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The Future of Making Things at AU

Future – Making Things

The theme for manufacturing and mechanical design at Autodesk University 2016 was “The Future of Making Things.” Autodesk showcased how in the future making things will utilize technologies like generative design, augmented and virtual reality, robotics, and additive manufacturing.

The exhibit hall included an industrial robotic 3D printing, a brick-laying construction robot, the first-ever generatively designed office building, an open-sourced 3D printed drone, a virtual reality experience to configure a full-scale Ford Mustang, and augmented reality construction hard hats. Autodesk expects these types of technologies to be mainstream in the next one to four years but wanted to showcase their availability today for those “cutting-edge innovators who are propelling us into the future“.

“We’re all in on the cloud. Access to infinite computing power and the ability to work together effortlessly is completely changing how design and engineering are done,” – Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

I am no longer a Virtual Reality virgin. The picture does not do justice my initial experiences with VR… I was like a kid in a candy store, giggly, and excited.


“Thanks to game engine technology and innovative hardware, people can now be immersed in any world you want to create”

The Immersive Learning booth utilized technology by NVIDIA, Lenovo, and HTC. You were placed in a room and able to interact with multiple objects in this “Learning Museum”. This included stacking bricks, playing musical instruments, and turning off gravity and hitting objects around the room. The goal was to show you different VR interactive experiences. I did not catch which software was used to create the VR experience.

AU16 Virtual Reality 1

Orange County Choppers

Autodesk commissioned the OCC guys to create an electric motorbike. The bike was developed completely in Fusion 360 and is 100% electric.

AU16 Volta Orange County Choppers Fusion 360

Hack Rod

Hack Rod started a research project to investigate using new technologies in building a performance car. This project evolved into Hack Rod creating the world’s first vehicle chassis engineered by artificial intelligence.

Future of making things pavilion_hack-rod-2

Hack Rod started by wiring both the car and the driver and putting both through a “punishing” series of test drives in the California desert. The result was 20+ million data points about the car’s structure and the forces on it.

Hack Rod and Autodesk fed the data collected into Project Dreamcatcher. The output from Dreamcatcher was applied to the existing 3D model of the chassis.

Hackrod Generative Design Future of Making Things

3D printing is now the plan for Hack Rob to fabricate the critical parts due to the complex forms created by the generative design.

Here’s the teaser video regarding the Generative Design exhibits at Autodesk University 2016

Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing is over 30-years old but only recently have the barriers been removed to allow this technology to move from just prototyping into production.

Autodesk equipped a six-axis industrial robot with a polymer (plastic) extruder controlling it with patented software. Autodesk is now printing complex structures at “surprising” speeds. By using the robot they are not limited to a single plane and can print layers along any path.

“Robotics is rapidly closing the gap between the digital and physical world, opening methods of building and manufacturing that were previously unimaginable. Intuitive software has made robots easier to program, more useful, and more versatile. This allows new industries to emerge using robots in novel and creative ways. “

future of making things pavilion_robots

By using the robot they are not limited to a single plane and can print layers along any path. It is also able to create complex geometry without the use of support structures.

Future of Making Things AU Additive Manufacturing 1

With the addition of thermal cameras and vision systems, Autodesk is pushing the use of polymers into scenarios where it is superior to metals. Printing with polymers uses significantly less energy compared to metal and comes at a much lower cost.

Future of Making Things AU Additive Manufacturing 2


AU Additive Manufacturing 3

“What if designing with infinite complexity was not a constraint, but a platform for brilliance?”

Kloner3D 240 Twin

Autodesk’s Project Escher software and control technology make it possible for multiple print heads to work together to produce large scale industrial parts at very reasonable speeds. Showcased in the AU2016 Exhibit Hall, the KLONER3D 240 TWIN printer produces parts quickly because of its collaborative printing capability.

AU16 Kloner3D 240 TWIN

UA Architect

This March, Under Armour released the world’s first completely 3D-printed training shoe. It was developed using generative design and advanced additive manufacturing.

AU16 Under Armour UA Architect

The key to the Under Armour shoe is that it provides both cushioning and support for even the “most strenuous of workouts

AU16 Under Armour Architect 3DP Phenom

Under Armour used selective laser sintering (SLS) to 3D print the flexible (yet durable) lattice structure.


Metal Printing

For 3D printing to work at a large scale the system needs to be able to do three things: work with high-performance materials, cover large areas, and adapt to variable conditions.

future of making things pavilion_robots-2

Utilizing six-axis robot arms and welding machines, printing structures in traditional metals like stainless steel and aluminum is a possibility.

AU16 Additive Manufacturing 3

The key is a closed loop feedback system employing cameras and computer vision algorithms to facilitate real-time corrections of unanticipated variations during the process. The feedback also enables automatic calibration and registration of multiple robots working together.

