Symetri’s Autodesk Fusion 360 training consolidates skills for manufacturing R&D support at the University of Aberdeen’s engineering workshop

University of Aberdeen

Meet the Engineering Workshop at the University of Aberdeen

The University of Aberdeen’s School of Engineering is not just about teaching. Like many of the university’s other departments, it also undertakes research, looking at new technologies, developments and techniques to respond to trends within the world of engineering.

Both the teaching and the research and development aspects of its activities are supported by the university’s Engineering and Mechanical Workshops. Ideas often find their first physical manifestation here. The workshops’ teams are called upon for a wide range of support services, from the theoretical to the practical, from advising university staff and students to undertaking precision manufacturing to high tolerances.

The projects these workshops get involved with are constantly changing, given that the workshop services are available to a wide University community and diverse disciplines. Departments include chemistry, medicine, biological sciences, computing and an entire catalogue of other specialist areas that mirror the modern world's infrastructure.

Examples of projects through the workshops have included:  

  • Supporting R&D in resonance-enhanced drilling techniques for the oil and gas industries;
  • The development of oil pressure vessels for the university’s Petroleum Engineering Research Group;

Creating a prototype of an MRI scanner for the university’s medical group (a PVC structure to replicate the environment of an MRI scanner to assist in research whilst avoiding the sizeable investment in an actual scanner).


The challenge: Upskill the whole engineering team in Fusion 360

Every day in the Engineering and Mechanical workshops at the University of Aberdeen, someone uses Fusion 360. Some days there are multiple users at the same time. Occasionally, the whole team (seven people) is making some sort of manipulation with the software, pondering the best way to tackle the next challenge.

In the recent past, challenges had been arising not just from the project under consideration but also —pre-Fusion 360 adoption—from the software that was supposed to help solve them.

“We were having practical issues with the software we were using to programme our 3-axis CNC machine that we simply shouldn’t have been having”, says Gavin McFarlane, Senior Mechanical Technician, Engineering Workshop, at Aberdeen’s School of Engineering.

“Everything might be moving along fine, and then the software would suddenly freeze or, for reasons that you then had to take time and effort to track back to the source, there might be a clash in the path. We asked the machine manufacturer, HAAS, what we could do to get around these issues, and they recommended Autodesk Fusion 360. We followed their recommendation”.

Gavin says that he and his team saw immediate improvements. The team went off and set about the ongoing variety of tasks and projects with a renewed spring in their steps, except two other problems cropped up.

In an experienced engineering team such as this, each member knows what he or she is doing. They’re all highly proficient. The missing link was that they were not all using the new software solution in the same way, and it became clear that there needed to be consistency between each team member. The other problem was that, despite having moved to Fusion 360, the team still used manual milling techniques.

“In a way, we were all in our comfort zone with manual milling, but we knew we could gain far higher degrees of accuracy and dependability if we used Fusion 360 for milling. We needed to get there, but we also needed to get there fast."

The Training Solution: Autodesk Fusion 360 – Milling | Using High-Speed Machining techniques

“The first thing that impressed me about Symetri’s approach to training was that they had an entire catalogue of training courses aimed at every aspect of Fusion 360; Essentials, Milling, Turning, Multi-Axis Machining, Simulation and plenty of others.

This was a demonstration to me that they know their stuff. And that was reinforced when I spoke with one of their Advanced Manufacturing Team, the person who would actually do the training. Clearly, we’d be in the hands of a true expert.

We booked the three-day milling course for seven of us. It was all done virtually due to the general lockdown the world was subject to at the time. I felt this made the training even more personal. Our trainer had all the time needed to address any question any of us asked”.


The outcome: The goals were achieved | Proficiency- Consistency-Accuracy

Virtual training offers the flexibility for a company to arrange for sessions in line with other priorities it needs to address, ensuring attendees’ work schedules are not interrupted. It also eliminates the need for travel.

The Aberdeen team was based in two locations at the time of the training but were all able to convene together, with Symetri’s Advanced Manufacturing trainer, simply by finding a quiet room in their own locations and using their own computers both for joining the training sessions and interacting with the software.

“Our goal was to gain full-on proficiency in 3-axis milling and lathe programming and to make sure we were all working the same way”, says Gavin, “In the space of a total of three days, spread out a little due to Covid, the goal was achieved”.

Gavin says that since the training, there has been no confusion among the team about any aspect of the software, and the team works consistently: “We’re able to set up jobs faster now, orientate the tools, and select and create the toolpaths with a higher degree of confidence and first-time accuracy. This all adds up to our being able to offer improved support to any department in the university”.


  • Reduce wastage resulting from the hand-finishing rendered necessary by using the old version of post-processor software.

  • Minimise client rejection rate and associated costs of re-supplying replacement products.

  • Improve quality.

  • Accelerate lead times.


  • Post-processor upgrade to enable automation of the tapping cycle.

  • Align post-processor with machine kinematics.

  • Hardware addition of Floating Tap Collet to eliminate manual inaccuracies.


  • Fully automated tapping cycle ensuring greater accuracy.

  • Significant reduction in rejected output at client’s QA inspections.

  • Improved quality.

  • Higher levels of client satisfaction, now leading to new business opportunities.

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