Fusion 360 for sheet metal

After spending years with Inventor, I have spent the last few months getting my head around Fusion 360, some of which can be detailed here: https://backstaydesign.com/2020/06/07/fusion-360-for-boat-design/ . I have been working on smaller, faster jobs lately, that have dovetailed beautifully with Fusions top-down workflow.

This has extended into the sheet metal tools, with the more flexible workflow of Fusion once again coming into its own. The ability to combine sheet metal and ‘normal’ components, as well as different thicknesses of sheet metal within the same model is a huge time saver. It took me a while to figure out where the finer points, for example offsetting flanges to not run the full edge lengths, were available, but I am pleased to report that they are there!

One aspect that I am struggling to work with is the DXF drawing export. The standard workflow is to export the DXF flat patterns directly from the 3d model as individual files, something I have done in the past but only when I am really pushed for time. I much prefer to lay all my flat patterns on a single drawing and just do one DXF export at the end. But the fact that Fusion only allows a single models views to be shown on one drawing, and then does not export the DXF in 1:1 scale complicates things. Although I can understand that the average user probably only has a handful of flat patterns to export and is not terribly bothered by this, I do enjoy seeing all my flat patterns together on 1 sheet and having the confidence that they are latest version.

And another aspect that I struggled with had nothing to do with the software. Over the past 5 years, all of the hundreds of parts that I have produced for cutting and bending have been cut on the CNC table, while this latest job is going to be laser cut. Usually I put my flat patterns down so that the bends will face up – so that the CNC mill can scribe a short line on either side of the plate for the centerline of the bend. These scribe lines then get used to position the plate in the bending machine. But for lasercutting it would seem that the opposite applies, the ‘good’ side (which is typically on the outside of the bends) of the plate needs to face up on the flat patterns. The reason being is that this side will have a protective PVC plastic skin on the plate, which will be facing upwards when the plate gets lasercut. So after spending my afternoon reversing most of my flat patterns and bending drawings I am back on track, and lesson learnt – check first whether the parts will be laser- or CNC cut!

Other than the DXF export gripe, and I am aware that the software is being updated on a regular basis, I have full confidence in the sheet metal tools in Fusion. And I am sure that there is plenty more to explore.

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