AU16 Additive Manufacturing 5

Future Making Things MX3D

The MX3D robots are capable of printing molten metal in mid-air. They can produce thin lines the diameter of a pencil or tubes of variable diameter. The examples presented at Autodesk University showcased the ability of these robots to create 3D objects in almost any size or shape.

AU16 MX3D Future Making Things 1

AU16 MX3D Future Making Things 2

You can

Technology In Motion

Here’s another trailer video from Autodesk…

Autodesk University 2016 – The AU Keynote

Autodesk University 2016 (AU Keynote)

Another Autodesk University is in the bag. Just like most, it started with the AU Keynote.  A difference this year is each day of the conference contained its own keynote, therefore there were three keynotes. Many people I talked to appreciated the frequency. As in a keynote at the same time each day and something to plan for.  The opening keynote was also shorter than past years, another thing many appreciated.

Big kudos for having the same DJ as last year… the girl can really spin the beat! (is that what the kids these days say?). I also liked the band that played (unlike many in attendance). They did play a bit long but I don’t know how you can fault Autodesk for trying something new and shaking it up a bit.



The opening videos from the main sponsors…

  • Microsoft Surface Studio …  I want one! and got to try one in the Exhibit Hall! It is an awesome piece of technology even though I’m not sure exactly what I’d do with it.
  • Lenovo ThinkRevolution... great video but unfortunately I couldn’t find a link to it
  • Have you seen the new HP Workstation (HP Z2 Mini)? I’m reserving judgment until the final pricing is released in December.

The AU keynote is available to watch for yourself here.

Jeff Kowalski

I still remember the feeling I got from my first opening AU Keynote. I left the stadium that day eyes-wide-open. Autodesk was developing awe-inspiring technology and I was  thinking of all the possibilities. Now 6-years later I get the feeling of been-there-done-that… Jeff talks about the cloud, infinite computing, and generative design…. rinse-and-repeat.

Well, he changed it up this year!

Generative Design is here, well almost. Dream Capture is going commercial early 2017. Jeff’s vision has come true!

Jeff’s message is that powerful tools are emerging and converging. Emerging technology will amplify our expressibility. The number one emerging technology is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Machines have gone from playing Tic Tac Toe to mastering Chess to conquering Jeopardy.

With unlimited computing, we have now taught computers to teach themselves. Take for example, Google DeepMind’s Deep Q learned to play Atari Breakout and got the best score ever. It took it one night as it learned in computer time. Now all machines can master Breakout instantly as DeepMind will share its knowledge.

For quite some time already computers and machines have solved left side logical challenges. Now they are moving into creativity and becoming a better creative partner. An example was the machine that studied Rembrandt and then painted a new one.

In probably the line of the keynote… “machines are now more Kirk than Spock.


Infinite Expressibility

Autodesk used generative design in the development of their Toronto office. Generative design generated thousands of floor plans based on the information and parameters fed into the system. This included people’s preferences and a goal to optimize the space.

Virtual Reality. It’s here and Autodesk is ready. VR is available today with Revit and Stingray. Virtual Reality is more than just “seeing.” It goes into the emotional connection.

Robotic systems will become robots + machine learning + generative design. Robots are learning and doing more.

To summarize:

  • are new technologies a threat? No, the real threat are the competitors who adopt the new technology first.
  • the robots are not coming for us, however, they are our super powers. This new technology stretches our creativity and our potential.

African Design Centre

Christian Benimana was next up at the AU Keynote. In my opinion, Christian was the best speaker of the day.

Christian went to school in China. There he learned that China is facing 3-challenges, when it comes to architectural design. He quickly learned are the same in many places in the world. This includes his home of Rwanda and most of Africa. These challenges are:

  1. Environmental
  2. Massive Population
  3. Developing the talent to create contextually appropriate buildings

Population growth and urbanization by 2050 will be 2.5 billion people in Africa. This is equivalent to today’s China and India combined! The infrastructure changes required to accommodate this amount of people is huge. Over 700 million housing units will be needed.


It is important to recognize the environment. Take Africa, which has its own advantages, like fresh air and the view. It can be an inspiration to other countries.

The plan… Locally Fabricated (#LoFab) – Hire Locally | Service Regionally | Train when you can | Uphold dignity (always)


To conquer the issues we’re about to start facing we need to master the process of “good design”. We need to understand the potential of people and equip them with the right tools. We need to improve teachable skills and it needs to be portable and multi-cultural.

Final message… embrace new technology by learning.

FIRST (Anna Nixon)

16-year old Anna Nixon was up next and although it felt really scripted her message really hit home.

As a father of 4 young children, it was very impressive to see what Anna and her peers have accomplished. I know many others who also left with a feeling to get their children more involved in programs like FIRST. We as the parents need to ensure our children are prepared for the future and technology, engineering, and design is a huge part of this.


Anna’s message was that students are the next designers, engineers, and builders. Her generation is the first to have grown up with technology. A generation where they have used tech before they could walk or talk. They are not limited by time or location.

