For nearly a three-decades, we’ve been fans of AutoDesk tools like AutoCAD, but around the same time we started Exact Assembly, AutoDesk introduced Fusion360 as a tool meant for creatives working with CNC machining and 3D-printing tools. We’ve also been long time fans of EagleCAD, which offered the lowest pricing and easiest scripting/automation capability on the market. In 2016 AutoDesk acquired Eagle, and ECAD-MCAD integration was on the horizon.
Unified ECAD and MCAD #
PCBs nearly always require some kind of connectivity to the rest of the universe, wiring, connectors, heat-sinks, etc. etc. - and the complex interactions that result are difficult or impossible to get right the first time without some kind of visualization. Most Electronic (ECAD) tools on the market offered very little direct integration with Mechanical CAD (MCAD), so we rolled our own using Blender and other 3D solid-modeling tools (mostly artistic tools like Blender) to create mockups. Then AutoDesk started integrating MCAD connectivity into Eagle, automating the process of generating 3D solid models directly from CAD data, improving the fidelity and usability of the models.
In 2020 AutoDesk began merging EagleCAD directly into Fusion360, offering a single front-end and continually enhancing the integration to allow mechanical modeling to back-propagate changes to the ECAD environment, helping to eliminate integration issues. We’ve evolved our design process along side the continuous improvements in ECAD-MCAD integration, experimenting with everything from library management to Bills-of-Material integration within the AutoDesk tool chain and with external tools.
Fusion360 also supports sharing designs directly with end-customers, allowing online visualization and markup of designs before manufacturing, dramatically shortening the time needed for critial design review processes.