Autodesk Blinks, Keeps STEP File Export In Free Version Of Fusion 360

Good news, Fusion 360 fans — Autodesk just announced that they won’t be removing support for STEP file exports for personal use licensees of the popular CAD/CAM platform after all.

As we noted last week, Autodesk had announced major changes to the free-to-use license for Fusion 360. Most of the changes, like the elimination of simulations, rolling back of some CAM features, and removal of generative design tools didn’t amount to major workflow disruptions for many hobbyists who have embraced the platform. But the loss of certain export formats, most notably STEP files, was a bone of contention and the topic of heated discussion in the makerverse. Autodesk summed up the situation succinctly in their announcement, stating that the reversal was due to “unintended consequences for the hobbyist community.”

While this is great news, bear in mind that the other changes to the personal use license are still scheduled to go into effect on October 1, while the planned change to limit the number of active projects will go into effect in January 2021. So while Fusion 360 personal use licensees will still have STEP files, the loss of other export file formats like IGES and SAT are still planned.

Hackaday Links: September 20, 2020

The announcement of Autodesk’s changes to the Fusion 360 personal use license terms this week caused quite a dustup. Our article on the announcement garnered a lot of discussion and not a few heated comments. At the end of the day, though, Autodesk is going to do what it’s going to do, and the Fusion 360 user community is just going to have to figure out how to deal with the changes. One person who decided to do something other than complain is Justin Nesselrotte, who came up with a quick and easy bulk export tool for Fusion 360. This gets to the heart of the issue since the removal of export to STEP, IGES, and SAT files is perhaps the most painful change for our community. Justin’s script automatically opens every design and exports it to the file type of your choice. Since the license changes go into effect on October 1, you’d better get cracking if you want to export your designs.

Over on Twitter, Hackaday superfriend Timon gives us a valuable lesson in “you get what you pay for.” He found that a bunch of his header pin jumper cables weren’t even remotely assembled properly. The conductors of the jumper wire were only loosely inserted into the terminal’s crimp, where apparently no crimping pressure had been applied. The wires were just rattling around inside the crimp, rather than making sold contact. We’ve covered the art and science of crimping before, and it’s pretty safe to say that these jumpers are garbage. So if you’re seeing weird results with a circuit, you might want to take a good, close look at your jumpers. And as always, caveat emptor.

The GNU Radio Conference wrapped up this week, in virtual format as so many other conferences have been this year, and it generated a load of interesting talks. They’ve got each day’s proceedings over on their YouTube channel, so the videos are pretty long; luckily, each day’s stream is indexed on the playbar, so along with the full schedule you can quickly find the talks you’re interested in. One that caught our eye was a talk on the Radio Resilience Competition, a hardware challenge where participants compete head-to-head using SDRs to get signals through in an adversarial environment. It sounds like a fascinating challenge for the RF inclined. More details about registering for the competition can be had on the Radio Resilience website.

You know those recipe sites that give you a few choices on what to make for dinner based on the ingredients you have on hand? We always thought that was a clever idea, and now something like it has come to our world. It’s called DIY Hub, and it aims to guide makers toward projects they can build based on the parts they have on hand. Users create projects on the site, either hosting the project directly on the site or providing a link to projects on another site. Either way, the project’s BOM is cataloged so that users can find something to build based on parts stored in their “Garage”. Granted, most of us suffer from the exact opposite problem of not knowing what to build next, but this could be an interesting tool for stimulating the creative process, especially for teachers and parents. It’s currently in beta, and we’d love to see a few Hackaday.io projects added to the site.

And finally, we got a tip to an oldie but a goodie: How to Build a Castle. No, we don’t expect to see a rash of 13th-century castle builds gracing our pages anytime soon — although we certainly wouldn’t be opposed to the idea. Rather, this is a little something for your binge-watching pleasure. The BBC series, which was actually called Secrets of the Castle, was a five-part 2014 offering that went into great detail on the construction of Guédelon Castle, an experimental archaeology project in France that seeks to build a castle using only the materials and methods available in the 1200s. The series is hosted by historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Peter Ginn and Tom Pinfold, and it’s great fun for anyone interested in history and technology.