When Anna’s generation hits the workforce they will expect global access relying on experts from anywhere. We need to keep learning interesting. They don’t know how to work alone and will need collaboration. Their voices will be heard!

Anna finished by asking all of us to listen to their ideas and have an open mind. The idea just might not be that crazy.

Carl Bass

The CEO of Autodesk started by talking about how things presented at AU can seem like science fiction. However, many have come true. “The future is about to change

Carl has met with automakers more in the past year than in the 12-years previous. The market is about to dramatically change and it has them scared.

  • With autonomous(self-driving) cars we are getting the “ultimate passenger experience.” They will be smarter and can adapt in milliseconds. We’re no longer building cars but are now building drivers.
  • The next generation won’t own cars. Car sharing will lead to transportation becoming a service.
  • It took 100 years to build the best powertrain, so it is too easy to dismiss electric. “When you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Disruption can be a source of new power and new creativity. It used to be to make better software you put it on a faster system. Now machine learning is about to become the method to develop new and better software.

“Unless your team is collaborating well you can not win.”

Carl promises Autodesk will build great products. “The future of work” with disruptive technology.  However, we need to prepare the students of today who are the workers of tomorrow.

Carl finished that new technology is not a threat. However, we need to be learning to learn. Also, new jobs will be created as we move to AI and machine learning. Just like BIM, which is still fairly new, but there are job titles, roles, certifications, and more wrapped around BIM and the industry.


“Netfabb Doubles-down to Offer Complete Additive Manufacturing Solution”

Not during the keynote but during Tuesday’s activities Autodesk announced enhanced capabilities for Netfabb. The new capabilities include technology from Delcam, Pan Computing, and Project Escher. Netfabb now offers cloud-based simulation, subtractive workflows, and collaborative 3D printing.The new features make it “the most powerful and comprehensive solution for additive manufacturing on the market.


“Not only is Netfabb easy to use, it does much of the heavy lifting in preparing models for 3D printing.” Said Dan Ko, Strategic Initiatives Lead at Shapeways. “Netfabb streamlines the process of fixing common 3D print file problems for additive manufacturing. If we didn’t have Netfabb to automate a large portion of file preparation process, each build would be substantially more time consuming and labor intensive.”

I will admit to not being that familiar with Netfabb so it all seems new to me. The announcement of new features has me intrigued so hopefully I can find some time to try this out soon.



7 things I learned before the AU2016 Keynote

Autodesk University (AU2016)

AU2016 has come and gone. Even though it was earlier this year (to beat American Thanksgiving) it still feels a bit like the end of the year. It was a look back at what happened and a look forward to the exciting things happening as we go into 2017.

I flew into Las Vegas Sunday evening as I had a full slate Monday during the pre-conference events. I wear a lot of hats at AU; Technical Services Manager, Media, Expert Elite, AU Advisory Console, and a member of the Vault Customer Advisory Board. It leads to a very hectic schedule but I think provides me a different perspective than most who attend.

Here are the highlights of what happened BEFORE the conference opening keynote.

#1 – Autodesk Forge

I started the pre-conference with the Autodesk DevDays General Session. Announced at last year’s AU, Autodesk Forge was clearly the focus. Autodesk Forge is the development environment for all cloud developers to meet, learn, get help, and possibly get funding. There are over 4000 built so far on Forge. The goal is to have 5000 by early 2017.

Long term Autodesk feels all design will be in the cloud. The learning curve, as it is with anything new, is painful at first. However, Autodesk is here to help… “Let’s impress the boss” (great statement). Forge is not just about delivering an app but building a service and an experience.

It was pointed out that Kodak patented the original digital camera in 1975. They did nothing with it as they felt there was no reason to rock the boat. “It was best not to hurry to switch from making 70 cents on the dollar on film to maybe five cents at most in digital.” Mr Matteson, VP Electronic Imaging.

If you weren’t aware Kodak went from the top of the market to filing for bankruptcy in 2012

DevDays16 - Kodak

Autodesk does not want to be the next Kodak. Autodesk is moving to the cloud not because most of their customers are on the cloud now but because soon all their customers will be using the cloud.

In the long term, all design will be within the cloud. Short term it’s about connecting the desktop. The analogy given is it’s like moving away from collaborating by putting documents in dropbox to being the next Google documents.

Autodesk Forge is Legit

Over a dozen examples were shown of what has already been accomplished using Forge. It is uber impressive! Especially considering that many of the apps shown took only days to build. My head was spinning (honestly) with all the possibilities. 

Here are a few of the examples shown:

  • The viewer (which is the same as the A360 viewer) for viewing 3D models, manipulating the views, extracting dimensions and other information, and creating exploded views
  • IoT for a ship at sea with live maintenance information
  • CoolOrange thread modeler – Inventor is “booted”,  model is loaded,  geometry is generated , download model with real threads
  • a company offering FEA analysis as a service
  •; a site for posting your building models to present to the world
  • A mockup in which a ship model and car model are placed into the same environment and then scaled so they are the right size in relation to each other

DevDays16 - ExplodedModel

DevDays16 - Boat

DevDays16 - Ship

With Forge, Autodesk showed how you can collect data from any source; CAD,  databases,  ERP,  Sharepoint, you name it. With the data, you quickly propagate it into a web page to present in whatever fashion you need. Remember that just because it might be browser based doesn’t mean it needs to be broadcasted on the world wide web.

