A Discussion With Kevin Schneider On Inventor Fusion

Today at AU 2010 I spent some time with Kevin Schneider, Product Manager of Inventor Fusion. Kevin and I have been discussing Fusion online and offline every since it was first released. In fact, I think that just about the only thing we ever talk about.

Inventor Fusion Technology Preview 4 was released a few weeks ago and it has become quite clear to me that Autodesk is getting ready to make a product out it. Here I am not talking about the Change Manager part of Inventor Fusion. In fact, in TP4 Autodesk did not enhance the Change Manager a lot. I am referring to the standalone Fusion direct modeling application. They have refined it to a point where is has come quite close to a product that is ready to be shipped. This aligns perfectly with the announcement that Buzz Kross made yesterday about Autodesk going after the DIY market with Fusion (see “Autodesk’s Plans For Inventor Fusion“).

I asked Kevin what kind of experience Autodesk had in the DIY space. Kevin replied, “I have spent some time with customers over the past year. Some of the ease of use features that we added were a direct result of working with non-CAD professional users“. I asked whether he thought someone with zero CAD experience could be able to use Fusion. Kevin replied, “I think its easier than anything that is out there today. Is it easy enough? No. We have a lot more to do. When I look at Fusion today I see that its functional but not beautiful. I think we can do so much better and we will“.

The enhancements added in TP4 were mainly of three kinds: (1) Ease of use, (2) Ability to import data from other sources, and (2) Wiring it up with simulation technologies. Kevin told me, “We want to make Fusion very easy to learn and use. We have found that users are using Fusion for top-down conceptual design. They start with an empty canvas and have no idea how many parts they are going to design. They sketch, boolean, split and do all kinds of stuff. Its a completely free user experience“.

Autodesk has added basic surfacing support to Fusion. They also turned on surface import support for existing translators, including CATIA V5, Parasolid, Alias Design, IGES, Rhino, etc. SolidWorks support is not in TP4 and Kevin tells me that they are working on it.

Regarding simulation Kevin said, “Analysts are not CAD professionals. They need tools that are easy to use. They need to import data from anywhere. They need model simplification which in fact is the first thing that they do to a model before analyzing it. Fusion TP4 now comes with a simplification wizard with which a user can defeature a model automatically using just a few mouse clicks. One of the problems faced by analysts is that not all the data they get is high quality and sometimes won’t stitch into a solid. Fusion now has tools to repair and clean up data. They also want to do mid planes and 2D cross sections for simulation. The surfacing tools added to Fusion allow that“. Yesterday I wrote, “Fusion can and will be a direct competitor to SpaceClaim Engineer“. I guess you can see why.

Yesterday I had mentioned that Autodesk will be shipping Inventor Fusion free with AutoCAD. To make it easier for users, they will now be able to copy and paste 2D and 3D geometry between AutoCAD and Fusion. Kevin said, “We found a huge number of AutoCAD customers who wanted to move to 3D for mechanical design but were reluctant to do so for a number of reasons, the main one being having to learn a whole new way of history based parametric modeling. They have taken to Fusion really well. The thing with Fusion is that you only have to learn a few new things. But the good thing is that they all apply if you decide to take the next step and move to full blown Inventor. So it makes a big leap into a set of smaller steps“.

The current TP of Fusion will run till May 2011. That’s six months. If you are an AutoCAD 2D user thinking of going 3D, I strongly urge you to try out Inventor Fusion. Heck, if you are any CAD user and want to try out some really nice stuff that Autodesk has been working on, check out Inventor Fusion. You don’t need Inventor to be installed on your computer.

I will end with an Autodesk video of the previous TP of Fusion.