Autodesk Announces Major Changes To Fusion 360 Personal Use License Terms

Change is inevitable, and a part of life. But we’re told that nobody likes change. So logically, it seems we’ve proved nobody likes life. QED.

That may be a reach, but judging by the reaction of the Fusion 360 community to the announced changes to the personal use license, they’re pretty much hating life right now. The clear message from Autodesk is that Fusion 360 — the widely used suite of CAD and CAM software — will still offer a free-to-use non-commercial license for design and manufacturing work, with the inclusion of a few very big “buts” that may be deal-breakers for some people. The changes include:

  • Project storage is limited to 10 active and editable documents
  • Exports are now limited to a small number of file types. Thankfully this still includes STL files but alas, DXF, DWG, PDF exports are all gone
  • Perhaps most importantly to the makerverse, STEP, SAT, and IGES file types can no longer be exported, the most common files for those who want to edit a design using different software.
  • 2D drawings can now only be single sheet, and can only be printed or plotted
  • Rendering can now only be done locally, so leveraging cloud-based rendering is no longer possible
  • CAM support has been drastically cut back: no more multi-axis milling, probing, automatic tool changes, or rapid feeds, but support for 2, 2.5, and 3 axis remains
  • All support for simulation, generative design, and custom extensions has been removed

Most of these changes go into effect October 1, with the exception of the limit on active project files which goes into effect in January of 2021. We’d say that users of Fusion 360’s free personal use license would best be advised to export everything they might ever think they need design files for immediately — if you discover you need to export them in the future, you’ll need one of the other licenses to do so.

To be fair, it was pretty clear that changes to the personal use license were coming a while ago with the consolidation of paid-tier licenses almost a year ago, and the cloud-credit system that monetized rendering/simulation/generative design services happening on the Autodesk servers. Features removed from the free license in this week’s announcement remain in place for paid subscriptions as well as the educational and start-up license options.

The problem with these personal use licenses is that it’s easy to get used to them and think of them as de facto open-source licenses; changing the terms then ends up leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. To their credit, Autodesk is offering a steep discount on the commercial license right now, which might take some of the sting out of the changes.

Update 09-25-2020: Autodesk has announced that STEP file export will remain in the free version of Fusion 360

313 thoughts on “Autodesk Announces Major Changes To Fusion 360 Personal Use License Terms

  1. I knew this would happen eventually but damn it! it sucks!
    I owe my current Job to the fact that the free version gave me access to tools I would not have normally (FEA, CAM, 2D Drawings, Rendering) and as a hobbyist built a decent portfolio to show off in my interview.
    The first thing I did in my new position was put in a purchase request for f360 commercial licenses.
    Autodesk used the hobbyist community to beta test, build educational content, and give feedback. To completely nerf the free offering is a real dick move.
    I really like f360, so much so, I would even pay a subscription. However, I could never justify the current cost….

  2. Yeah, who didn’t see this coming.

    Sadly this isn’t a result of the good programmers that created Fusion 360, it’s due to the unimaginative assholes in marketing. They can’t figure out how to deliver a decent product at a fair price, so they’ve turned everything into a subscription.

    Fusion 360 actually *induced* me to get a new computer, but once I ran it I’d say it’s a bit of an embarrassment.

    For SolidWorks, after a 1 hour intro, I easily took to it, and filled in the details with some YouTube videos. It just seemed intuitive. In contrast, Fusion 360 seems clumsy. It has some of their own tutorials, yet so ill conceived that Ch 3 talks about concepts not instoduced until Ch 5. And their own web site doesn’t have the files that their own video refers you to. Pretty sloppy, Autodesk.

    Elsewhere I’ve used TurboCAD for decades. Upgrading occassionally. But *their* marketing assholes have caught upgrade-itis. I swear, no sooner than I’ve upgraded, then they are emailing me notices of yet *another* version with spectactular features, for only a few hundred bucks. I swear, its a subscription as well, they just call them $200 ~ $400 updates.

    I think Shakespeare said it first: “First, kill all the markerting people!”

  3. Yesterday Autodesk announced some changes to their Fusion 360 license for Personal Use that may have some makers confused or disappointed.

    Autodesk posted details about these changes on their blog: Changes to Fusion 360 for Personal Use

    I teach several classes at Chimera Arts Makerspace in Fusion 360. The introductory class in the series: “Introduction to Fusion 360 for Makers” helps makers evaluate whether Fusion 360 is a good choice for their projects and a safe investment of their time.

    My initial reaction to Autodesk’s changes is that the move is unsettling and confusing, but, on closer examination of the details of the changes, it may be for the best in clarifying the uses of the software, something many beginners stumble over when trying to come to terms with the huge feature set of the program.

    Most importantly, I don’t see anything in the features that have been removed from the Fusion 360 Personal Use license that would affect typical use by the maker community. This move by Autodesk doesn’t appear to be intended to squeeze revenue from the maker community by forcing them to upgrade to a paid version for critical features. The Personal Use license will remain free and fully capable for laser cutting, CNC routing, 3D printing and most 3-axis CNC machining applications.