DevDays16 - Forge Center

At AU2016 the key is keeping the data at the center and building an experience around it. Most users don’t need the “clunky” desktop  when the lightweight version will suffice. With Forge at the center both Autodesk and customer applications are built on top.

DevDays16 - Forge2

What’s coming next for Forge?

  • Inventor API: Manufacturing workflows including create, edit, and publish
  • Revit API: Family creation, workflows for created, edit, and publish, and model checking.
  • Reality Capture
  • Visualization and Virtual Reality
  • Enterprise Integration

Want to learn more about programming in Forge? Take a look at YouTubeGithub and StackOverflow

Forge in the Media

Here’s a bit from the official press release:

“LAS VEGAS — Nov. 15, 2016 — At Autodesk University, Autodesk, Inc. (Nasdaq: ADSK) announced that developers and customers of all sizes are adopting its Forge platform to build and deploy apps and services for making the world around us. The company also introduced new AR/VR capabilities to drive immersive real-time industry experiences and shared its plans to use Forge as its common data environment and engine for simplifying its own product offerings.”

“Since announced at Autodesk University 2015, Autodesk Forge has expanded to include more robust integrations to manufacturing and construction enterprise systems to streamline collaboration, integrate with manufacturing and BIM workflows and make it easier to get things made. The more than 4,000 apps and services created on Forge span a variety of business needs ranging from part inspection to sub-sea surveying, from managing mines with drones to turning cost estimation into a competitive advantage.”

#2 – Tetra4D to Automate MBD PDF Creation

Tetra4D announced two exciting products: Automate and a mobile viewer. Read more here

#3 – Lenovo is Saving the World

Lenovo provides technology to organizations attempting to change the world. This is with the ThinkRevolution program. I had the please of sitting down with Tim Prestero from Design That Matters. This guy is truly inspirational. Read more here.

#4 – AU Advisory Council

I am a member of the Autodesk University Advisory Council. We did not have formal meetings at AU2016 but did meet for lunch. I mention this as it shows another initiative that Autodesk is taking to improve the experience of Autodesk University. Keep an eye out for the new Autodesk University online. The goal is to extend the AU experience to the entire year.

#5 – Vault News

Unfortunately, I cannot discuss the Vault Customer Advisory Board (CAB) meeting as I am under NDA. However, one bit of news is that the Vault team has been restructured to be within the Inventor team. The Inventor development team is top notch and who doesn’t want tighter integration between Inventor and Vault? Also, maybe they can finally fix the integration between Vault and AutoCAD Electrical. For those of us in the manufacturing realm, I think this is phenomenal news. For those in other spaces (like AEC) I’d be a bit nervous about future development and direction. The division is now referred to as Digital Engineering

#6 – I’m a Winner!

60 people came out this year for the Day 1 AU5K organized by Shaan Hurley. An annual event the goal is to get runners, joggers, and walkers out for a 5K jaunt early in the morning before the conference starts. I agree with Shaan in an amazing turnout and such a fun active way to start your AU day. It is another opportunity to catch up with people and meet new people. If you attend Autodesk University in the future make sure to look for all and any opportunity to talk shop with new people. I only made it out one morning, but I’m a winner and have the badge to prove it!

Running at AU 2016

[That’s me in the back row, right side, with the all black shirt]

#7 – Five Pillars of Effective CAD Management

Tuesday morning, prior to the keynote, I attended the Five Pillars of Effective CAD Management hosted by the Paul Munford. In all the years I’ve known Paul I had yet to catch him present live and in person. If you haven’t, don’t miss out on future opportunities. Even after 6-years as a CAD Manager, Paul still found a way to teach me a thing or two. I went back to work with a few key items to implement.

What did I learn? Yes, an old dog can still learn new tricks… and you’d be foolish to stop learning!


Feature Image Nicolas Alejandro    

The 11 Moments of Autodesk University 2015

The 11 Moments of Autodesk University 2015

Autodesk University 2015 (AU) has come and gone, and it was one of the best I’ve attended.

On the first day of AU, Autodesk gave to me…. a beer…. in a tree

On the second day of AU, John gave to me. Two Media Events

On the third day of AU, Autodesk gave to me. Three Usability Studies

On the fourth day of AU, Autodesk gave to me. Four pounds of country fried steak

The fifth moment of AU, Autodesk gave to me. Five golden toques

At the Keynote at AU, Autodesk gave to me. Six Star Wars Stormtroopers!

