This blog post should answer (or at least try to) the question, if Fusion 360 could be used for a living space’s interior design. The reason why I decided to make a post about it, because at one point in my life I was searching for a such answer myself. To tell you the truth, there weren’t many thorough answers on the internet. So, I hope, I will make it clearer, how can/can’t this software be used.
Disclaimer: this is going to be my personal opinion based on my own experience with the current (at the date of writing the blog post) software version of Fusion 360.
Table of Contents
- Table of Contents
- What is Fusion 360?
- Types of licenses
- What it is good for
- Fusion 360 general drawbacks
- Fusion 360 renderer
- Why one would want to use such tool for interior design?
- But I am still using it (the reason)
- The Results (What I managed to push out from Fusion 360 render engine)
- What actual problems you might encounter (which I did) and their workarounds
What is Fusion 360?
Fusion 360, developed by Autodesk, is a powerful computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. It’s a tool that bridges the gap between 3D design, engineering, and manufacturing, making it a good choice for any hobbyst (including me).
The software allow users to create 3D models, generate toolpaths for CNC machining and even create photorealistic renders. Whether you’re an industrial designer, engineer, architect, or maker, Fusion 360 offers a versatile platform to bring your ideas to life.
But how does Fusion 360 truly perform in the real world and especially in architectural interior design? In the sections to follow, we’ll explore its capabilities, strengths, and potential limitations.
Types of licenses
According to Fusion 360 site there are 5 available license types:
- 30-day free trial
- Commercial subscription
- Personal (Hobbyist)
Experience the full spectrum of capabilities offered by Fusion 360 with a complimentary 30-day trial. During this trial period, you’ll get unrestricted access to CAD, CAM, CAE, and PCB features.
Furthermore, explore the potential of Fusion 360 with various extensions at your disposal. These extensions unlock advanced functionalities, spanning from additive manufacturing and generative design to sophisticated machining toolpaths and efficient sheet metal part nesting.
Fusion 360 – Complete Commercial Edition
Get everything that Fusion 360 offers through a subscription that grants you entry to a professional-grade cloud-based suite. This edition encompasses design, engineering, electronics, and machining software.
You will be able to customize your Fusion 360 platform with extensions tailored to your specific requirements and workflow enhancements. Extensions remain accessible to those seeking advanced capabilities, ensuring your tools align perfectly with your project timelines, budget, and unique needs.
Fusion 360 for Startups
Free startup offering empowers qualifying new businesses to refine and showcase their products, expediting the journey to market success. To qualify, your company should be a venture, angel-backed, or bootstrapped startup with less than three years of operation and annual gross revenue under $100,000 USD.
Fusion 360 – Limited Personal Edition (Hobbyist license)
Fusion 360 for personal use is designed for hobbyists and non-commercial users, providing comprehensive design, 3D modeling, and 3D printing functionalities. Please note that this edition has limitations in other areas, and personal users do not have access to Fusion 360 extensions.
Fusion 360 for Education
An educational offering delivers a fully functional software version with minimal restrictions, making it an ideal learning tool. To obtain this license, verification as a student, educator, or design competition mentor is required. Additionally, users of this offering can explore most of the Fusion 360 extensions for an enriched learning experience.
What it is good for
Product Design and Industrial Engineering: Fusion 360 is a valuable tool for product designers and industrial engineers. Its parametric modeling capabilities allow them to create complex 3D models of products, parts, and assemblies. Designers can easily iterate on designs, explore various configurations, and test prototypes virtually before physical manufacturing. This is especially beneficial for creating everything from consumer goods and electronics to machinery and industrial equipment.
Mechanical Engineering: Mechanical engineers turn to Fusion 360 for a wide array of tasks, including designing mechanical components, mechanisms, and machinery. The software’s simulation features enable engineers to perform stress analysis, thermal analysis, and even fluid flow simulations to ensure that designs meet performance and safety criteria.
Aerospace and Automotive: The aerospace and automotive industries heavily rely on Fusion 360. Engineers in these fields use the software to design and analyze complex parts and assemblies, as well as to optimize aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. Fusion 360’s generative design tools are particularly useful for creating lightweight and structurally efficient components.
