Fusion 360 update makes it easier to keep track of your parameters
The recent updates to Fusion 360 have been full to the brim with new features and time saving improvements. Sometimes, they make an improvement that we think can really make an impact for Bommer users, and we get so happy that we just have to talk about it. Sorry, not sorry.
The latest release of Fusion 360 contains one of these improvements: as of Fusion 360 version 2.0.9849, named parameters created when running commands are automatically added to the Favorites section of that design's Parameters screen. This makes them easy to find, and therefore easy to tweak as needed. We're huge "parameter" nerds on a normal day (it comes with being a team of software people), so any improvements in this area really get our attention. At it so happens, our latest release of Bommer allows users to build calculations ("formulas") into their BOM that can utilize parameters. The combination of being able to use parameters in your Bommer formulas with easier access to your Fusion parameters has us like...
...I don't get it. Why do I care about parameters?
Parameters in your design are the inputs that let Fusion 360 (and other CAD software) solve the equations and constraints necessary to represent what it is you want to build. Whether you realized it or not, any time you've ever dimensioned a sketch, extruded a body, or added a fillet to an edge, the necessary inputs for those operations to work are parameters. What's really cool is, because your design is basically a timeline of operations (i.e. functions) over these parameters, you can tweak a parameter for a feature well after you've added the feature, and Fusion 360 will update all of the dependent features to use the new value. Pretty cool, right?
Still not seeing it? Ok, let me give you an example.
Let's say you work at a designer of innovative outdoor furniture, and you are putting the finishing touches on your company's next product: the "Beyond-irondack" chair.
Your design is well organized, your parts are named properly, you've completed your BOM in Bommer (*wink*) so all of your part data is safe and secure, and you're feeling pretty good about the project. And then it happens. Your product manager comes into your office and tells you that the requirements of the project have changed; the target customer is larger than originally planned, and the chair needs to be wider with a taller back. Sh*t.
This could be a headache; you might have to go back and edit a bunch of features and then hope everything lines up in the end. Luckily, Fusion 360 gives you a better way; you can just edit the parameters that Fusion 360 uses to compute these features. These parameters are available in a table of design parameters, grouped by the component and feature/command/operation it belongs to; you can even give the parameters recognizable names, so you can find it again when you need to.
You can also define what are called "user parameters" which can be used in place of a numerical input in a Fusion command. In our chair scenario, this means that if you had a parameter called SeatWidth and a parameter called BackHeight, and all of your modeling operations were driven off of these parameters, changing the design to meet the new requirements is as simple as changing two numbers in the Parameters screen. That's pretty handy.
Ok, that's pretty cool. So what's new?
Parameters are not new to Fusion 360; in fact they've been a fundamental part of Fusion 360 for a while. What is new is some improvements to how the parameters are organized in the Change Parameters screen. Specifically, when you give a parameter a name at the time the parameter is created (e..g when the sketch is dimensioned or command is executed), Fusion 360 will now automatically add that parameter to your favorites for easy access. Let me explain.
Like many things in life (and software), the approach described above works great if you do everything "right" from the start: name your parameters, open Change Parameters, "favorite" the parameters that you are most likely to change, repeat. You want to do this because digging through a table of hundreds of components and thousands of features to find the parameter you need to change is a pain in the ass. User parameters can help here because they are listed in a separate section on the Change Parameters screen, but to make the most of user parameters, you need to start with with an idea of what dimensions or values you may need to tweak throughout the design. It's frequently easier to just sketch or model and define things as you go, and very convenient to be able to define these parameters right within the operation they're being used.
Now, when you name a parameter when using it in a Fusion sketch or command input, it automatically adds that parameter to your Favorites. That's extra handy.
That's really cool, but I was promised something about Bommer.
Alright, alright. As I mentioned above, Bommer formulas can reference a design's parameters, and this is frequently used in practice to compute or convert design information – the same information that drives actual geometry in your model – into a value that can be used in purchasing, manufacturing, or shipping/fulfillment. Bommer formulas are recomputed automatically when parameters change, so changing a value in Change Parameters will automatically update these values in your BOM. Because of this, any improvement to Fusion 360 that will allow our users to better use parameters in their design will translate to a more automated, less error prone bill of materials.
Let me give you an example of this. Say that a key feature of this chair is a coating on the seat that is sprayed on after assembly, and this coating is purchased in units of how much surface area it can cover. In order to properly manufacture your chair, you need to calculate the surface area of the seating area. As you design your chair, you capture parameters for seat width (SeatWidth), seat depth (SeatDepth) and chair back height (BackHeight). You also have a Bommer property called "Material Cost" which you can store the unit cost of the coating material, and "Total Cost" which represents the cost of that line item in your BOM. Add a component to your model called "Coating" (it can be an empty component) and enter the cost per unit into the Material Cost property, then enter the following formula into the Total Cost:
= ((SeatWidth * SeatDepth) + (SeatWidth * BackHeight)) * Material Cost
Bommer will evaluate this formula produce the cost of the material that will be required to coat one chair. Pretty straightforward, right? You could even add a parameter that contains a multiplicative factor for multiple coats, thicker/thinner coats, etc, which can then be tweaked if you are trying to hit a specific quality standard or cost target. This same methodology could be used to compute similar values for paint, powder coating, fabric/textiles, or really any value that is a function of your design parameters and BOM properties that is useful to have in your output. And to be clear, this is not new with the new release of Fusion, but consider the situation above; the more your parameters are accessible within the Fusion 360 parameters screen, the more you can utilize them to construct calculations like this. And that, my friends, is really handy.
Now you're getting it.
We know our users love the tight integration between Fusion 360 and Bommer, and we love that because of that tight integration, small improvements to Fusion 360 can pay huge dividends for Bommer users. Changes like automatically promoting named parameters to "Favorites" have immediate effects for users who are look for ways to save time and reduce errors in their BOM creation. Time savings is what we are all about, even when we may not have a direct hand in it. In this case, we play really well with the hand, which is always a good thing.
If you're new to Bommer (welcome!), or haven't checked out formulas yet, you can read more about them here, here, and see our launch video here. If you want to give it a try, download Bommer from the Autodesk App Store page here or send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a demo. We'd love to hear from you!
Until then, have an awesome day.