Las Vegas

A bit different for me this year is that I flew into Vegas the Sunday night, giving me the full Monday to attend pre-conference events. That Sunday night, it was exactly the same temperature as what it was when I left Saskatoon (-3 Celcius). The difference is in Saskatoon everyone was in light jackets enjoying the unseasonably warm weather, where everyone in Vegas was in winter parkas, toques, scarfs, and face masks. It made me chuckle.

AU 2015 was held at the Venetian, which to me is the best hotel on the strip. It really is a grand hotel and I find the conference facility to be better laid out leading to much less walking than other AU locations. As with every AU, it blows me away how they are able to accommodate 12,000 people. The keynote is a bit of a disaster getting out after, but at meal time people are in and out, fed and watered, with hardly a wait. The meals provided for lunch and supper in the exhibit hall were exceptional, my hats off to the Venetian staff. The best meal though was at the conference ending party at the Hard Rock. The Chicken Fried Steak and Jalapeno Mac & Cheese was out of this world!


I also went jogging down the strip with 25-other brave people. Thanks to Shaan Hurley for organizing this and mapping out the route. I just started jogging a few months back and wasn’t prepared for all the stairs… it really did me in. So between the stairs, stopping to take pictures, and taking a wrong turn I came in dead last… but I made the full 3-miles!


Easily the best thing about Autodesk Univeristy is the networking. 12,000 people (“CAD Geeks” my wife refers to us as) in one location, there to talk about CAD, design, engineering, CAM, and life in general…. what could be better? And the mingling starts at 6:30 AM over breakfast and goes until the early hours at any of the many social events that occur in the evenings. [I also found a new favorite beer, Goose Island IPA!]

Goose Island Beer - baconfest 013

Goose Island beer – Baconfest 2013 by Anne Petersen

Do we only talk “shop“? No, but I’ve met so many interesting people over the years, learned lots, been inspired, laughed, and have made many great friends. The people I’ve met at AU (and stayed in contact) have helped me out of some jams over the years. In fact, this gig I have with D&M was a result of attending AU.

It can be overwhelming with the sheer number of people, especially for introverted type people, but if you put yourself out there, ask a couple simple questions, trust me you will learn a lot. This year I learned about building processing plants in Denmark, using Cray Supercomputers in the 80’s for FEA, and the state of Wyoming… there was a lot of deep Star Wars discussions, and I learned a lot about American Politics and the Health Care system in the UK… it was all fantastic!

Vault Customer Advisory Board

My preconference day was mostly spent with the Vault Customer Advisory Board (CAB). A select group of Vault users brought together by the Vault team to discuss Vault… the good, the bad, and the ugly! It’s a really small group only made smaller as only a few of us could make it to AU. However, even though the six of us were outnumbered by the Autodesk crew, we definitely let them know our opinions! I’d love to share what we discussed, but I’m under NDA (sorry).

I will share one of the activities we did, which I think I might start using at work. We were given $10,000 in play money, and a store in which we could buy features ($1000 each). The goal was to build a new solution for Vault, make a poster for it, and then “sell” it to our peers. As we were limited in the features we could buy it really made us focus on what was important and why it was important. What a great way to make us focus, plus making it a competition always helps! My team (team Canada, eh!) consisted of myself, Damien (Evans Console), and Mikel Martin (Autodesk). We did good, even though I had to step out momentarily for another meeting and bailed on the team’s presentation to the group (oops).

AU CAB Team Canada Eh

I’m really hoping this is the kickoff to achieving great things with the CAB throughout 2016. (Thanks Alan for the picture)


I’ve already written about the Keynote, but it was really good this year and even included Stormtroopers!

AU2015 Keynote Lynn Storm Troopers


The Autodesk Simulation team did a great job of scheduling a track specific about FEA with Nastran. Tracks at AU are a series of classes presented in order, revolving around a topic or software. They are great when you want to focus on something in particular as it takes the stress out of scheduling. You know you will learn a lot about the topic as they can break it down and focus on the specifics. This isn’t always easy in one 60-minute or 90-minute class.

Unfortunately, I was only able to make one session, IM10376 Let’s Get It Started, presented by Sualp Ozel. This was the kickoff to the Sim track. I attended this class not that I’m new to FEA but new to Nastran, and Sualp is a great presenter and teacher. I will definitely be checking out the other classes in this track when the material is posted to AU Online.


Autodesk has been talking about the “Internet of Things” (IoT) for the past few AU’s. This year was different as they have officially entered the IoT market with the acquisition of SeeControl. 2016 is going to see a ton of IoT from Autodesk, this is only the start.

Autodesk SeeControl

In a very Vegas fashion, I got to see SeeControl live-and-in-action while sitting on a stool, in a bar, drinking a beer, while at an Autodesk-sponsored social event. SeeControl is 100% cloud-based and works with a very extensive list of devices. What’s very cool about SeeControl is whenever someone adds a new device, it becomes available for everyone…. crowd sourcing at its finest. It all seems very promising, but I need to research a bit before I can really make an opinion.

