Reinventing the Process of Making

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New Approaches to Design and Fabrication

With growing demand for everything from consumer goods to creature comforts, manufacturing is being reimagined. New technologies such as generative design, machine learning, intelligent automation, and connected data are making manufacturing more flexible, more efficient, and more responsive. The result: better products and less waste.

Take a look at a few projects that are showing us what the future of design and manufacturing looks like today.

Bringing a Classic Motorcycle Back to Life with Better Tools

The design team at KISKA uses the latest digital tools to create their product designs, but they always start with pencil and paper. Once designers are happy with their sketches, they turn them into 3D CAD files using Autodesk Alias.

Next comes milling. Data collated through CAD software is converted into toolpaths using Autodesk software. KISKA’s in-house mill runs the resulting G-codes to create the clay model. That model is crafted, painted, and finished in loving detail.

Then it’s back to digital. The finished model is scanned at a high resolution and the data is fed back into the CAD workflow, where surfaces and volumes are rebuilt exactly to specifications. Virtual reality (VR) also assists with the process. When the 3D data is plugged into a VR system, it allows the user to pick up, spin, and inspect the design from every angle.

Using this process, KISKA has updated the iconic Silverpilen motorcycle for a new generation. As the designer for KTM (owner of the Husqvarna brand that built the Silverpilen), KISKA was inspired by the original 1955 machine to create 2 new models, the SVARTPILEN (Black Arrow) and VITPILEN (White Arrow).

Learn more about this project.

Using Mixed Reality to Bring the Aerodynamics of High-Speed Racing to Life

Aerodynamics plays a key role in modern motorsports and IndyCars are some of the fastest cars ever built. They harness the effects of aerodynamics to create powerful downforces that provide extreme lateral grip and cornering speeds. In fact, an average IndyCar going 120 miles per hour produces enough downforce to stick to the ceiling.

Engineers use wind tunnels and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to measure and optimize aerodynamics that maximize downforce while minimizing drag. Different bodywork elements produce different results for different courses. For city streets, large multi-element front and rear wings reduce top speed on the straights but deliver maximum cornering ability. For super speedways, teams reduce those bodywork elements to enable maximum velocity and optimum lap times, allowing drivers to round the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at over 240 miles per hour.

To better understand the aerodynamics and the complex nature of airflow passing over and around an IndyCar, designers developed an immersive mixed reality experience. With a few clicks, they can compare the airflows with or without any given piece of bodywork.

Using Generative Design to Create a Better Seat Belt Bracket at General Motors

The lightweighting of vehicles—reducing mass while maintaining performance—is an important way automobile makers can reduce fuel consumption, extend the range for electric cars, and create more interior space for passengers.

GM is a leader in vehicle lightweighting, having launched 14 new vehicle models since 2016 with a total mass reduction of more than 5,000 pounds, which works out to more than 350 pounds per vehicle. Most of that weight reduction has been the result of advances in materials and the adoption of new technologies, including additive manufacturing. And they’re continuing to push the limits of what’s possible.

In an initial proof-of-concept project, GM and Autodesk engineers used generative design technology to reconceive a small but important vehicle component—the bracket where seat belts are fastened.

The software produced more than 150 valid design options based on parameters the engineers set, such as required connection points, strength, and mass. The team zeroed in on a new design with an organic structure no human could have imagined. The new seat bracket is 40% lighter and 20% stronger than the original part and it consolidates 8 different components into one 3D-printed part—another major benefit of generative design.

GM plans to utilize generative design on future product designs. And as part of a multiyear alliance focused on innovation, GM and Autodesk will collaborate on projects involving generative design, additive manufacturing, and materials science. In other words: buckle up for what’s next in the automotive industry.

Learn more about this project.


What we make and how we make it matter. And new options are becoming possible thanks to advances in technology. What will you make with the tools available to you today?