    I was very concerned that removal of “DXF export” referred to removing the ability to export 2D sketches in the DXF format. It does not. That critical feature remains in the Personal Use license. 3D Printing and the ability to export 3D STL models are also still present in the Personal Use license.

    The core set of CAM capabilities in Fusion 360 are still available under the Personal Use license, and the set of features still far exceeds anything else available in any other free or low-cost software.

    1. The no rapids and no toolchange macros CNC features means you dramatically increase CNC machining time. That’s a) limited hobbyist time (not everyone is retired, and not all retirees have infinite hobby time) and b) more expensive if renting machine time by the hour in a makerspace.

      Note it is perfectly possible to make hobby projects in a shared makerspace. In our experience more than 80% of projects are like this. It is also perfectly possible to export a STEP file to send a hobby part to be manufactured elsewhere. These “features” are a normal part of hobby making. So no, the Personal Use license does not remain “fully capable.”

      1. Fair enough.

        But what constitutes typical makerspace use varies. It depends on user sophistication, training and the available equipment and tool use policies. My makerspace doesn’t have a toolchanger on our CNC, and we have a BYO tool policy for the CNC router.

        The removal of STEP and IGES export are serious limitations, but third-party fab facilities will inevitably find workarounds.

        From a practical perspective, I don’t have an alternative to Fusion 360 for CAM use. Even with these features removed, there’s nothing free or low-cost that compares. This highlights a particular risk.

    2. There is also the little matter of Personal use defined as “home-based”. It’s not clear if this excludes using shared equipment in a makerspace but a strctly legal reading would suggest that it does.

      I have cancelled our upcoming training courses until we get clear guidance from AutoDesk

      1. First IANAL.

        The term “home-based” was previously used in the description of the Personal Use license. It’s not new. But the verbiage on the webpages has changed (I don’t have the actual licenses to compare):

        The new webpages say:
        “Individuals with non-commercial personal design projects.
        “Individuals doing home-based non-commercial manufacturing and fabrication.”
        “Fusion 360 for personal use is free for 1-year for qualifying non-commercial users. A hobbyist user must generate less than $1,000 USD in annual revenue, using Fusion 360 for home-based, non-commercial design, manufacturing, and fabrication projects.”

        Previously, the web page said:
        “Fusion 360 is available for free personal use for individuals who are doing home-based, non-commercial design, manufacturing, and fabrication projects.
        “Individuals must be learning for personal use, outside of a company environment, commercial training, outside of their primary employment.
        “Individuals must be engaged in hobby businesses* or creating YouTube videos, blogs or other web content.**”

        My interpretation is that “home-based” refers to who owns the projects and who is licensing the software.

        It is interesting that the clauses about learning and YouTube videos have been removed.

        1. Richard Lawler: I believe this specifically applies to makerspaces. Adding the words “home-based” excludes them. Period. Unless you live at the makerspace, just NO. It has been decided that this option allows us to do things Autodesk is not interested in supporting, so this option is revoked.

          But it’s pointless to discover the actual boundaries of the new license, since the trauma we’ve experienced here is that no matter how closely we adhere to the fine print of the rules, that fine print is subject to change with little warning. Or no warning, since there is nothing that requires Autodesk to give even the warning they have given. What’s the point in exploring whether Fusion 360 can still be used in a makerspace if that could change next month? Autodesk has shown that they do not need us. If they have a conscience, they have probably said, “if hobbyists can’t afford our reasonable prices, they can find free and open-source applications suitable for their use.” I’ll give them that benefit of the doubt. But the point isn’t “how can we still use Fusion 360”, any more than a bird being kicked from the nest should be thinking “can I still come back on weekends?” The point is that for many of us, the only viable option IS open-source. The choices are, pay significant fees, or be choked out, one loophole at a time. As several people have pointed out, it’s time to embrace open-source, to either find, nurture, or develop workflows that cannot be taken away, to be responsible for our own futures. Autodesk is a dead end. Deal with it.

          1. I’d like them to be honest. If they are excluding makerspaces, say so, and let’s make that widely understood.

            Then it’s not so much “Personal Licenses are not changing”, more “The maker community can go **** itself”.

            An awful lot of spaces will be cutting their Fusion360 training courses in that case, but, hey ho. I guess Autodesk don’t need a sales pipeline.

  4. Isn’t it great, that $80/month is just fine for you? 1) knock yourself out. 2) Let’s see what you think about that when they jack it up to $250. The fact that you’re on the favorable side of the pain/benefit curve is a transient thing.

  5. Unfortunately, some of us jumping rats were on that perfectly fine ship for more than 20 years. After being betrayed by Cadsoft, ( hard to believe after all those years), I started to give my hard earned money CERN for Kicad development. Currently I’m barely surviving, so I can’t donate anymore. Companies with lying project managers like this should be held accountable. I normally don’t get involved in sharing opinions like this publicly, but Auto-desk really screwed the pooch on this one. I will probably be forced to use Eagle 7.16 until I die. (based on recent events, that might not be too far into the future).