What is the Internet of Things? I like how Jacob Morgan put it in Forbes 

So what is the Internet of things?

“Simply put this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig. As I mentioned, if it has an on and off switch then chances are it can be a part of the IoT. The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices…that’s a lot of connections (some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion). The IoT is a giant network of connected “things” (which also includes people). The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.”

Usability Studies / Answer Bar

I’ve done Usability Studies before, but this year they were exceptional. What are usability studies? An opportunity to sit with Autodesk 1-on-1 or in a small group and test new and / or technology and just talk out loud about what you like and what you don’t like. It’s great for Autodesk to get live feedback and its great for you as you get to see what’s planned and get your input into its direction. This year I attended two, one on Simulation and another on A360… again, sorry, can’t share as I signed an NDA.

I will admit that in the past for every time  I walked by an Answer Bar, I just kept on walking. I thought they were just for “newbies” and beginners and man I was wrong. After a bit of prodding I went and sat at the Manufacturing Answer Bar and was able to put the next version of Inventor through its paces. It went so well, and I was honestly having so much fun, that I was late for my next appointment. So, if you are ever at AU stop at each Answer Bar and demand they show you something new!

Behind the Music

It started from an idea (thank KRob!) to present stories from actual Vault users on their journey through implementation to usage of the product. So Chris Benner, Jim Amero, and myself presented to a room full of people, our journey to Vault. I felt bad as I got a bit excited and started rambling and cut into Jim’s time. But like the pro he his, Jim adapted and finished his portion right at the end of the class allotted time. I love presenting at AU, but this year was a bit strange as I only had one class and it didn’t involve any demoing! But the reviews were really positive, so I think it went well.

[Another AU testimonial, this is the second class Chris and I have co-presented together, and we met at AU a handful of years ago and stay in contact even between AUs.]

Exhibit Hall

For people in the manufacturing realm, they probably found the Exhibit Hall a bit underwhelming as I did. Sure seemed to be a lot more for AEC (Civil and Architecture). Not that there wasn’t a few cool things, but overall I give it one big meh.

What was cool? (A few of my favorites)

  • Frame was there (whom I’ve written about lately and have a few more planned for early 2016). They announced they have completed its Virtual Environment Certification for Autodesk applications, exciting news
  • Tetra4D which has some upcoming cool tech for PDF. You will see some posts from me about what they are doing in early 2016, if not sooner
  • Google’s Project Tangoa tablet that can real-time 3D scan, plus its a crazy game environment. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with this technology
  • KeyMouse – The keyboard and mouse reinvented (enough said!)

What was surprising? The lack of reseller presence isn’t really that surprising as its the way the industry is going. When I started attending AU five years ago it was the resellers who had the biggest booths and were throwing the biggest parties. Now, the only reseller booth I remember seeing was IMAGINiT’s. What has taken over the reseller presence is definitely the training providers. Ascent and Global eTraining had big booths and seemed to be swamped (busy) all the time.

What was shocking? The amount of large format plotters, and I mean LARGE devices. I thought we were in the paperless age?

What didn’t I like?

You’ve probably read this and are thinking “Mike, it can’t all be buttercups and rose petals?”. It wasn’t, even though it was probably the best AU I’ve attended.

Like every AU there is SO much going on and it is really hard to create your schedule. I check, and check, and double check the class list as I always get an overwhelming (anxious) feeling that I’ve picked the wrong class or missing something really important. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution, although I know I missed some great classes this year (like Paul’s Complex Topology and Class-A Surface Modeling with Inventor)

Autodesk employees seem to be dominating the delivery of classes… even though it is an Autodesk User conference. It would be better to have more users up in front of the classes. This is my biggest complaint.


Overall, great AU, I learned lots, talked to a lot of great people, and came back motivated.



Feature Image Can You See Us Below This Looks Like a Warp Speed Effect by Torley


The Cloud Changes Everything at Autodesk University

After the Keynote and a quick lunch, was the media event where Autodesk summarized the year, took a high-level look at the next year, and made a couple announcements. The overall theme was the Cloud Changes Everything.

The Cloud Changes Everything

The session started with Scott Reese VP Cloud Platforms. He talked about how the Autodesk vision is to help people imagine, design, and create a better world. He echoed Carl’s statement about the convergence of industries and how the “Cloud Changes Everything”

AU Media People Will Design

How is the cloud impacting us? Production, Demand, and Product. We’re not patient, we want it now, and we want it fully customized… and everything is connected. The traditional concept to design to produce to operate and finally retire is gone. We no longer need to mass produce to make money and no longer need to wait until the end to find value in what we produce. The “new” method of making things is to personalize, collaborate, it’s flexible and aims to provide a truly great customer experience. Consumers want to buy your product, but they want it tailored for their needs. Collaboration is happening at the point of innovation. The manufacturing process is becoming flexible with the advancements in advanced manufacturing, including 3D Printing.

