Autodesk’s Fusion 360 for the CNC Woodworker

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In my last article, I wrote about the CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Router that I built for use in my Wood shop. I also have written several articles about my Carvewright Woodcarving Machine that I acquired several years ago. For many years I have been fascinated by the many and varied uses CNC Machines have for the modern woodworker. I see these machines as a new horizon for the Woodworking Industry, and believe every wood shop should have one. The reason that I built my newest CNC Router was that I did not like being locked into the proprietary hardware and software that I was forced to use to operate my Carvewright Machine, and I wanted to create a more open ended approach to my woodworking. I also did not want to pay a huge price for the software or the hardware. During and after the construction of my new CNC I was looking for a software product that allowed me to take that open ended approach and create almost anything imaginable. Along came Fusion 360 from the Autodesk Company.

Autodesk is a gigantic company that makes software for the architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing, media, and entertainment industries. It also is based in my home state of California which gives me close access to the enormous amount of training material and classes this company has to offer. Best of all, Fusion 360 has been offered to students, enthusiasts, hobbyist, and startup company’s free for as long as you use it, and all they want is that you start paying for it when you actually make money with it. Check it out here: http://www.autodesk.com/products/fusion-360/overview. A lot of the features in Fusion 360 are not needed by me at least for now, and it’s geared toward the metal fabrication industry rather than woodworking at the present time. My rationale is that if I am going to learn a software product for my woodworking needs why not learn one that is totally amazing to use, has such potential for future growth, can be ported to virtually any machine, has the CAD and the CAM seamlessly integrated into it, and, oh yeah, it is Free.

I have been learning how to use this software for about two months now, and have made several wood items with it on my machine. I am new to both Computer Assisted Drawing (CAD) and Computer Assisted Manufacturing (CAM). I won’t lie to you, Fusion 360 is not the easiest software to learn especially after using the almost plug and play interface of the Carvewright System for my early adoption to CNC Manufacturing. I have never taken any CAD Training before and also am learning CAM, at the same time, which in itself is hard to understand. Most designers draw parts with a CAD Software program and then send the design to a Machinist for the CAM end of the process. Fusion 360 let’s you do both, or if you prefer, you can design an item and send the drawing to a machinist with a CNC Router, or a Milling Machine. You can also port the design to a 3D Printer to be manufactured, or have it cut with a Plasma Cutter.

Autodesk University is the Learning Center for Fusion 360 as well as the other numerous software products offered by this company. YouTube also has a vast library of Fusion 360 videos that can be used for training, and learning the software. As I said earlier. I have been learning how to use Fusion 360 as a total novice and I am amazed at how much information I have digested by pure osmosis. I intend to continue and even accelerate my learning and will seek out online as well as conventional classes that I can attend. I also will continue to document my learning process of this software and my incorporation of it into my woodshop.

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