Prototyping and 3D Printing: Fusion 360’s compatibility with 3D printers and additive manufacturing technologies makes it a top choice for designers and engineers working on rapid prototyping. It allows users to create detailed prototypes and iterate designs quickly, reducing time-to-market.
Makers and Hobbyists: Fusion 360’s Hobbyist License makes it accessible to makers, DIY enthusiasts, and hobbyists. It provides a platform for creative projects, whether it’s building custom furniture, crafting art pieces, or designing personal inventions.
In essence, Fusion 360’s versatility and flexibility make it a go-to software for professionals in design, engineering, and manufacturing across various industries.
Fusion 360 general drawbacks
Like any software, fusion 360 does have some drawbacks and limitations. Some software features and limitations may change over time, so it’s essential to check the latest information if you’re evaluating Fusion 360 for your specific needs. Here are some potential drawbacks and limitations of Fusion 360:
- Subscription-Based Model: Fusion 360 is primarily available through a subscription-based pricing model, which means you have to pay recurring fees. This might not be ideal for users who prefer one-time purchases or free alternatives.
- Internet Connection Requirement: Fusion 360 requires an internet connection for installation, activation, and periodic license verification. This can be inconvenient for users in areas with unreliable internet access.
- Learning Curve: While Fusion 360 is user-friendly compared to some other CAD software, it still has a learning curve, especially for beginners. The interface and terminology may take some time to get used to.
- Resource Intensive: Fusion 360 can be resource-intensive, particularly when working with complex designs. Users with older or less powerful hardware might experience performance issues. In my personal experience, you can run the sowtware with 7 years old PC, but it might stutter a little with complex, made of lots of parts, designs.
- Advanced Simulation Limitations: While Fusion 360 offers simulation capabilities, it may not be as advanced or specialized as some dedicated simulation software for complex engineering analyses. Also, to my knowledge, simulation is not available in Hobbyist license.
- Compatibility Issues: Importing and exporting files to and from Fusion 360 can sometimes lead to compatibility issues, especially when dealing with non-native file formats. Compatibility with certain industry-specific standards may also be a concern. About some issues I am going to talk later in this post.
- Platform Specific: Fusion 360 primarily runs on Windows and macOS, so it may not be an option for users who prefer Linux or other operating systems.
- Data storage on the cloud: to some it might be a security concern, to other it might be a nuisance, especially if you want to make offline backups. Such backups can be done only by exporting files to your desktop, which for some reason, takes agonizingly long time to finish.
Fusion 360 renderer
Here are some key points about Autodesk Rendering in Fusion 360:
- Cloud-Based or local: Autodesk Rendering can rely on cloud computing resources, which means your 3D models are uploaded to the cloud for rendering or the rendering can be done locally on your PC‘s CPU. Cloud rendering can be advantageous as it offloads rendering tasks from your local computer, allowing you to continue working on other tasks while renders are generated in the background.
- Easy to Use: Fusion 360’s integration with Autodesk Rendering is designed to be user-friendly. Users can select their rendering settings and options within Fusion 360’s interface and then submit the rendering job to the cloud with a few clicks.
- High-Quality Renders: Autodesk Rendering is capable of producing high-quality photorealistic renders with features like advanced lighting, materials, and environmental settings.
- Cost: Autodesk Cloud Rendering typically has a cost associated with it, and the pricing may vary depending on factors like the number of rendering credits or usage. Local rendering is free.
Why one would want to use such tool for interior design?
As I have already mentioned, at a first glance you can get an idea that Fusion 360 software is mainly targeted to product designers and engineers. But from a hobbyist point of view this free tool (hobby license) could be used for much more than designs for 3d printed electronics enclosures, action figures or other small, manufactured at home, things.
As a hobbyist you should use all the capabilities of the tools you own. The same goes for Fusion 360: you can make a design of a cabinet with drawers, you design most of the furniture at your house, you can add any textures to your designs – combine everything together and you have everything what is needed not only to create apartments interior design, but to custom manufacture most the furniture designs.
