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Autodesk CEO on 3D printing and human inferiority

Molly Wood and Robert Garrova Jan 17, 2017
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A lot of the things around us — cars and the planes and buildings — were designed using a piece of software called AutoCAD. The ‘CAD’ stands for Computer Aided Design. And the program has been the go-to for designers since the 80s. It used to be the most-used design software in the world. Now, decades after its founding, Autodesk has expanded from helping people make buildings to helping people make all kinds of things with the help of 3D printers.

Autodesk President and CEO Carl Bass on why 3D printing is a good investment:

So 3D printing is this really interesting thing that’s developed over the last handful of years. It really got popular. Its definitely like all kinds of other technology in that it’s been around 25 years but turned into an overnight sensation in the last few years… It got a lot of press around consumer uses of it I’ve always kind of poo pooed that and really thought that the real use was industrial uses. When you are 3D printing it doesn’t care how complicated the shape is. So my 3D printer will make the most complicated thing or a simple cube and its relatively indifferent to which one its printing. So you know its like shape complexity comes for free with 3D printing. 

On how 3D technology will develop in the next few years:

I think serious manufacture are all evaluating 3D printing and have figured out the right place for it. So if you look at how I think it will evolve it will go from these real specialized one-off products to products that you make in small limited runs. It’s not yet price competitive with the traditional intensive manufacturing techniques. So in the places where you need something special, you need something custom, 3D printing is ideal for that.

On why computers are better at solving problems than people:

Essentially people, all of us when we go to design something we often go out and do it and will make one or we’ll have three designs and…then we run out of time or money or patience and we say good enough. The computer doesn’t get bored in that same way. It doesn’t run out of time so you can literally test millions of versions and get a much better answer.  So really what we are doing is automating the building of these prototypes.    

On whether the technology industry should feel guilt for eliminating jobs through innovation:

You know I think the tech industry needs to take real responsibility for that. First of all -you know it’s just one of those five step programs – I think it starts with acknowledging that many of the things that us in the tech industry do in particularly on these more technical things .. you know because I’m not sure if Snap Chat is creating job loss. Its making us a lot more inefficient at our jobs but it’s not necessarily losing jobs. Whereas more serious technical software, we are definitely taking expertise and putting it into software in a way that you can broadly distribute that digital information and have that expertise anywhere in the world. So I think there is a real and kind of special responsibility that the tech industry has about acknowledging that its contributing to it and then helping in ways that could potentially solve that.  

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview.

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