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Peek Inside the Robot-Powered, 3-D-Printed, Luminescent Future at Autodesk’s Pier 9 Workshop

From hand-cranked cocktail mixers to light paintings made with LED lasers, Autodesk's playground on the pier is a maker's paradise.

Designer Benjamin Cowden built this hand-cranked contraption, which mixes the perfect Manhattan. “This single crank is the magic that operates the whole machine,” he says.

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Mechanical engineer Sebastian Morales uses a five-axis DMS router to create what he calls a light painting. The machine is typically fitted with a drill bit, but Morales uses an LED laser instead.

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Designer Jonathan Odom built this cold-brew coffeemaker in the Autodesk test kitchen from wooden dowels, 3-D printed parts, and "off the shelf" lab equipment.

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Morales sculpted this bird out of wire and clay, then created a 3-D scan of the figure in various stages of flight.

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Designer Paige Russell makes wooden beach paddles on the workshop's laser cutter.

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Product manager Christian Pramuk holds an object formed by the powder 3-D printer. He's currently creating a replica of a tortoise shell, which will be roboticized and used as a decoy to deter crow attacks.

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3-D printing research scientist Andreas Bastian peers into the Ember 3-D printer, which transforms resin into highly detailed products like jewelry, dental structures, and synthetic velvet.

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Designer Mike Warren created this luminous table by filling the recesses in a slab of pecky cypress with a mixture of glow-in-the-dark powder and clear casting resin.

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Intern Sean Oh uses a powerful metal lathe to create an aluminum part for Autodesk chief executive officer Carl Bass’s electric go-cart. Pier 9 designers use the lathe to create mass-manufactured metal parts, as well as personal accessories like chess pieces and etched espresso tampers.

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Stacks of industrial sewing machines in the project assembly area.

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Architect Behnaz Farahi constructs 3-D printed, electronically programmed fashion. A tiny camera is nestled into the neckline of this piece, which is embedded with muscle wire. The garment's fine quills move in sync with the viewer's gaze.

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A playable wooden record, produced on an Objet Connex 500 3-D printer by software engineer Amanda Ghassaei.

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Intern Ryan Tepper (left) and artist Yue Shi work in the woodshop.

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Russell embraces life-size replicas of herself and Design Studio head Randy Sarafan, printed on the vinyl cutter. “We arrange them in awkward positions around the office,” she says.

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At Autodesk’s Pier 9 workshop, “artist-in-residence” is an exceptionally broad term. The makers engaged at the waterside complex include engineers, roboticists, architects, programmers, bakers, mathematicians, artists, fashion designers, and woodworkers—some, full-time Autodesk employees, others temporary collaborators. Here, a day in the life of the hive-like design factory.

Read more New Rules of Design coverage here.  


Originally published in the October issue of San Francisco

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