Autodesk is now Design | Make | Use and working to blur the lines between the “silos” Scott talked briefly about Fusion 360, PLM 360, and Autodesk 123D Circuits

The Cloud Changes Everything - Design Make Use

The customer example was Flare who is building smart home products, for example, vents connected to your home thermostat so that the temperature of your house manages the opening and closing of the vents. They are a Fusion 360  customer

AU Media Flare

We are entering the Era of connection where we are all instrumented and connected to others who are instrumented (for example Fitbit). Think about Smart Homes where all he things we are connected are connected to other things… also, think about smart cars that are aware of the things around them. This has and will lead to an overwhelming amount of data that a human cannot begin to comprehend…. drum roll please… lead to the introduction of Autodesk SeeControl for the Internet of Things. [Note: I was fortunate to be a VIP for the AU IoT event and plan to cover SeeControl in more depth later]. The SeeControl acquisition was “soft” announced a few months back, but this was the official introduction to the Autodesk portfolio.

SeeControl fits into Autodesk’s ecosystem as it is completely cloud-based and can be connected to sensors to collect data almost instantly. The example usage case was industrial where traditional maintenace was scheduled “just-in-case” replacement, but with sensors transmitting data SeeControl predicts wear and problems and schedules maintenance when its actually going to fail. Autodesk has over 60 customers already using it in production.

People will design, make, and use the connected future with Autodesk

Design Re-imagined and Project Wingman

Amy Bunszel, VP of AutoCAD Products, discussed “Design Re-imagined”. How the platform transition drives opportunity and she talked about the initial switch from mainframe to PC lead to AutoCAD and now the move is to the Cloud & Mobile. Again, the Cloud Changes Everything. Autodesk has already or will be shortly moving to continuous updates, pay-as-you-go subscription, making sure that data is always available, and providing an experience optimized for mobile. All Product Managers within Autodesk have been given a mission to change the customer experience.

This includes

  • Simplified…. Continual upgrades with “bite-sized” updates meaning you are always on latest version with none of the uninstall / reinstall pains
  • Personalized… based on the user-level of experience or how they like to work the product will adapt. The products will also provide better interoperability, customizations migrate easily, and use-based skill-building tips 
  • Connected… collaboration anywhere, anytime, with anyone and a coherent experience on desktop, web, mobile across any platform

Amy finished with the Project Wingman announcement which is a new application that runs along side the product providing support, tips, and suggestions based on your requirements. The project started about 6-months ago with AutoCAD / LT users and is available for testing now with the new beta. Scott and Gavin get an early opportunity as Australia and New Zealand will get Wingman very soon.

Autodesk University 2015 Keynote Summary

A new experience for me at this years Autodesk University 2015 Keynote is my Media Pass. It allowed me to sit in the front row and was able to live tweet, take notes, and experience the event up close and personal. It was a bit overwhelming to keep up, but what an experience!

Autodesk University 2015 Keynote

Like all years, the keynote really sets the tone for the rest of the conference. What really made this year’s keynote was the “special” guests, plus Jeff Kowalski was really on his game this year…. and the hip hop dancers were amazing. Autodesk created a party-like atmosphere, and there seemed to be a real buzz as people exited the hall.

AU Keynote Dancers 1 AU Keynote Dancers 2

Lynn Allan was first, as she always is, to introduce the 23rd Autodesk University. Escorted onto the stage by storm troopers no less! So COOL!

AU2015 Keynote Lynn Storm Troopers

Carl Bass “Reframing”

Keeping with the party atmosphere, Carl Bass (Autodesk CEO) came onto the state to ACDC’s Thunderstruck, much less corny than years past. His theme was “Reframing” and he shared stories of customers he’s met and visited, highlighting customers who are solving “not just the old problems“. There are some people / companies out there doing some really amazing stuff and I really like these stories. Autodesk does a good job of focusing on the success and the people and although they make it known their software was involved it really becomes secondary to the story.

Bob and Kelly at ConXtech design and build steel buildings. They have created their own system (mechanism) of fitting the steel together. It is a system based on a simple dovetail joint but designed so that assembly does not require welding or onsite riveting.  With this system, they are able to erect over10,000 sq ft of building per day, with a very small crew. Other problems they solved: They built their own jigs so that they could weld horizontally (30% faster than vertical welding) and when ConXtech ran into difficulties getting pre-qualified for seismic, they built their own testing system as nothing existed. They “reframed” the way they worked

I don’t know where I’ve been hiding but I haven’t seen or read anything on the new Apple campus, I knew they were doing it but didn’t really know what. Its impressive… 3 million sq feet, $5 billion to build, a big “donut” that has Steve Job’s design all over it. Carl talked about precast concrete panels made to super precise tolerances, with embedded RFID chips to track it throughout the process. It made him realize that they were really assembling, not building, and that the building and manufacturing industries are converging.

