Visiting Autodesk’s Epic Makerspace on Pier 9

Tonight I had the pleasure of visiting the amazing maker space at the software design company Autodesk on Pier 9, San Francisco.  I was participating in a Bay Area Maker Educator meetup, along with 40 other teachers and education specialists from across the Bay. The invitation promised a visit to a maker lab that “we’ll all be jealous of.” Boy, were they right!

Autodesk has the most diverse and eclectic maker space I’ve ever visited. It includes a 3d print shop, a metalshop, woodshop, textiles shop, digital fabrication shop, electronics lab and a test kitchen!

Why so many shops? As was explained to us, Autodesk has such a diverse array of making spaces because they own the Instructables website. Instructables, if you have never visited, has thousands of detailed instructions where you can learn to create almost anything from a “cake batter milkshake” (yum), to a laser-assisted blowgun with bipod (ouch), to a “star trek crossstitch” (yes!). They obviously need to test and document the instructions that they provide.

The makerspace is also used by Autodesk’s “artist in residence” program, which has resulted in some mind-blowing work.

Pier 9 AiR Program from Pier 9 on Vimeo.


Our tour started in the metalshop. We gawked at a wicked collection of lathes, water jets, mills and many other tools I didn’t recognize. Here’s their water jet.

water jet

And here’s a sample of the cool things you can make with it.

objects made with waterjet

objects made with waterjet

The 3d fabrication studio has a room full of powerful, massive 3d printers. This one creates color 3d prints using paper instead of resin. Sweet!

Mcor Iris 3d paper printer

Here’s an example of what it can print!

paper 3d print

This art piece, created by one of the artists in residence Gabriel Kaprielian, was the most powerful piece I saw at Autodesk. Entitled “Social Topographies,” it is a 3d visual representation of different socially relevant datasets in San Francisco, from pedestrian fatalities to evictions. Nice to see that Autodesk isn’t shy about letting their artists explore important political and social issues with their work.

social topographies

I kind of wanted this 3d cityscape for my desk at work.

3d model of downtown sf

The textiles shop had lots of neat machines for sewing and stitching, cutting tables, fabric and dress models.

sewing machines dress models

Not pictured, unfortunately, was the awesome zipline that you can use to get from one shop to another on the second floor! Really, every office with long hallways should have a zipline.

Another whimsical piece of furniture we encountered was this swinging conference table. Totally impractical to use, but a lot of fun!

This is just a small sample of the neat stuff we saw at Autodesk. Visiting Autodesk, and meeting all of the friendly staff who work there, was a much more inspiring trip than I had anticipated. I’m looking forward to checking out their 3d design tools, resources and products in the future.

You can see my full set of pictures on Flickr.

electronics lab Can I Use It?

car model


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