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.

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.

Using Generative Design for Art Projects

John Briscella from Aminimal Studio was part of the Artist in Residence program at Autodesk's Pier 9 in San Francisco. During his residency he worked with the Dreamcatcher team to apply generative design to the creation of an olympic recurve bow.

Autodesk Research Dreamcatcher Bow

John asked some interesting questions in exploring this project:

Can design be automated? What does that mean for the role of designer?

And then he found an answers to his question in the designer letting go and letting the software do what it does best. Going on to say:

It's going to be an amazing dialog between humans and machines - figuring out the best possible solution for a design


John started of with sketching his project and and goals for the design.

 Autodesk Research Dreamcatcher Bow

He scanned his arm and hand with reality capture to define one of the goals so that there would be a custom fit. Other parts defined below include a space for the arrow and the upper and lower limbs and the bolt holes to mount them.

Autodesk Research Dreamcatcher Bow


With this set, Dreamcatcher can begin the simulation. At each step, the bow is tested for strength.

Final the digital part is sent to the CNC milling machine. John says:

This is like watching the evolution of bone structures or plant structures

 CNC 3D milling of the Optimal Bow Tekina in Aluminum

The completed part gets removed from the machine. 

Autodesk Dreamcatcher Bow

You can learn more about how John did this on Instructables and through the video below.



Humans and Robots Collaborating at Autodesk University

Visitors to Autodesk University 2015 are invited to work with a robot through wearables and internet of things technologies to help build a 12' high architectural pavilion using bamboo.

Autodesk Research HiveThe hive will be created from 224 tensegrity units. Each tensegrity unity is composed of three bamboo rods held together with string that is wound by robotic arms. The magical part is that the bamboo rods are not touching each other. Each tensegrity unit is unique due to the bamboo rods having differences in length and diameter. They are connected together with special LED units that help the builders place the pieces and will create a light show. 

Autodesk Research Hive Bamboo Tensegrity Unit

The hive is coordinated and tracked by a system called the foreman engine. In it one can see the project status and contributions by all workers. 

Autodesk Research Hive Foreman System

You can see the full details in the movie below and follow the AU Hive on twitter




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.