Moving from Desktop to the Cloud – What You Should Know

Are you ready to move from designing with a desktop application to a cloud-based program? More specifically, are you considering moving from Inventor to Fusion 360? What other cloud products does Autodesk offer? Many users have moved to cloud-based designing and have been very successful. Others have discovered concerns and limitations. Before you decide, be sure you’re aware of both the benefits and challenges of making the switch.

File Storage

First and foremost is file storage. Using Fusion 360, your files are stored in the cloud. For many companies, this causes concern for their intellectual property. Although I have not heard of any security breaches with Autodesk 360, many companies are not ready to take that risk. Others have embraced the cloud and find it secure and easy to manage their files.

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Since Autodesk is managing the files, you don’t need to schedule daily backups of your CAD files. However, it is recommended to create archives of your designs periodically… just in case, and for added security and peace of mind. File versioning is common for many of the Autodesk cloud products, such as Fusion, so it is easy to roll back to a previous version to take your design in a different direction. If you are a regular user of Vault’s Copy Design tool, though, you will miss this in Fusion.

Installation and Updates

Installation and updates of any desktop-based application can be difficult for CAD managers and IT staff. Yearly updates can pose quite a burden on large corporations. Fusion 360 generally wins the advantage in this area, but it can be a cause for concern. Since the updates are automatic, you are forced to receive them; you cannot decline the update. If a bug is introduced, you may have to wait a few weeks for a resolution. With a desktop-based app such as Inventor, you control when to update it, and you can uninstall your current version in favor of reinstalling a previous version, if necessary.

Collaboration

Sharing files is generally easier with Autodesk cloud products like Fusion, since they use A360 as the warehouse. Just share a link by email or chat and specify the recipient’s file permissions. No Pack and Go required, no zipping of folders, and no worries of how to send large attachments through email.

It is worth noting that in Inventor 2016 R3, Autodesk added the feature, Inventor Connected Design on A360. This has made it much easier to share your Inventor models.

A360 supports over 100 file formats so you can review your 2D and 3D CAD designs (50+ formats), office documents, and more. Plus, you can review these files in real time, making changes with team members or clients. It is impressive to use the Fusion Live Review tool to see, navigate, and post comments about the model, all from my mobile device. Model changes by the author update instantly on my screen. A comparable solution for desktop uses would be to use a web session tool, such as GoToMeeting or TeamViewer, usually at an extra cost.

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Application Choices

So what does Autodesk have to offer for cloud products besides the aforementioned Fusion 360? Plenty, but my specialty is for the apps that focus on product design and manufacturing.

If you need to develop a model with multiple users using multiple CAD systems, consider Mockup 360. I equate this to a hybrid of CAD, Navisworks, and Google® Docs. You can have multiple designers and engineers working on the model simultaneously, and the model sizes can be very large. This online tool takes care of the various CAD format translations for you.

Do you design products available in configurable sizes and options? Would you like to offer convenient RFQs for your sales staff or customers? Then you should learn more about Configurator 360. You can take your Inventor models into Configurator to offer a 3D configuration of your models. If you have spent or are considering a product configuration tool on your company website, give this a look first.

For those needing product lifecycle management software that’s easier to implement and use, check out PLM 360. This tool helps you manage a product from concept to end-of-life. And since it runs in the cloud, you don’t have the major hardware and software investments typical of in-house PLM implementations.

Lastly, how about a tool that helps you visualize your manufacturing processes? What if I increase the throughput on that assembly line? Where are my bottlenecks if I change this workflow? Take Process Analysis 360 for a test drive to help you study, analyze, and optimize your process. I am not aware of any equivalent desktop offering from Autodesk.

Migration

If you’re considering transferring your Inventor models into Fusion, be aware that Fusion is still a young product, relatively speaking, and still has some growing to do. Although parts seem to transfer successfully, not all features appear in the Fusion browser. For example, if you upload an Inventor assembly to Fusion, no relationships are transferred. This would be similar to opening a STEP model in Inventor. I am certain this will improve in time.

If you do want to test your Inventor model in Fusion, I would recommend the Pack and Go tool to gather all the parts. Remember to include the library components. Also, pack the design using a single folder hierarchy to make it easier to upload the files into Fusion.

Just a Matter of Time…

So if you are not using a cloud-based design tool today, I am confident it’s just a matter of time. You may not completely convert to the cloud today, but you might just add a design tool from the Autodesk collection. Visit the Autodesk Cloud Services site today to discover if a cloud-based product could help you work more effectively on your next team design.

Note: This article first appeared in Issue 11 of The Blast.

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