Autodesk models the future of making things


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The way people make things is fundamentally changing, says Andrew Anagnost, senior vice president of marketing at CAD/CAM software company Autodesk. It’s a big opportunity and a big challenge, not just for high-profile manufacturers of mass-produced products like cars or smartphones, but also for the legions of independent inventors, designers and hobbyists who combine artisan skills and computer programming to participate in the so-called ‘maker movement’.

As part of the Dreamforce Innovation Tour, diginomica met with Anagnost at the Autodesk Gallery on Market Street in San Francisco, where the company showcases to the public original designs created with its products by companies that include Lego, Mercedes-Benz and Nike.

There, he outlined four key areas in which Autodesk, a customer of many years, sees big changes underway – and gave some details on the $2.5 billion software company is responding to these dramatic shifts in the business of making things.


Designers, says Anagnost, are increasingly working in whole new ways – and many of these follow a more collaborative style than was seen in the past:

There’s a complete and utter comfort with teams coming together quickly to solve a design problem, often remotely, and then moving on again to work on other projects, possibly without ever having met face-to-face.

Cloud computing is supporting that change, he says, as well as enabling vendors like Autodesk to deliver the power of a supercomputer to a designer’s web browser, so that they can tap into massive compute power to help them make decisions, without needing super-expensive hardware.

A case in point is Lightning Motorcycle, which created the world’s first street-legal superbike using generative design, a process that relies on computer algorithms to identify and auto-design the best possible solution to a given problem, based on parameters set in advance by a designer. A number of Autodesk products were used in the design of Lightning’s motorcycle, including the cloud-based 3D CAD/CAM platform, Fusion 360.


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