“The building industry is looking more and more like the manufacturing industry” Carl Bass

The last example was Kevin Zinger who was building car batteries in China until he found out that a typical car generates 1/3 its environment impact as it rolls off the assembly line. So he created Divergent to create cars that are not just energy efficient, but efficient in the making. Making cars… but “making sure we’re working on the right problems.

AU Keynote Carl Bass 1

“Are we working on the right problem”?

AU Keynote Carl Bass 2

Carl wrapped up his examples discussing the Internet of Things (IoT), which you will see a lot of from Autodesk. Carl described how IoT creates closed looped systems to capture, analyze, and react to problems. His example was an airport deicing company that ran our of deicer during a storm and it grounded 450 planes. This company implemented IoT completely reframe how they did things. They now monitor how much is deicer is used, how long it takes to apply, how much is left, when the next load is coming, and how much environmental impact there is from the chemical.

Carl addressed the growing fear over the potential for technology to replace people creating a shortage of jobs. Carl explained that the problem isn’t going to be a shortage of jobs but a shortage of talented people. He asked “How will you attract and maintain talented people?” He continued explaining people care more about doing meaningful work than the perks. They want to be passionate and work on something that is meaningful to them.

Andrew McAfee

Andrew McAfee is the co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. If you are going to watch the recording of the keynote and only want to watch one presenter, he is the one to watch. He started suggesting that at a boring dinner party ask “What have been the most important developments in human history“. The geeky response is “what does the evidence say?” The real answer is that not one single event has significantly changed human history and social development until the development of the steam engine and the industrial revolution. (~240 years ago). These two events have lead to a higher standard of living even with an exploding population, but at the cost of diluting the world.

AU Keynote Andrew M 01

Andrew discussed how during the 1900’s there was a growing fear that the exploding population would lead to famine and human interaction to decide who lived and who died

AU Keynote Andrew M 02

This has not happened. We are eating better, living better, we’re wealthier, etc… So what happened?

  1. Innovation: when whale oil became too expensive to use we switched to kerosene in our lamps. We shouldn’t “low ball” human innovation
  2. Dematerialization: we are past the peak point of our commodity usage, we require less and are using less.
  3. Computerization: we have a bottomless thirst for software and code

AU Keynote Andrew M 03

AU Keynote Andrew M 06

AU Keynote Andrew M 07

We (as Earth’s population) have two remaining challenges:

  1. We need to stop cooking the planet
  2. We require less labour which is putting increasing pressure on the middle class

There are some positive signs… the whales are back in New York!

AU Keynote Andrew M 09

The next great era of human work “Augmented Age”

Jeff Kowalski was up last, and he was on his game today. His presentation was well delivered and definitely motivated me.

AU Keynote Jeff K 01

Jeff started by explaining how our relationship with tools has been directive, they are passive… they do what we tell them and nothing else. Technology is making a giant leap from Passive to Generative… your goals and constraints are the inputs and the computer explores the solution space and provides ideas, many we probably wouldn’t have thought of or considered.

“With Generative Design, Complexity comes for free.”

Airbus & Autodesk are working on a partition panel that sits between passengers and the flight crew. The current panel is already light and strong, but Airbus doesn’t think it is good enough. Autodesk ran their generative analysis solution on it and the new design is half the weight, but much stronger than the original. Airbus has calculated the weight savings is equivalent to removing 96000 passenger cars per year.

AU Keynote Jeff K 02

The first part of the Augmented Age is Generative, the next is Intuitive – the ability to learn is making computers better partners for design. You will be able to show something you’ve designed to the computer and it will tell you if it works, creating a true partner in design.

Technology is becoming Empathic. It learns you, your likes, dislikes, and starts to understand what you want and suggest what you really need.

The fear is robots will take jobs but Jeff believes you will not lose our jobs to robots, but to others who do clever things with the robot.

Dr. Hugh Herr

A truly inspirational story, Dr Hugh Herr (a MIT Professor) started by explaining how he is a “bunch of nuts and bolts from the knee down” but that he can run, jog, and skip. He lost his legs in the early 80s from frostbite he got from a mountain climbing excursion. Dr Herr was told he’d never be able to mountain climb again… but he did.

AU Keynote Dr Herr 01

“My body wasn’t broken, technology was broken”.

AU Keynote Dr Herr 02

Technology has the power to heal. Ask yourself, do you see weakness or the opportunity to make things better? Technology will free us from the shadows of disability.

AU Keynote Dr Herr 03

Something that is interesting and scary at the same time is his explanation that “Bionics” will lead to a future, where the designer will design themselves.

Making Things People Want

Jeff came back and talked about the nervous system of the things, we make, and how it is still rudimentary. In a funny example, but one that makes you think, he asked “What if barbie is really lonely?“. What if the toy manufacturer could track their toys right from design to creation to the actual use? What’s missing is a nervous system connecting us to the things we design and manufacture. Once things are connected we’ll be able to make better designs, react to actual use, know if people actually like it, and be able correct existing products (for example apply a patch).

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