The Future of Making Things: Co-Authoring Products with Customers

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au-new-logo-187x32The future shared with us at Autodesk University 2016 was one of integration and collaboration — not just between members of your team, but between engineers and their tools and even engineers and their customers. Fusion 360 Senior Product Manager Daniel Graham summed it up by saying that “technology is coming together to make a more cohesive experience.” Additive manufacturing has spearheaded the integration of every element of the design and manufacturing process. This movement is reminiscent of the craftsmen and artisans pre-Industrial Revolution reuniting design and manufacturing. Also being reunited is the creator with the user, allowing us to make more customized and personal products by “co-authoring” designs with our customers.

Autodesk President and CEO Carl Bass shared that, “The willingness to embrace a new way to think and do your work – that’s what it’s going to take to succeed in a future that’s all about change.”

au-1Our customers are increasingly expecting products that are customized, but the traditional product life cycle paints manufacturers into a corner with an inflexible business process. We are seeing a big shift to manufacturing with newer technology like 3D printing that allows greater flexibility.

Andrew Anagnost summed it up by saying, “You heard Carl [Bass], Jeff [ Kowalski,Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer], and Amar [Hanspal, Senior Vice President, Products] tell you these changes are real and the rate of change is accelerating. Some of you might be excited but you’re not sure how to take it to the next level. Some of you might be overwhelmed and that’s a pretty natural reaction. And now you’ll see it’s personal – it’s about your jobs, your companies, your whole industries. It’s great for me to talk about disruption and change and for Autodesk to talk about it. It’s another thing to think about the impact on you and what you can do about it. Fortunately for all of us, humanity didn’t move from stone tools to 3D printers in one giant leap. It’s a series of what I call irreversible steps.”

au-2At Autodesk University we also saw advances with Fusion 360 that spoke to this trend, adding generative design capabilities to the software. The ability to input design criteria such as desired criteria (weight, size, cost) and allow computer algorithms to generate design geometries that fit those constraints is coming to Fusion 360 in stages. Starting with shape optimization as seen in November’s release and with structural latticing to follow, designers will get access to the cutting-edge in design optimization and spare themselves unnecessary iteration and testing.

Following the major release of Netfabb 2017, Autodesk is heavily committed to its vision of Netfabb as a true end-to-end additive manufacturing solution. The company has bolstered the software with enhanced simulation capabilities, new hybrid manufacturing functionality and collaborative multi-head 3D printing.

Mark Forth, Manager of Manufacturing Industry Strategy at Autodesk, told us, “The addition of cloud-based simulation, subtractive workflow capabilities and collaborative 3D printing means that we are now providing our customers with the most comprehensive and powerful additive solution on the market.”

Before the industrial revolution, artisans both designed and manufactured their products, connected from start to finish to the product and the customer. Now, new technology is encouraging the same — full circle creation of goods from idea to final product.


Tony Glockler is the CEO of SolidProfessor

SolidProfessor provides next-generation learning for teams, schools, and individuals to keep up with rapidly evolving engineering tools and technologies. Their online learning resources include video tutorials, hands-on exercises, and skills assessments to provide an engaging and effective learning experience.

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