Product development is a critical but arduous process for many teams, especially as organizations grow larger. With so many opinions and voices vying for attention, projects become more complicated. There’s more brainstorming, iterations, and data to wrangle together. 

Communication is another pain point. Distributed teams find it challenging to communicate readily — especially when discussions span different organizations and time zones. Average CAD/CAM software might deliver adequate functionality. However, subpar collaborative processes make buy-in that much harder for decision-makers. 

Fusion 360’s cloud suite attempts to solve these problems by providing a unified platform that allows contributors to organize every facet of the development cycle. It accounts for the data-sharing realities of today’s collaborative environment by allowing teams to work within their own pods while reaching out to others as necessary. 

Following Today’s Data-Sharing Philosophies

In today’s collaborative world, transparency and speed of information sharing are critical for ensuring that everyone can track milestones. It’s also a major factor in bringing together departments such as design, engineering, manufacturing, and marketing.  

One view within the project dashboard.

Figure 1. One view within the project dashboard. Screenshot courtesy of Autodesk.

Fusion 360’s workspace functions as a central project management hub, providing a space for documentation, drawings, and other assets to intermingle. Equally important with a data-sharing hub is the regulation of how that data is shared and the protection of personal and company data across collaborative lines. It’s important to ask, then, with a team-oriented platform like Fusion 360, how can teams safeguard sensitive data?

Access Control and Permissions Handling

The most basic first step of data management is determining who can view what. Those familiar with the software-API realm may be familiar with role-based access control (RBAC), and similar principles apply within Fusion 360. Essentially, a user’s organizational role will influence what can be seen and edited. 

There is certainly other organizational and security schema that provides more robust customization and security options than RBAC, however. Different teams can manage separate assets. Although companies often collaborate during development — as Toyota and BMW did when adapting the B58 straight-six engine for the 2020 Supra — some trade secrets may still be protected.

In Fusion 360, although everyone is working on the same team, there are many reasons to have teams with their own discrete spaces where they can operate autonomously as smaller groups.

Within Fusion 360, here’s how a workspace administrator creates discrete spaces: 

1. From the project dashboard, click View and Manage Members. This option is located near the bottom of the right-hand sidebar and populates a list of existing or prospective contributors. Admins can view names, titles, organizations, and review roles from within this pane.

The member management pane is simple to navigate.

Figure 2. The member management pane is simple to navigate. Screenshot courtesy of Autodesk. 

2. Click the drop-down arrow under ROLE to change Editors to Viewers, and vice versa 
3. Click the trash can to remove Project Members from the project, if necessary 
4. Click the Join Requests tab to review any requests to join the project
5. Admins may click the blue Invite button in the upper right to add new Project Members

Projects may be set as Open, Closed, or Secret. Additionally, contributors can easily generate shareable links for individual assets, à la Google Drive. 

This approach will be familiar to many. One can even determine whether assets are editable or only viewable. However, how do teams share the ‘right’ way?

Sharing Files in a Reliable, Easy-to-Access Manner

Sharing sounds easy at its core, yet the logistics behind it have traditionally been tricky. Collaboration means working alongside different professionals and companies — each having their own tooling preferences. This unfortunately means that teams are working with different (sometimes proprietary) formats, therefore complicating cross-platform sharing. In a perfect world, the industry would use standard formats. 

Fusion 360 aims to make file sharing more accessible across teams and organizations alike. A variety of included file formats makes this possible. 

Exporting and Downloading

Exporting is a simple process within the Fusion 360 workspace. Whether one is exporting an open project or downloading that file locally, these contextual formats are available:

  • 2D format
  • 3D format
  • STL
  • OBJ
  • STEP
  • SAT
  • SMT
  • DWG
  • DXF
  • FBX
  • SketchUp
  • Inventor 2018
  • Fusion 360 Archive

Inventor 2018 and Fusion 360 Archive preserve compatibility with older project files and are thus legacy formats. Not everyone has migrated to newer software versions or converted to comprehensive suites. 

Downloading project files in a preferred format is easy within the project workspace. Simply click the blue Download button within the project title banner. One can choose an ideal format from this list: 

Quickly download assets in a variety of formats.

Figure 3. Quickly download assets in a variety of formats. Screenshot courtesy of Autodesk. 

Professionals can stick with Fusion 360 file types if sharing internally or with like-minded stakeholders. Conversely, selecting a neutral (universal) file format is useful when contributors are using different applications. CAD and CAM productivity is no longer reserved for those running the same software. 

Following the Version History

A critical component of data management is tracking where projects have been — not just where they currently are. This is especially true during the development process. Iterative, generative design is a hallmark of modern creation, since making progressive tweaks is easier than ever. Where a project ends up is starkly different from where it started. Fusion 360’s version control is easily accessible and provides a continual point of design reference. 

Detail-rich version control is simple from the workspace.

Figure 4. Detail-rich version control is simple from the workspace. Screenshot courtesy of Autodesk.

To access a design’s version history, complete the following:

  1. Click the Grid button in the upper left, within the taskbar. The Data pane will slide in on the left-hand side of the workspace
  2. A list of components will appear. Each of these will be labeled by their version number in the bottom right of their box (e.g., V1)
  3. Click this version label to populate a detailed version history. Double-clicking an item will open that specific version in a workspace
  4. Alternatively, contributors can navigate versions in a different view by clicking View Details on the Web. Clicking the version drop-down here lets one View or Promote a design iteration
  5. Teams can even compare versions side by side. This opens a Changes overlay. Stakeholders can view what’s been Added, Removed, or Modified

Flexibility via Cloud Storage

Fusion 360’s dashboard behaves just like most popular cloud storage services. The interface allows teams to upload project files in a variety of formats. These are accessible on any device — mobile or desktop — with a web browser. No specialized hardware is required, nor will those in the Windows or Mac camps feel left out. Autodesk Fusion 360 also maintains iOS and Android apps. 

Data, preferences, and settings remain unchanged, no matter the device used. If an internet connection is unavailable, offline mode still allows contributors to make changes. 

Data Management with Fusion 360

Autodesk designed Fusion 360 as a way to keep teams organized and empowered. Mountains of data can be confusing to work with. However, working with core project data only requires a few easy steps. If a full-fledged subscription to Fusion 360 isn’t necessary, admins can add users needing simple collaboration and data access via Team Participant, which provides data-management abilities without higher costs. 

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