Autodesk University is an annual event hosted by Autodesk Inc. in partnership with other sponsors that aim to inspire engineers about the future of design at both convention presentations and innovation forums.
This year, the event was held December 2 to 5 in Las Vegas.
Shown here are five applications developed or designed with Autodesk products and explained in conference sessions — an Aston Martin roadster, new mass-transit facilities, a prosthetic, a compact energy generator, and a SCARA-based camera arm.
The conference venue was the Venetian in Las Vegas, all decked out for the holidays.
Autodesk University 2013 kicked off with a one-day special summit called I3D (for innovation, inspiration, and ideas) designed to help engineers understand new ways to get rough designs to fully tested mass production.
Here, Jen McCabe of the Vegas Tech Fund expalins how Romotive, maker of small personal robotics, used nontraditional funding sources and development to get their product off the ground.
The Vegas Tech Fund supported the company with investments in the hardware space via its Nimbus program for robotics, smart-home technologies, 3D printing, drones, and the internet of things.
After a false fire alarm and slight delay —
Holy macaroni: @Autodesk #AU2013 is now in full swing and enormous. Is this fire alarm for real, though? — @EitelonDesign, December 3
— festivities got under way.
At the AU2013 opening keynote address, CEO Carl Bass (left) explains how two designers of Orphanage Guitars perfected their musical instruments (one example on display, right) collaboratively and remotely over Fusion 360, Autodesk's new Facebook-like platform for crowdsourced design work.
The most dramatic bit at the keynote (left) was the surprise cameo appearance by the Bot and Dolly SCARA-based camera robot (right) used to make the gone-viral Box video and craft the mindblowing special effects in the Sanda Bullock blockbuster, Gravity.
The robot uses controls that integrate Autodesk's Maya animation software to get better performance than traditional tools and SCARA programming.
At several sessions, Autodesk stressed how the company thinks subscription-based software and suites that work together will change how engineers design systems — particularly for collaborations. "Three years ago we started to talk to you about cloud, social, and mobile computing and how it would change the way we all work. Hopefully we show you some of that today,” says Carl Bass.
In the AU2013 exhibit hall, I got close enough to Aston Martin's new bespoke Vanquish to (almost) touch it.
Artists and engineers designed the car body using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro — freeform sketching software — followed by Alias surface-shaping and other software.
Also on display in the exhibit hall (in the hands of Vicon's friendly boothmaster, left) were immersive-environment goggles from Vicon Motion Systems Ltd. The goggles let users see (right) an environment or CAD-based design and move around it naturally. Sensors on the goggle track the wearer's movements and change what projected to the wearer's eyes in realtime.
In the Vicon booth, I put on a pair of the goggles while seated in a precisely positioned chair and found myself whisked away to the driver's seat in a virtual sports car, parked on the side of what looked to be some stretch of Highway 101. I swung out of the virtual car and walked around it before getting dizzy and removing the goggles to return to the reality of the exhibit hall.
One busy little Stratasys Objet printer in the exhibit hall quietly worked on building a part, demonstrating how CAD and CAM software facilitate 3D printing.
In fact, MakieLab displayed 3D-printed dolls that customers (or their wee ones) can customize and order online ... just in time for Christmas.
Founder Alice Taylor spoke at AU 2013 and explained how the doll-ordering and 3D-printing system relies partly on Autodesk's 3DS Max modeling and animation software.
Karcher North America displayed a Landa Ecos mobile pressure washer that reclaims water for reuse. It lets municipalities and other users blast sidewalks and parking lots clean without wasting precious H2O.
Karcher designed the pressure washer with Autodesk Product Design Suite.
This little darling — an Afinia H-Series 3D printer — was also on display in the AU 2013 exhibit hall. The $1,599 printer weighs about 10 lb and uses inexpensive ABS filament. Some vendors even sell the unit bundled with a software license for Autodesk Design Academy, an education-grade suite of software to help students learn basic CAD and 3D-printing concepts, among other things.
I wouldn't be opposed to getting one of these Afinias as a gift.
Users can access myriad sites for designs and templates, including instuctables.com (owned by Autodesk.)
AU 2013 was billed as an event focused not on product promotion, but idea exchanges between software users. “If Proctor and Gamble can find the perfect Pringles printer at a little bakery in Bologna, imagine what you guys can do," says Jeff Kowalski, Chief Technology Officer.
To this end, Kowalski hopes the site autodesk360.com will provide a common point of exchange.
One of the biggest announcements at AU 2013 was of CAM 360, cloud-based computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software that lets designers tap into the near-infinite computing power of the cloud for computation-intense design translations.
The cloud-based nature of CAM 360 also lets machinists weight in on designs and tell engineers where they went wrong.
Finally, cloud-based CAM work lets multiple designers edit and tracks changes on manufacturing plans.
Another item on display in the exhibit hall was a Hawkes Deepflight personal submarine, which has a composite frame, high-powered thrusters, and advanced controls to outperform inflatable-based subs. The Deepflight was designed with Autodesk Inventor, which let engineers model complete assemblies before going into production.
My esteemed colleague Stephen Mraz first covered this Hawkes submarine design (and how its engineers leveraged Autodesk software to put it together) in 2008. Check out the submarine's design details here.
Autodesk University 2013 proved an inspirational Vegas conference that will give us plenty of ideas about innovation to ponder over the holidays. Enjoy your own.