Distance Learning Land

[familylovermommy] has been homeschooling her kids even before the pandemic, so she’s pretty well-versed on being a learning coach and a teacher. One of the activities she designed for her boys has them creating 3D models using Tinkercad. In the spirit of openness and cultivating freethinking, she did not give them very many constraints. But rather, gave them the liberty to creatively design whatever scene they imagined.

In the Instructable, she shares her sons’ designs along with instructions to recreate the models. The designs as you’ll see are pretty extensive, so she embedded the Tinkercad designs directly into it. You can even see a number of video showcases as well.

This is a really cool showcase of some pretty stellar workmanship. Also, maybe a bit of inspiration for some of our readers who are creating work from home activities of their own.

While you’re at it, check out some of these other work-from-home hacks.

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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

How To Try Generative Optimization At Home

Chairs, spokes on a wheel, bridges, and all kinds of other load-bearing objects are designed such that material is only present where it is needed. There’s a process by which the decisions about how much material to put and where is determined by computer, and illustrating this is [Adam Bender]’s short primer on how to use generative optimization in Autodesk’s Fusion 360 (which offers a variety of free licenses) using a wheel as an example.

Things start with a solid object and a definition of the structural loads expected. The computer then simulates the force (or forces) involved, and that simulation can be used to define a part that only has material where it’s really needed. The results can be oddly organic looking, and this process has been used to optimize spacebound equipment where every gram counts.

It’s far from an automated process, but it doesn’t look too difficult to navigate the tools for straightforward designs. [Adam] cautions that one should always be mindful of the method of manufacturing when designing the part’s final form, which is always good advice but especially true when making oddball shapes and curves.  To see the short process in action, watch the video embedded below.

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Design And Construction With Copper Pipe

Copper is a material with many applications; typically, it’s used for electrical wiring or in applications where good heat conductivity is a requirement. However, it can also make for an attractive material in furnishings, which [Andrei Erdei] decided to explore.

A render of the coffee table design, exported from OpenSCAD into Fusion360.

[Andrei]’s work began in OpenSCAD, where he wrote scripts to enable the quick and easy assembly of various designs. The modular nature of commercially-available copper pipe and fittings allows complex structures to be assembled, particularly if you’re a fan of 90-degree bends. The final renders of some of these designs are impressive, with the coffee table design a particular highlight. Staying conceptual wasn’t enough, however, so [Andrei] set out to build one of his designs. Constructing a table lamp shroud out of copper parts was successful, though the real components have flanges and other features that aren’t represented in the rendering.

It’s a project that shows the value of tools such as OpenSCAD to aid the design process before committing to cutting real-world materials. While the designs on screen aren’t perfect representations of what’s possible in reality, it still proves to be a useful guide.

We’re a fan of the aesthetic, and would love to see more done with copper pipe as a construction kit. Global ore prices may limit experimentation, however. Alternatively, you can always harvest the metal from scrap!

Build Your Own Tools For More Power

Building something on your own usually carries with it certain benefits, such as being in full control over what it is you are building and what it will accomplish, as well as a sense of pride when you create something that finally works just the way you want it. If you continue down that path, you may eventually start making your own tools to help build your other creations, and if you also have some CAD software you can make some very high quality tools like this belt grinder.

This build comes to us from [Emiel] aka [The Practical Engineer] who is known for his high quality solenoid engines. His metal work is above and beyond, and one thing he needed was a belt grinder. He decided to make a 3D model of one in CAD and then build it from scratch. The build video goes through his design process in Fusion 360 and then the actual build of this beast of a machine. The motor is 3.5 horsepower which, when paired with a variable frequency drive, can provide all of his belt grinding needs.

[Emiel]’s videos are always high quality, and his design process is easy to follow as well. We’re always envious of his shop as well, and it reminds us a lot of [Eric Strebel] and his famous designs.

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