Autodesk Fusion 360 slid an interesting feature into their latest release: 3D print slicing.
The popular cloud-based subscription 3D modeling tool is chock full of features, and now they can prepare 3D print jobs — in a rudimentary manner.
Fusion 360 CAM
Fusion 360 offers a design workspace in which there are plenty of tools beyond 3D modeling. You can, for example, also create sheet metal designs. It’s also possible to develop mechanical devices with complex moving parts and even simulate mechanical forces or automatically generate structures based on those forces. It’s a very powerful system.
One of the features it has long offered is “CAM”, or Computer Aided Manufacturing. This is the process by which a 3D design is converted into executable code to run on, say, a CNC milling machine. Fusion 360 allows the user to inspect and modify toolpaths to ensure the right milling bits are used at the appropriate sequences.
The CAM process is essentially the same concept as 3D print slicing, where a 3D model is transformed into GCODE for execution on a 3D printer. Aspects associated with the print job, as opposed to the 3D design itself, are specified during slicing, such as the number of copies, infill percentages, etc.
Fusion 360 3D Print Jobs
Now it appears that Autodesk has decided to include 3D print job preparation in their CAM workflow. A look at the updated “Manufacture” space shows that CAM can be done for milling, turning, cutting and, now, additive.
Of course, 3D print slicing depends significantly on the specific machine involved, because they can have additional or slightly different GCODE commands. As such, Autodesk has smartly included the ability to generate GCODE for select machines from the following 3D printer vendors:
Note that only selected machines are available in Fusion 360, and there are many models unavailable. In fact, there are only twentyish 3D printers listed. XYZprinting, for example, is perhaps the 3D printer manufacturer with the highest number of different 3D printer models, yet they have only one entry on the list, the Da Vinci Color Mini.
Fortunately, Autodesk has included a number of the most popular machines, including:
Creality Ender 3 and Pro
Prusa i3 MK3S
Ultimaker 3, S3 and S5
For those with other machines, there is still a possibility: Autodesk offers a “Generic FFF Machine”, whose configuration can presumably be tweaked to match an unsupported device.
Fusion 360 Slicing
The more popular 3D print slicing systems today, such as Ultimaker Cura, PrusaSlicer/Slic3r, or Simplify3D are actually quite sophisticated, having evolved over multiple years to arrive at their current powerful states. This does not yet seem to be the case with Fusion 360’s slicing system.
There is a shortage of defined material profiles. To be fair, Autodesk is at a significant disadvantage here because a 3D printer manufacturer like, say, Ultimaker, needs only to provide profiles for their equipment. Meanwhile, Fusion 360 would ultimately have to provide profiles for ALL machines. I’m not sure how they are going to handle this as the system evolves in the future.
Fusion 360 includes pre-made profiles for only 12 materials, and not only is it likely the material you want is not on the list, you will have to tweak the profile to match the particular machine you’re using.
For the print job settings, Fusion 360 provides a set of parameters as seen here. However, when you dig in deep it really does appear that the options presented are at a basic level only. Again, this is perhaps due to the fact that Autodesk could have to support arbitrary devices in the future.
But users of Ultimaker Cura or other modern slicing systems, the Fusion 360 options will likely appear to be something that is several years old in terms of sophistication.
Will You Use Fusion 360 Slicing?
One interesting observation is that the Fusion 360 slicing system must adhere to the unusual visual interface protocols used by the entire Fusion 360 system. They’re easy to use, but a bit different and new users often find them confusing. Compared to other slicing systems, the flow through Fusion 360’s slicing system seems awkward and less than optimal.
Eventually, however, those who “live” in Fusion 360 may find this beneficial as the visual interface paradigms remain consistent throughout the work. But for casual users accustomed to other slicers, Fusion 360’s slicing system is a bit strange.
At this early stage I cannot see serious users making use of Fusion 360’s slicing systems. The alternatives, although standalone, are far more sophisticated and easy to use. They also tend to include far more specific machine and material information that would have to be manually input into Fusion 360.
Nevertheless, this release is the very first from Autodesk for this functionality. It will certain improve, and I’m interested to see what happens next.