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 The Three Things We Loved About the AU Keynote

Autodesk 2012 has come and gone, but the conference continues to generate buzz around the products and people that helped make it a success. Here are three things that caught our eye last Tuesday:

1. The Future of Making Things
The conference kicked off last Tuesday with a keynote speech from, among others, 12-year-old engineer Schuyler St. Leger , who greeted CEO Carl Bass on stage before demonstrating his self-built and LED-adorned lab coat. Like theDoogie Houser of design, Schuyler talked about design in the 21st century through the prism of a middle school maker. St. Leger covered the history of invention – think Da Vinci and Edison – and the significance of 3D printing for future designers looking to make new things more quickly and less expensively. It’s encouraging to see such a young person talk so enthusiastically about making things, and impressive that he can do it in front of 8,000 strangers. Schuyler’s generation is the next generation of makers, and they were on full display at AU.

 

2. 3D Printers and the Global Conglomerates Who Love Them
3D printing also took a more prominent role in this year’s AU conference. Although still in its infancy, the technology has been gaining traction in the manufacturing marketplace and should someday replace CNC and Waterjet machines as the process of choice for fabricators. Moreover, 3D printers are enabling a democratization of design, where even the aforementioned Schuyler St. Leger can create new products in almost no time. Christine Furstoss, general manager of technology at General Electric discussed in her keynote how manufacturing technology is enabling design, rather than materials dictating how and what technologies we use to manipulate them. “We’re in a materials inflationary environment,” explained Furstoss. “We must innovate differently to grow.” One goal for GE, Furstoss explained, is to 3D print a working engine within the next 3 years (see it here).

3. Cloud is King
Tuesday’s keynote was dominated by CEO Carl Bass and Autodesk 360, the company’s cloud-based suite of tools meant to make project sharing easier. The idea of Autodesk in the cloud is nothing new, but this year’s BIM 360, PLM 360, mobile-friendly apps like Sketchbook (like a virtual napkin for scribbling ideas) and Autodesk 123D show that the technology has matured beyond simply online storage. With this new suite of products, Autodesk is taking steps to create a virtual workspace and enable online collaboration in almost every type of design and build project – from consumer products to skyscrapers.

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