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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

Simulation Added To Fusion 360

October 1st, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

A day before its official release, I spoke with a couple of Autodesk Fusion 360 staffers, Daniel Graham, Fusion 360 Senior Product Manager and Bill Danon about what to expect in the newest update.

The biggest news was the inclusion of simulation capabilities in Fusion 360 – at no additional cost – at least not for now or the foreseeable future. That in itself is pretty significant. Of course, there were some other improvements and enhancements, but let’s start with simulation

Simulation in Fusion 360 lets you perform linear stress analysis that assumes linear elastic behavior and infinitesimally small displacements and strains, as well as modal analysis for study the dynamic properties of structures undergoing vibration. With Fusion 360 simulation you can define materials, add constraints, and add loads to solve for weaknesses in assemblies, within the design environment.

When in the Fusion 360 design environment, a workspace labeled “SIM” under the workspace switcher is where you choose from two types of simulation studies: Static Stress and Modal Frequencies.

Fusion 360 Simulation

 Static Stress lets you run single and/or multi-body linear static analysis. I was told it’s as easy as constraining an area of the model, putting a load on it, and seeing how that load will affect the design and determine what part of the design is more prone to fail.

Modal Frequencies let you see the natural vibration frequencies of a design and how much deformation will occur when it is subjected to a specific frequency.


Autodesk Fusion 360 Simulation

Some of the major features in the Simulation workspace include:

  • Setting up adaptive mesh refinement
  • Defining degrees of freedom and contact behavior
  • Assigning and overriding materials for testing
  • Solving locally (cloud-based solve is in the works)
  • Toggling results threshold in real-time
  • Animating results to see deformation in real-time
  • Generating convergence charts and reports

In addition to these features, study results that have been saved in a latest design version can also be shared, viewed, and marked up by team members within the design’s detail page on A360 via the web browser, making easier to communicate and collaborate.

“Simulation traditionally takes multiple software tools and hours of work. Not so with Fusion 360. We made it powerful, but simple. And by integrating simulation directly within the design and engineering workflow, users can not only build more viable parts with fewer iterations, but they can also develop intuition and expertise to reach validation more quickly,” said Kevin Schneider, Director of Fusion 360 at Autodesk. “We see this update as the next critical step in making Fusion 360 the most innovative integrated platform for developing products, from concept all the way to fabrication.”
Additional simulation capabilities such as thermal, fatigue, and optimization analysis will come in future product updates, and from what I was told, not too far in the future.

With regard to thermal analysis, it would be useful to have transient analysis because it gives a more realistic result compared to a static analysis. For example, the most dominant stresses in a jet engine occur during take off when the outer shell of the engine gets hot before the core of the engine. This causes a thermal expansion of the outer core while the core still is cold. This is the case for many other designs as well. Another example is the thermal behavior of a 3D-printer nozzle that extrudes plastic. There are many empirical designs being made and a thermal analysis would improve the understanding of the behavior of the design.

In order to use the thermal results for stress calculations, the temperature and resulting thermal expansion would need a combined analyses of thermal and stress at predetermined time intervals.

An analysis is only as good as the boundary conditions. For thermal analysis, the heat flow in and out of a part is often controlled by a heat transfer coefficient from air or fluid. The simple, but still very useful condition is to have a heat transfer coefficient and a bulk temperature on the boundaries.

Simulation isn’t the only thing coming with this latest update. What would an update of a design product be without improvements to collaboration and drawings?

Team collaboration in Fusion 360 gets a boost with real-time multi-user design review, improved commenting, the ability to move projects across hubs, and improved A360 compatibility. For those not familiar with it, Autodesk A360 is a project-based collaboration service for individuals, teams, and organizations that provides viewing, search, and sharing capabilities.

Modeling edits made within Fusion 360 during a live review session are reflected in the web session in real-time. If you are driving the design from the client, you can give permission to reviewers to interact with the design, and you’ll see it update within the Fusion 360 design environment.

Autodesk claims that collaborating in Fusion 360 is now more seamless, simple, and integrated. Instead of emailing static images or cumbersome screen shares, users can now share a link with remote team members who can view an active model live in a web browser as it is manipulated in real-time – something product development across distributed teams was always meant to be.

Fusion 360 DRAWINGS

Fusion 360 Drawings

Drawings in Fusion 360 are enhanced, allowing users to draw associative centerlines and center marks in addition to aligning and renumbering balloons.

As with the release of any CAD software, there are the perpetual “performance” and “stability” improvements, but I’ll let you be the judge of those claims, since they are usually not relative to any standard metric. In other words, “your mileage may vary”.

As I said earlier, fusion 360 simulation along with the other updates is available for the same price that it has been in the past.  Fusion 360 is FREE to students, educators, educational institutions, hobbyists and start-ups.  For commercial users, it’s $25/month ($300/year) with an annual subscription. All in all, not too bad a deal.

The new simulation capabilities alone may warrant a closer look at the newest update to Fusion 360, and the other enhancements make it a more attractive consideration.

Editor’s Note: Being a new middle school math teacher, I haven’t had a lot of spare time since school started to check out Fusion 360, not to mention some other interesting design/engineering applications. However, I have some breaks coming up in the next few months, and I will take advantage of those periods to acquaint myself with some new stuff and reacquaint myself with some updated stuff that I’ve been familiar with in the past and report back on how really significant these updates really are.

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