A round-up of the overarching themes of Autodesk University 2019

In the AU General Session, Autodesk president and CEO Andrew Anagnost shared his perspective on how automation, the convergence of design and make technologies, and the changing nature of work can unlock opportunities to do more, better, with less negative impact on the world.

“With an increasing population and urbanisation and the continued rise of the global middle class, the demand for more is inevitable,” said Anagnost. “To meet the rising demand with the world’s finite resources, we must combine automation and human imagination to design and make in new ways.”

He was joined by several guests, including Autodesk CTO Scott Borduin, Autodesk director of robotics Erin Bradner, and author of ‘Imagine It Forward’ and former GE vice chair, Beth Comstock.

Bradner was part of a team that helped NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab reduce the weight of a lander, proposed for a mission to Europa – a moon of Jupiter – to probe the ice on the surface of the moon in a search for life. Generative design was used to create optimised geometry of all the lander’s structural parts including the main body, that will house the instruments, and its legs, reducing overall weight by over a third.

She said that the main problem this project is solving is one for all designers: “The challenge of how they can better explore all possible design solutions. For most companies it’s a random walk through a field of solutions one design meeting at a time. Generative design produces a variety of potential design solutions each optimised to help determine manufacturability.”

Design consultancy Atkins was represented by Annette Chapman – regional commercial manager, Middle East – and Marc Durand – director, digital disruption – who explained how the company’s Caterpillar app was taking what it learned when preparing the sites for the 2012 Olympics in London and allowing them to more efficiently and effectively plan the sites for the 2028 Games to be held in Los Angeles. Essentially, the Caterpillar app, which is based on Autodesk’s Forge cloud-based development platform, uses big data and simulation to virtually place the footprint of the various stadia, athlete’s village, spectator zones and even food vendors to find the most optimum position of each in terms of the price of the land to be built on and congestion that would be created around them.

Two additional industry keynotes for the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) and manufacturing industries, along with TED-style sessions in the AU Theater, brought together Autodesk and industry experts to take a deeper look at how the convergence of design and make, the blurring of industries, and new automation technologies are creating new opportunities.

Real-world examples of customers who have already taken advantage of these opportunities include a robot-equipped shipping container that can be brought on-site to additively manufacture custom construction components on-demand; a materially efficient flooring system that makes construction with concrete more sustainable; and a Formula One car reimagined with generative design and visualised in virtual reality.

Over the course of the event, Autodesk shared new product advances, partnerships and initiatives that it says will help its customers prepare for the future of making.