But I am still using it (the reason)
I have used Fusion 360 in the past for designing some enclosures for my DIY electronics projects like, for example, DIY UPDI USB programmer . Also, I have also used it for making some renders like in my ATMEL blog post main image. So, the reason I wanted to use it for my own interior design was simple – I am used to this peace of software. It also has a render engine, so you can create really life-like images of your designs.
The Results (What I managed to push out from Fusion 360 render engine)
Let’s jump straight to the end results and after that I will talk about some problems that I and might you, if you chose Fusion 360 use for rendering purposes, encounter.
So here are some examples of render that you could push out from Fusion 360 rendering engine:
Above is a render image of a kitchen and below there is a bathroom render. And yes, I know, in the render above there is no sink in the kitchen :D.
And here are some real photos of the same rendered places:
In my opinion, you can get close enough “view” with Fusion 360 renderer to the actual real life. But it is for you to decide whether this software gets the rendering results you want from the examples above.
What actual problems you might encounter (which I did) and their workarounds
File support is weak
Everything is fine while you always create your own 3D models (in Fusion 360) and use them throughout Fusion 360 projects. But problems arise when you start importing downloaded or bought 3D models in generic .obj or other 3D file formats. First of all, there is sparse file support – you will need to take some time finding which files might be imported. I would say that the .obj files are your best bet as, in my experience, they seemed to be imported with least number of problems. Secondly, file import takes quite long time – as the file is uploaded to cloud (takes at least several minutes) and then can be imported into your project. Finally, might not be directly Fusion’s fault, but some of the 3D models are either made as not “closed meshes” or Fusion 360 imports them as not closed contours. From first sigh it might not be a problem, but if you want to convert a mesh object into Fusion 360 solid model – then it is a problem.
No texture import – need to do manually
Some 3D models consist of several files. One being the 3D model itself and at least one texture file. I personally had no success importing a model with textures. It always ended for me just plain 3D model without any textures whatsoever. So, my only option was to texture models manually by using either texture pictures or taking them from Fusion 360 own texture database.
Texturing imported meshes might take a lot of effort
When you import 3D mesh without textures (as explained above) you will need create textures for them. It can be quite difficult task to texture meshes in Fusion 360. As they are created from many triangles, sometimes textures cover meshes unevenly (especially when using a photo as a texture). A workaround might be converting meshes into Fusion 360 solid bodies, but as I have already mention earlies – not all models are “closed contour meshes” which won’t be converted into solids. So, you’ll need to close contours manually and then convert to solid bodies. But after solid body conversion, even flat walls will have discontinuities which needs to be corrected before applying texture. So, texturing imported 3D models might require some model tweaking and corrections, trying what works and what not, which can take quite a lot of time.
No apartment plan export
While Fusion 360 boasts a wide array of capabilities, including 3D modeling, rendering, and simulation, it’s important to recognize that it may not be the go-to solution for architectural or/and interior design professionals seeking to produce detailed architectural plans (as it can done in architecture specific software). Architects often require software specifically tailored to their unique needs and industry standards which might not be the case with Fusion 360. Althought Fusion 360 can create detailed manufacturing drawings, these might not be suitable to be used as architectural plans.
Rendering organic things
What I mean is that it might be difficult to render such thing like fire, water, plants etc. Such “soft” things are hard to model and I would guess are even harder to texture. But I haven’t actually tried doing that, so this point is just a hypothesis.
Fusion 360 has the capability to generate impressive renders, and while it may take a bit more time compared to specialized rendering software, the results are often well worth it. Its rendering features allow you to transform your 3D models into visually stunning, photorealistic images.
What makes Fusion 360 even more appealing is its versatility. While it may be true that it takes a bit longer to perfect your renders in Fusion 360, it’s important to consider the broader picture. Fusion 360 is not just a rendering tool; it’s a multi-use platform with a wide range of capabilities: CAD, CAM, Render and Simulation all-in-one software. For hobbyists and makers, this software is a treasure trove of possibilities.