3D Printing

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.

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 AutodeskResearch.com.

Research at Autodesk University 2015

For those attending Autodesk University this year in Las Vegas, Autodesk Research will have a booth in the “Central Park” section of the Exhibit Hall where we’ll be showcasing a number of exciting projects.  

Autodesk University 2015

The projects represented at this year’s conference will include:

Autodesk Research Autodesk University 2015


The Bio/Nano Research group will be showing the current status of their research on how to fold DNA to create functional nanostructures as well as how to grow artificial bones.


Autodesk Research Autodesk University 2015


Project Dreamcatcher will be exhibiting a number of generatively designed artifacts, such as the Optima Bow made by Pier 9 Artist-in-Residence John Briscella of Aminimal Studio, bicycles and motorcycle swingarms.

Autodesk Research Autodesk University 2015



The Design and Fabricaction group will be showing Meshmixer and how it is used to 3D print functional parts and body-fitting prosthetics. 

Autodesk Research Autodesk University 2015


Autodesk Within Medical, which allows implant designers to create porous coatings to aid bone and implant fusion (ie. osseointergration), will be displaying a number of their 3D printed medical components and explaining how their technology works. 



AU 2015 Map to Autodesk Researc
When you enter Sands Hall B & C, just walk to the Central Park and Autodesk Research will be on the right!

In addition to the booth, look for the Hive Project near the Exhibit Hall where Autodesk University attendees will build an architectural scale pavilion guided by human/robot interaction.

Autodesk Research Autodesk University 2015

A number of team members will be giving talks at AU:


Composite Materials and Manufacturing Processes for Automotive Applications

Tuesday, Dec 1, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM, Location: Zeno 4701, Level 4

Massimiliano Moruzzi discusses composite applications in the automotive marketplace.


Automated Composite Manufacturing

Tuesday, Dec 1, 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM, Location: Marcello 4401a, Level 4

Massimiliano Moruzzi presents an end-to-end solution for the automated composite manufacturing process. This class will cover advanced lay-up design strategies such as fiber placement, tape layering, and robotics lay-up which are utilized when programming automatic material layup equipment. High composite production rates will be covered through automated robotic material nesting and taping.


Cultivating Innovation and Developing Intrapreneurs

Wednesday, Dec 2, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM, Location: Zeno 4704, Level 4

Cory Mogk will be doing a talk on Cultivating Innovation and Developing Intrapreneurs that uses the tools from the Innovation Workshop. This class will talk about how Autodesk is helping intrapreneurs develop their ideas and we’ll provide tools and guidance that attendees can use on their own or in their organizations. 


Composite Manufacturing Solution for Optimum Material Nesting and Ply Layup

Thursday, Dec 3, 2:45 PM - 4:00 PM, Location: San Polo 3405, Level 3

Massimiliano Moruzzi will lead this two-part class where attendees will utilize Autodesk TruNest Composites to show the complete process from import to nesting to NC part cutting of ply materials. Special focus will be given to optimal nesting for efficient material usage. During the second half, we will utilize Autodesk TruLaser to perform laser projection for showing composite ply lay-up.


Once again, the Design Research team will be conducting user research sessions. This year’s focus will be on collecting feedback for Within and Dreamcatcher.  Look for the OCTO Airstream in the AU registration area.

  Autodesk Research Astronaut

We hope you’ll make some time to come by and meet some of the team. 



Cool Things from Autodesk Research at UIST 2015

Autodesk Research will be presenting five papers at the 28th ACM UIST User Interface Software and Technology Symposium in Charlotte, NC, from November 8-11. UIST is the premier forum for innovations in human-computer interfaces. UIST brings together researchers and practitioners from diverse areas including graphical & web user interfaces, tangible & ubiquitous computing, virtual & augmented reality, multimedia, new input & output devices, fabrication, wearable computing and CSCW.

UIST 2015

This year there has been an explosion in research related to the areas of digital fabrication and fabricating electronics. You may browse the full program and see Autodesk's contributions below.

NanoStylus: Enhancing Input on Ultra-Small Displays


Candid Interaction: Revealing Hidden Mobile and Wearable Computing


MoveableMaker: Facilitating the Design, Generation, and Assembly of Moveable Papercraft


Smart Makerspace: An Immersive Instructional Space for Physical Tasks

Autodesk has contributed more to UIST 2015 than just papers. We're a platinum sponsor, Tovi Grossman has been serving as the Program Committee Co-Chair and Justin Matejka has been serving as the Video Previews Co-Chair.

Here's a preview of the rest of the show.



Make with Melting

3D printing is fairly common these days and it's also fairly easy to create digital shapes that are difficult to deal with. Sometimes you get support structures that are difficult to remove. Sometimes portions of the model are more fragile than expected due to the position of the 3D printed layers of material relative to applied forces.

Autodesk Research Meltables 3D Printing3D printing your models with hinge style joints and then melting the parts into place may help you get around these problems, as seen in the images below with the before and after state.

Autodesk Research MeltablesThese objects were printed in PLA and melted at 150°C. Gravity did the rest of the work.

This also works for larger scale object such as PVC piping as seen in the object below on the left.

Autodesk Research MeltablesYou can read more about the Meltables research project conducted by the Design and Fabrication group and see some of their results in the video below. At the end of the video you'll see a strength test showing that the melted object is stronger than the standard 3D printed object.

Robots 3D Printing a Bridge Designed with Dreamcatcher

The Dreamcatcher team is helping MX3D with their design for a bridge that will be 3d printed in place by robots.

Autodesk CEO Carl Bass says that one of the really cool things about this project is that it will happen in public - not behind closed doors in a lab. Doing this project in public makes it more complicated and risky which increases the chances of learning new things.

You can see the novel printing process that MX3D has developed below. They have a multi-axis industrial robot hooked up to a robot via custom software.

Before MX3D developed their metal printing process, they perfected a resin-based method. This super fast curing resin neutralizes the effect of gravity during the printing process - the structure keeps it shape without drooping or sagging.

This may take a couple years to complete but should be fun to watch.

The finished bridge may end up looking like this model made with Dreamcatcher. The organic, tree-like structure fits nicely into the natural environment of a park.