Supercharge your makerspace with IoT power

Making is rewarding and can be challenging at the same time. If the challenge gets to be too much, the reward may not happen. To overcome this, we can create smart makerspaces with devices connected via the IoT. In this project from the User Interface group, the smart makerspace is built around an interactive workbench that guides users through their tasks.

The workbench is an 84", 4K digital whiteboard covered with a 3mm sheet of acrylic to protect the screen from tools and project pieces. Above the workbench, a depth sensing camera is mounted to track the position and placement of objects. In addition to tracking parts and being the workspace, the workbench has instructions in the form of digital documentation and videos to guide the user through the tasks and provide additional background information.

Beside the workbench is a collection of small tools and project parts. Unlike a typical storage cabinet, this is connected to the workbench by USB Phidgets and it makes it easy for the user to find the required part. Need a CLL020 LED for your next step of the project? The appropriate storage compartment will light up making it easy to find. Who wouldn't want this at their local hardware store? 

Tools in the smart makerspace have been augmented to be smart and connected. For example, the soldering iron has a precision light sensor placed over its power light so the system knows its state: off, heating or ready. A proximity sensor is attached to the holster so that the system knows whether the iron is present or has been removed.


Smart safety glasses were created that include conductive tape over the nose to determine if the maker is actually wearing them. Imagine a world where dangerous tools won't work until the user is following all the appropriate safety precautions!


This research opens up a lot of possibilities for efficient and safe workplaces. Combine it with robots like in the HIVE and anything is possible! You can read more about the smart makerspace in the publication and see it in action in the video below.

Bring your photos to life with updates to Project Draco

We have an exciting new update to Project Draco available for feedback on Autodesk Labs - you can now import pictures to layers to have fun with photos of your friends and family!

The latest technology preview adds some important features for working with photos and detailed illustrations:

  • The biggest improvement is that you can now import images to layers

  • With this comes an eraser tool for tweaking the layers

  • For exporting your movies you now have control over the resolution and duration

You can turn this...

...into this!

Let's take a look at how we can do this with some falling leaves. First prepare some leaves.

Import them into a new layer.

Press the Animate! button.

Animate the leaves.

To get something like this.

There's still time to sign-up for Project Draco - all you need is an iPad to try it out. You can see more of the artwork created with Project Draco on Tumblr.

When the IoT meets Generative Design for Cars

We've talked about using the IoT to design buildings and we've talked about designing a bridge, houses and a motorcycle swingarm with generative design. Let's take that to the next level and look at designing a car!

Introducing the Hackrod!

With the Bandito Brothers, we noodled on the idea that three kids in a dorm room could start a car company and showed off our progress at Autodesk University.

The chasis you see above was wired up with sensors to gather data on the forces that the car goes through as it's being driven. Just like with project Dasher, we started with a scan of the object so we can plan where and how to attach the sensors. All of this data is captured and visualized for the next part of the plan - generating a new chasis with project Dreamcatcher. The chasis comes out looking like an alien skeleton - some people like this and some people don't.

From a design standpoint, Dreamcatcher is handling all the complex math to make a good structure and then the designer can get to work making a "cover" that meets whatever aesthetic criteria is important.

You can read more about the Hack Rod project and watch the video below.

Dreamcatcher INTRO from Bandito Brothers on Vimeo.

Primordial Hackrod from Lisa Rotzinger on Vimeo.

Surgical Training and Planning with Meshmixer

We've talked about using Meshmixer to design prosthetics and now have an interesting story from the Toshiba Stroke and Vascular Research Center in Buffalo, New York.

Dr. Ciprian Ionita and his team have developed a method to create 3D-printed vascular models (or "phantoms") using Polyjet printing technology from Stratasys. The polyjet process can create flexible objects that mimic the feeling of human tissue. Neurosurgeons are using these models for planning complex procedures such as repair of brain aneurysms.

The process begin with a CT scan of the patient's brain. Biomedical engineers extract the critical regions of the vascular (blood vessel) network as 3D surfaces. These surfaces are imported into Meshmixer, and are used as the basis for designing a printable model which the surgeon can inspect. The model can also be connected to pumps which mimic blood flow, and placed into a simulated surgical environment. These planning steps allow life-threatening complications to be identified before the patient is on the operating table.

In the video below, Dr. Adnan H. Siddiqui from the Jacobs Institute describes how one of these models was used to save a patient's life.

Making Helmets Safer with Generative Design

Over the last several decades, generative design techniques have enabled designers and engineers to broaden their exploration of topology and performance of human-scale structural forms in Architecture.  Autodesk is collaborating with Lawrence Livermore National Labs to extend this exploration to micro-architecture and how to design materials at the microscopic level. The researchers intend to generate and analyze the performance of very large sets – thousands to tens of thousands – of different structural configurations of material microarchitectures using generative (aka computational) techniques. Helmet design is an excellent example of a multi-objective design problem where constraining for weight, cost, durability, material thickness, and response to compression and sheer within the range of impact conditions will produce multiple high-performing material configurations.

Likewise, helmet design stands to advance considerably from additive manufacturing.  The internal structures of helmets not only need to be lightweight, but also must absorb impact and dissipate energy predictably.  Advanced additive manufacturing techniques can produce complex material microstructures that will dissipate energy more predictably and repeatedly than what is currently possible with traditionally manufactured helmet pads such as foams and gels.  When paired with advanced computational design methods, additive manufacturing opens up the opportunity for a functionally graded multi-material design that integrates the helmet shell with its cushioning element.  A fully validated, 100 percent additive helmet is an audacious goal, yet this collaboration expects demonstrable progress toward a prototype.

Erin Bradner from the Dreamcatcher team explains more about this exciting project in the following video from Wired exploring the future of football and dealing with concussions.


3D PrintAbility: Lower Leg Prosthetics

We've talked about the 3D Printability project before - it's an Autodesk Research partnership with CBM Canada and the Semaphore Lab at the University of Toronto to bring down the cost and time required to develop lower leg prosthetics.


The team has a great video outlining the challenge and how they're rising to meet it!

Optimize your 3D Printing for Structural Integrity

There are two ways to make sure your mesh will result in a strong 3D print and Meshmixer can help you out with both of those:

  • Orient your model
  • Thicken the thin areas

Meshmixer allows the user to analyze the mesh in real time for weak areas and shows a color range to highlight the weakest areas.

Meshmixer Structural AnalysisThe Design and Fabrication team ran a set of tests to confirm the strength gains in changing the orientation of the print. 

Meshmixer Structural Analysis

Some prints withstood more than 10x the force before breaking.

meshmixer structural optimization

For thickening the thin areas, it's very easy to paint in a stronger section. The dense meshes below are the bones of a hand and the interface is still quick and manageable.

meshmixer structural analysis

You can see some video footage of the structural analysis and stress testing in the video below. Even better, get Meshmixer and try it out for yourself! The full details of this research entitled Cross-sectional Structural Analysis for 3D Printing Optimization is available on

Seasons Greetings and May the Force be with You!

What happens when Christmas, a new Star Wars movie and an easy to use animation system like Project Draco all happen at the same time?

If you would like to try your hand at some fun animations, check out the technical preview of Project Draco available for iPad users.