  6. Interesting how HAD deleted my previous post from existence. I get it. It could result in action from Autodesk. I won’t post here again. You are just like Slashdot, Autodesk, and many other dead entities that used to be real. I’m done. Last post from guest.

  7. I used Inventor for years and then fusion for years. I was a big fan of the assembly features and being able to import stuff from McMastercarr. All good things must come to an end and sometimes good things fall apart. Time to explore libre options and actually contribute this time

  8. Companies that have moved to this subscription-only model (including Autodesk and Adobe) are on my blacklist and I refuse to give them a cent of my money.
    The only subscription I have is for Netflix and that’s worthwhile since I get all that content far cheaper than it would probably cost if I had to pay for each piece individually.

    I will also avoid doing anything important with software that stores all the data in the cloud.

  9. Is there really anybody out there who did not see this coming?

    Autodesk never made any secret out of the fact that you can use the product at their leisure- the license always was clear, and limited.

    It should have been clear to everybody that the terms would change at one point or the other, once marketshare is big enough, and enough people are hooked deep enough in the ecosystem.

    Autodesk can’t be blamed for this at all – it’s the users in denial of their ‘too good to be true’ deal that should think twice next time when they blame FOSS for small bugs or missing features while taking ‘free’ offers from NASDAQ companies and advocate for it.

  10. The Fusion 360 offer now goes:

    Basic non-commercial Maker (Free)
    Advanced non-commercial Maker (no offer)
    Startup & Educational License (Professional features, Free)
    Professional ($500/yr)
    Advanced Professionals ($ more)

    As an advanced, non-commercial maker, I am baffled as to what AutoDesk expects me to do. It would be cheaper to register a company every three years and take the startup license than to pay their full price.

    1. Since last year the Fusion 360 startup license is vetted by Autodesk. Your startup company must be less than 3 years old, be making less than $100K/year gross and have no more than 10 employees. Freelance and consultant use are not allowed. You need to reapply every year.

      Autodesk seems to prefer hardware companies using a startup business model including venture capital funding, but they don’t require that.

      I advise my students who think they qualify for the Fusion 360 startup license to not rely on it until they have been granted the license by Autodesk.

      Solidworks has a similar offer for startup companies with less than $1MM lifetime gross revenue, and venture funding (< $1MM) is required.

    2. Also, the Startup and Educational licenses are not the same. The Startup license allows commercial use except paid work for hire by the licensee such as freelancing or contract work. The Educational licenses are strictly non-commercial.

  11. Incidentally. _Where_ was this announced? Surely Autodesk have a responsibility to inform me of any changes to my current licensing agreement?
    They send me enough spam, why didn’t I see a message about this from them?

  12. Can’t help but thinking “told you so”. For several reasons:
    a) Autodesk never was a “nice” company … they are driven by profit, not ideals.
    b) Who DIDN’T see this coming? … yeah, those with a Wishful Thinking Bias, which are in fact most people. Let’s use this as a rather rude awakening and apply this knowledge to debunk promises in the context of certain new “deals”… like “green power – free for all” etc.
    c) If “free forever” isn’t free (you are paying with your time, effort, feedback and content, not to mention personal data), then “free for now and under special conditions” means even less.
    d) If you don’t have a copy of your files in an open format on your local drive(s) you can be crewed… correction: you WILL be screwed.

  13. Sad you can’t even print a 1:1 pdf file. As a maker, I print to paper 1:1 to check form fit and function. Not no more.
    The least the could of done was watermark the pdf. I wouldn’t care. These are just test patterns to me..
    Will have to start all over and look for something else. And when it get big.. I probably have to start all over again.


  14. While fusion 360 changing their personal license, did ANYONE think that they were going to give away the store for free forever??? From the sounds of it not many of you remember the old days of buying engineering software, where the license was four figures. While there are issues for sure with using the cloud, but most are using the cloud every day. Cell phones are cloud based. You think all that Siri or Alexa is native? All your text messages are cloud based so that if you get a text when your phone is off, you receive it and your voicemail regardless of if your device was on at the time of the call or message. Frankly I understand people’s concerns. However that said, I have designed probably 50 parts in the last 30 days with Fusion360. Parts that would have taken me 3 months or more to do in 2D. I am likely going to sign up and pay the fee, as for me, the value is there. My only concern is that the paid version allow local storage so that it is more useable when the system isn’t on the net. We all hate change. But in this case, I wouldn’t have bought Fusion360 to try it out. I feel that their personal license is really a way to get people to see how powerful the product is. for $40/month that is only around a buck a day it seems worth it to me.

  15. I would willingly pay a one-off payment of say £500-£1000 for this product, it is is well worth it. HOWEVER, cloud based..No! All my files are local and will remain so, they belong to me not you!….to be held to ransom to access my own intellectual property?….taking the proverbial !…I wish Autodesk all The very best but I’m afraid I won’t be joining them on their journey……

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