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January 2015

Hacking 3D Printed Cancer-Fighting Viruses

"I really wasn't expected to be called a Biohacker but I don't mind"

Autodesk Research Hacking 3d Printed Cancer Fighting Viruses

What a great way to start a presentation! Andrew Hessel is part of the Bio/Nano/Programmable Matter group at Autodesk Research and that is how he started his fascinating presentation at the WIRED2014 Conference. In his presentation, Andrew talks about how powerful cells are and how they form networks similar to LAN's (our organs and tissues) and WAN's (our bodies).

Human Cell Autodesk Research Wired
A human cell is the most powerful and complex machine in the known universe. It runs on sugar and lasts a long time.
Chromosomes Autodesk Research Wired
This is what the program looks like for our bio computers

From this foundation he goes on to share how the maker movement is coming to biology. Andrew's ultimate goal with his work is to bring down the price of drug discovery and make more medicine available to all.

Autodesk Makerspace Pier 9
Autodesk's Makerspace at Pier 9 in San Francisco
Autodesk Life Sciences Laboratory
Autodesk has a Life Sciences laboratory as part of the Makerspace at Pier 9
Autodesk Research Bio and DNA Printers
One can now 3D print cells and DNA

With the landscape set, Andrew begins to talk about fighting cancer with 3D printed viruses. You can create a really weak virus that our body can fight yet at the same time this virus can hack the cancer cells, using the cancer cells to create more viruses to kill the other cancer cells. We call these oncolytic viruses.

Autodesk Research Bioprinting
A synthetic virus designed on a computer and printed in the lab

Now that he has created a virus he will be working on a more specific cancer-fighting virus. You can watch the full video below and learn more about this important work.

At the beginning of the video, Andrew shows an interactive tool created by the Health Sciences group at the University of Utah to illustrate the scale at which he works. It is available to the public to learn from and explore.   


Good User Experience Helps Net Promoter Score

Do you ever have trouble making the case to improve the user experience of your product? Erin Bradner from the Design Research group at Autodesk has found that user experience can impact Net Promoter Score by up to 40%.

Good UX Meand Good NPS Autodesk Research

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a way to measure customer satisfaction with a single question: How likely are you to recommend our product or service?  

To calculate the Net Promoter Score, we:

  1. Asked customers if they'd recommend our product using a scale from 0 to 10 where 10 means extremely likely and 0 means extremely unlikely.
  2. Segmented the responses into three buckets:
    • Promoters: Responses from 9-10
    • Passives: Responses from 7-8
    • Detractors: Responses from 0 to 6
  3. Calculate the percent of promoters and percent of detractors.
  4. Subtracted the percent of detractors from the percent of promoter responses to get the Net Promoter Score.

We had 40% more customers promoting than detracting our product which is above the average Consumer Software Industry average Net Promoter Score of 21%. That's a good thing but we wanted to understand why. We followed up the likelihood to recommend question with questions on overall product quality, product value and product ease-of-use. 

With this follow-up, the team looked at how a new feature contributed and compared to the other aspects of the NPS, including its discoverability, relevance and ease of use. It was assumed that Product Support and Product Value were the main drivers of a positive NPS. The data, as you can see below, showed that User Experience was an even bigger contributor. Analysing a similar a similar dataset showed even better results of User Experience contributing 40% to a positive NPS.  

Contribution of UX to Likelihood to Recommend Autodesk Research


This is good news for User Experience designers and the product team at large to help prioritize their efforts.

"The Net Promoter model had provided us with a way to define and prioritize investment in user experience design and had given us a way to track the return of that investment year-over-year."

While studying NPS, the team looked a little deeper to see how many recommendations were required to acquire a new customer.

Referrals Needed to Acquire a New Customer Autodesk Research

"Since we knew the average sales price of our product, we were able to estimate the revenue gains associated with improving the user experience of our software. We quantified the value of a good user experience. By tying user experience to customer acquisition, we are able to prioritize design investment in ease-of-use and in research to improve the user experience of our products."


Easy Animation for Storyboarding with Draco

The Maya team has a short animation in the works called Hyperspace Madness and we asked Matthew Chan, one of the project artists, to try Draco, our tool for sketch based animation and effects, to see what he thought of it for storyboarding and animatics. Hyperspace Madness started as a project to demonstrate games workflows. As that was successful, the team decided to make a short intro movie for the game to demonstrate film workflows.

Autodesk Hyperspace Madness

Normally a storyboard is created and used to sequence the shots in a film. When that is done, the storyboard is put into a short film with some basic sound to get a feel for the pacing. You can see the Hyperspace Madness animatic below.

In the first few seconds of the animatic you can see the hero moving through the scene with lasers and explosions behind him. Each of these images needs to be drawn one at a time. Where Draco was found to be really helpful was that fewer drawings needed to be created and was was created was a more accurate representation of the story intention as you can see in a few drawings below.


Beyond saving the artist time and helping to tell the story, this resulted in less data to manage. Matthew said the Draco was intuitive and uncomplicated and he really liked the gesture based options for easily moving the different picture elements.

We're still working on Draco and will keep you updated on the progress. In case you missed the picture from Autodesk University, here it is again.

Autodesk Research Draco Autodesk University

$100 Million 3D Printing Investment Fund Plus Meshmixer API and Scripting

Happy new year, Everyone! There's lots of 3D Printing news coming out of CES this week including cheaper printers, smaller printers and food printers. One of our favourites is the Voxel8 printer that prints both plastic and conductive ink for electronics (remember our research on creating tubes and cavities in your models for interactive objects?). The Voxel8 printer team is working with Autodesk via Project Wire to place components, route 3D wires and output multi-material print data for fabrication.

With this, we wanted to make sure that you know about something else we've done. Good things come in threes:

  1. Autodesk announces the open 3D printing platform known as Spark
  2. Autodesk announces the $100 million investment fund for 3D Printing innovators
  3. Autodesk announces Meshmixer 2.7 with an API and scripting

Autodesk Meshmixer API Spark 3D Printing Investment Fund


That's right! Meshmixer now has an API so you can customize workflows, automate repetitive tasks and create new tools and abilities for 3D printing on your own. Developers can access the examples via GitHub and can choose between using C++ and Python. 

LIke using Meshmixer, it is very easy to get started with the API. As this is the first exposure of the API, the team is interested in feedback on what can be improved. You can share that on the Meshmixer forum.

With these three advances in 3D printing, what will you do to make 3D printing better?