Wednesday, December 7, 2011

'Create more' Disruptive Technology - Digital Fabrication with 3D Printing

Autodesk held its annual worldwide user meeting, known as Autodesk University, last week at The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. Approximately 8000 people attended. Z Corp. was among the 50 exhibitors on hand, and we were very busy in our booth this year. Here’s what the booth looked like before the crowds converged.

The event is largely intended for user education with hundreds of live classes held over 3 days plus more than 200 ‘virtual classes’ in 20 different tracks that can be viewed online free of charge. For the AEC community, in the Advanced Visualization track, there is a class titled Design Process Improvement with Fast Inexpensive 3D Printing (course number AV5500)
My colleague, Julie Reece, also prepared a virtual class titled Physical and Digital Prototypes Belong Together (course MP6661)
3D printing continues to gain momentum year after year at AU. During the main stage presentation, Autodesk CTO Jeff Kowalski talked about the Five Waves of Disruption:

1. Access and Experience

2. Business Unusual

3. Digital Fabrication

4. Ambient Intelligence

5. Infinite Computing

Here is the AU Blaug summary on Digital Fabrication:

Wave #3—Digital Fabrication

3D printers are making it easier to design and create things. This ability to create (literally “on the fly”) is being tested in gravity-free environments so parts can be created as needed in outer space. Other efforts are being directed at intergenetic engineering competitions where students are taking on the problem of global malnutrition or teaching bacteria to heal cracks in concrete or grow bricks.
Architect Jeffrey McGrew of Because We Can took the stage to talk about his design-build studio which he runs with his wife Jillian Northrup. They use digital fabrication to design and build just about anything. Jeffrey said that they are able to make things that use very little materials and almost assemble themselves.

Next, Mark Hatch CEO of TechShop explained how today the largest untapped resources are free time and disposable income. TechShop is taking people off the street and giving them tools—and they are launching products in just a few weeks. For example, Square enables small businesses and other users to accept credit and debit purchases by swiping cards through a small dongle that plugs into a mobile device's audio jack. Solum designed a measurement system that allows growers, service providers, and agronomists to make immediate and accurate measurements of soil nitrate levels,

What does this mean? Open innovation “just went nuclear.” More than 60% of innovations today come from the consumer.

For the entire blog, visit:

For Kowalski’s talk and the entire Keynote Session, visit:

This was my 6th AU since 2005 (two with Autodesk and four with Z Corp.). All in all, it felt much more upbeat than the past few years. Our heightened booth traffic was indicative of the activity and energy level. Perhaps the economy has turned the corner? If you were at AU last week, let me know what you thought of the event.


  1. Great post and exciting to see more posts on digital fabrication and the building industry.

    As a builder and fabricator I was excited to see Autodesk further embrace digital fabrication. I look forward to seeing more examples of projects at all scales.