*notcot in tech , 17:03

Inside Autodesk Pier 9- 10.22.15


There’s a magical place hidden in plain sight in San Francisco right on the water… between the Ferry Building and the Exploratorium, you will find Autodesk Pier 9. You’d never guess that half of this pier is filled with the ultimate creative workshop for design & fabrication - a dreamy, lust-worthy space filled with designers, engineers, artists, fabricators, and every machine they could need - from rooms filled with huge CNCs and water jet machines to 3D printers of every variety, sewing machines, photo studios, welding setups, test kitchen, electronics, industrial robot arms, and much much more. It’s also no surprise that this is where the Instructables team lives. Launched in 2013, it was designed as a state-of-the-art digital fabrication work shop to dissolve the boundaries between software and hardware while inspiring Autodesk to develop tools for the future of making! If you are interested in making something (anything!) odds are good that they will have what you need to make it from start to finish - on the pier!

Shawn and I were invited to review projects from the current group of Autodesk Pier 9 Artists-in-Residence (AIR). (Thanks, Madeline and Vanessa!) What started in Instructables, grew and evolved once they became part of the world of Autodesk. Today, every 4 months, 1-2 dozen artists, designers, engineers, scientists, etc. come to Pier 9 to bring their ideas to life. They get 24/7 pier access, $2000 monthly stipends and project supply budgets, and retain IP and physical work created during the residency… in exchange they must publish their work on Instructables and make a presentation at the end of the program. Not a bad deal, right? The current group will be presenting on November 12th. If you’re in SF, they will definitely be worth a peek - they actually shut down the workshops and present the pieces throughout (Yes, possibly even on or near the machines that made them!)

While there, we had a chance to tour the facility before the reviews, and it is pretty mind blowing. So as we walked and talked, i snapped iPhone pictures along the way for all of you to get a peek inside this wondrous place. Ready? Dive in to the pictures on the next page!

For an overview before you get lost… autodeskpier9.jpg

The Instructables mascot carved from a chainsaw welcomes you to Pier 9. pier9-1.jpg

The DMS 5-Axis Enclosed Router is a huge machine that can mill materials up to 5’x5’x3’. pier9-4.jpg

Above the 5-axis CNC there are waterjet cut steel octopi used as counterweights - one is for for the dust collector tube that sucks out the milled material. pier9-7.jpg


To the right of the CNC - the Omax Waterjet is one of the most used tools on the pier and cuts materials as large as 10’x 5’x8”. pier9-6.jpg

Every cabinet and desktop is filled with tools and examples of what is possible to make. These billet blocks of aluminum are leftovers from workshops and training sessions. pier9-8.jpg

So organized! Any tool or reference manual you could need is there. pier9-9.jpg

The woodshop is also insanely well organized. Every machine has plenty of space and its own dust collection which keeps everything clean. pier9-10.jpg

A table saw with a view! It’s easy to get distracted by the machines… but it is awe inspiring to look up in every workshop and see SF Bay and the city just outside! pier9-11.jpg

An artist went around illustrating what’s inside everything from the kitchen cabinets to the tool drawers! pier9-12.jpg

Moving into the next room it just keeps getting better. This is the metal shop where there are various machines for prepping your material before taking it to the mill. pier9-13.jpg

There’s that view again. pier9-14.jpg

The welding corner. pier9-15.jpg

Of course there is a Shopbot tucked away in the back. pier9-16.jpg

So tempting to hop onto these WETA vehicles. Sounds like they might have had problems with that before… hence all the barbed wire and warning signs! pier9-17.jpg

The garage door to the Applied Research Lab has an incredible octopus on it. Why all the Octopi around the pier? Well the Office of the CTO = OCTO, which includes Autodesk Research, Within Lab, Corporate Strategy & Engagement, Emerging Technology, Strategic Research, and Design Research. pier9-18.jpg

With this sign on the door, you can’t not get excited! Also, nice Star Wars reference! pier9-19.jpg

Behind the door you see 2 Fanuc 5-axis robots and huge ABB 5-axis robot filling the room. pier9-20.jpg

Check out the motion capture system behind the ABB. The entire room is filled with these Mocap cameras. They are working on various realtime interactive applications with the robots. pier9-21.jpg

Top view! We were lucky to get a peek into this Advanced research lab since Madeline’s AIR project is all about industrial robots and how they can get closer and more responsive to humans. In fact Shawn and Madeline used to play with industrial robots together at CMU when i first met them both! pier9-22.jpg

Exciting to finally see a few of the Autodesk Embers 3D printing! pier9-23.jpg

Squishy 3D prints feel amazing in person. So much potential and possibility with what you can design with these latices.

Throughout the space are shelves full of projects made with the machines around you. pier9-26.jpg

The 3D printing workshop has nearly every professional printer out there. pier9-25.jpg

A huge laser cutter for metal! The quick setting control panel is a clever idea. Just hit the button for which material you are using and it does some of the setup for you. pier9-27.jpg

Looking back through all the 3D printers! pier9-28.jpg

Exit the 3D printing workshop and you find yourself on the walkway above all the CNC machines. Of course there is a zipline! Shawn couldn’t help himself. shawnzipping.jpg

Looking down into the huge 5-axis CNC mill. pier9-30.jpg

An etch-a-sketch style sand drawing machine made for a fun distraction! pier9-31.jpg

We stumbled through a photoshoot for a beautiful coffee maker that makes 6 cups at a time. pier9-32.jpg

The media lab houses all the smaller electronics setups. Outside you see a few of the sewing machines in the Textiles Shop. pier9-33.jpg

On the other side are industrial sewing machines… and that amazing view again! pier9-34.jpg

Test kitchen! From 3D printing food to crazy culinary experiments, this place is set up for it. pier9-2.jpg

… and in case you’re not sure where things are (or where they go) - more illustrations! pier9-3.jpg

Spotted on the coffee machine… pier9-35.jpg

Spotted when looking up… cardboard cat! Wired for… not sure what. pier9-36.jpg

Awesome hangout corner with a hammock area that was sadly shut down once building safety folks realized what was happening. (Must have been fun while it lasted though!) pier9-37.jpg

Swinging conference table! Makes a great picture, but with the seats and table all fixed to each other - it makes you a bit more seasick than you’d expect. Try walking straight when you get up after swinging and talking for some time! pier9-38.jpg

These are a few sneak peeks from the Pier 9 Artist in Residency projects that are in progress. Inspiring mechanisms, material studies, and designs! pier9-39.jpg

Most delicious project? This hummus printer from Luis Rodriguez is seriously fast.


To see all the projects from the current AIR Group - we’ll have to go to the final show in Nov!

Phew* After bursting through the whole of Autodesk Pier 9 - you could probably use a strong Manhattan. This is the Manhattan Machine, which apparently makes a perfect Manhattan every time. pier9-41.jpg

So. Now that you’ve seen it all - how badly do you want to go play at Autodesk Pier 9? Possibly even become the next Artist In Residence?

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