simplest of designs:
Program things as desired, then get a DXF to import and assign toolpaths to. (One of these days I’m going to find a node/block editor which allows 3D modeling and allows writing out G-Code files, and I’ll just use it for CAD and CAM)
For this morning’s example from a support ticket see:
Inkscape/Macromedia Freehand/MX — I write out SVG files to import, and if more than trivial changes are necessary, export SVGs, convert to PDFs, edit in Freehand, then export as PDFs and use Inkscape to convert to SVGs. CC not converting into polylines when doing Boolean operations and support snapping to nodes/midpoints when node editing would go a long way to eliminating the need to export/import like that.
Once again, support are able to help. I found an Alibre voucher along with a calibration card both in a pocket on the back of the machine (never knew it was there!). I now have an option to wean off Fusion 360,
You won’t be able to do anything if you don’t renew your free/hobbyist license: it won’t work at all.
Features and license changes can come and go during the active period so if you do renew
you shouldn’t be in for any surprises on day 1.
I’m new to CNC but have many years of electronics (printed circuit board) CAD experience and
when Autodesk slurped up Cadsoft Eagle they nerfed it. First they dropped the $170 perpetual
“maker” level which got you 6 layers on up to 160x100mm and made it $100 a year to get only
4 layers. That was just about affordable as I tended up upgrade every couple of years anyway.
But 4 years later they rolled the whole Eagle product into Fusion360 and now to get more than
2 layers on 80x100mm you have to buy a full Fusion subscription.
Me like , gotta be kidding, Autodesk.
Eagle 7.7 going perpetually strong and I look forward to the same with Alibre.
Very interesting discussion. I agree with Julien - be ready to jump ship when the cost outweighs the benefits.
On the one hand - it’s free, as a hobbyist; it’s extremely capable; I’ve invested a lot of hours climbing up the learning curve; they do have a great support community; and the hobbyist restrictions don’t really cause me much grief.
On the other hand - it’s likely that this is only the start of the limitations on the free version.
Gripping hand - I’ll keep using it until the cost/benefit ration changes. And then I’ll have to start a new learning curve. Sigh.
That’s very frustrating, have you considered KICAD as a free alternative, it’s used by CERN so should be capable. There might be a problem converting your libraries and 3d parts over but there might be a utility to do that.
Honestly Julien Fusion 360 is SO frustrating for me in terms of just trying to set tool paths from a pre existing file! I know that I’m no programming genius. But I DO have experience with some of the more difficult music recording and film editing APs. Fusion is so completely NON intuitive. I’m at the point where I just want to find someone to program the tool paths and pay them to do it.
Hey @vrdjs143, welcome to the community.
I think the intuitive-ness of a program is more likely to be based on what you’re used to.
Got a file you’re having trouble posting toolpaths for? Post the Fusion file here.
One thing is for sure (and I would know, I tried and failed): one cannot just launch Fusion360 and “figure it out” without learning a bit about the concepts and how it approaches the design workflow in a specific way.
Me, it all clicked after I watched that video tutorial:
which is not even about the CAM side of things, but it does explain the approach of the CAD part, and then for the CAM part a few videos about the basics got me a long way.
For the toolpaths, I have found that:
when the toolpaths cannot be generated and you end up with errors, even though the error messages are cryptic, it often boils down to
using a tool that is too large for some of the features to be milled, or a material entry strategy (e.g. helical ramping) that combined with the tool diameter does not allow to mill the small sections of the model. I often have to reduce the helical ramping diameter for the tool to fit and the toolpath to be generated successfully.
something wrong about the various heights being defined. The error messages are relatively clear in that case.
many of the options matter, and there are many in the various tabs of the toolpath menu. I usually go through the tabs one by one and top to bottom (much faster once you get comfortable) to make sure I have everything covered. The pop-up help windows when you hover your mouse over any of the options are often quite helpful to remember what they do.
sometimes the tricky part is to select the right contours
I very often find myself creating a new sketch, projecting geometry of interest onto it, and using that sketch for toolpath contours selection.
the algorithm to pick up the features to be selected on the screen is quite smart, but sometimes you just go crazy trying to select something and it will pick up something else you don’t want. More often than not, this is because there is a transparent sketch “in the way”. I very often make all sketches but one invisible (and possible hide the modeled objects too) when selecting contours, to reduce ambiguity and user errors.
when selecting complex 3D contours, it is often very efficient to just pick a single edge (long click on it), Fusion will then let you select any of the connected edges, rinse and repeat until you have selected all edges of a tortuous 3D path, and finally click on the “+” to accept the selection.
Not trying to make a case that Fusion360 is easy to use (wait, why did I write a long post about this?), but if you are willing to invest 10-20 hours of learning it (and accept that it may not behave like other software), I think the design approach is actually brilliant and quite efficient (CAM included). As in all things, your mileage may vary.