Autodesk Gallery Exhibit: Shifting Gears


The Autodesk Gallery at One Market in San Francisco celebrates design — the process of taking a great idea and turning it into a reality. With about 60 different exhibits regularly on display that showcase the innovative work of Autodesk customers, the gallery illustrates the role technology plays in great design and engineering.

One of our newest exhibits is called Shifting Gears.



The Paralympic Games is a major international multi-sport event involving athletes with a range of disabilities, including impaired muscle power (e.g., paraplegia and quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy, post-polio syndrome, spina bifida), impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency (e.g., amputation or dysmelia), leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment and intellectual impairment. There are Winter and Summer Paralympic Games, which since the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea, are held almost immediately following the respective Olympic Games. [Wikipedia]


Denise Schindler is a world champion paracyclist. Her right leg was amputated below the knee after a childhood accident at age 2. Denise has won two world championships and a silver medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games. At the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, Schindler was the first Paralympian to use a prosthesis that had been 3D printed. The prosthesis was lighter, more aerodynamic, and gave her more power as she peddled her way to victory. This was no small feat as a custom-fit is essential to maximizing performance, and prostheses typically have to be refit frequently as the athlete's body changes in size due to the addition of muscle mass acquired through strenuous training.

This exhibit is a success story in terms of process as well as several aspects of the resulting prosthesis.


  • Exploration — Starting with a scan of Schindler's residual limb, the team was able to use Fusion 360 to design and evaluate 72 different versions.

  • Efficiency — The team was able to evaluate stress on the prosthesis before creating any physical prototypes.

  • Convenience — In the past, Schindler had to be present to participate in the design process. Since Fusion 360 is cloud-based, the team could easily collaborate from Germany, London, San Francisco, and Portland.

  • Schedule — A hand-made carbon-fiber prosthesis typically takes 6-10 weeks to make. The team was able to reduce the time for the final 3D-printed version down to 48 hours.


  • Feel — The polycarbonate material is softer and more durable than traditional materials and feels more like human skin.

  • Weight — Autodesk Netfabb generative design reduced the weight from 2.6 pounds to 1.7 pounds.

  • Cost — The cost of materials can be in the neighborhood of $5000. The team was able to reduce the cost of materials to around $280.

Schindler's story has a fairytale ending in that she won silver and bronze medals in Rio. Congratulations, Denise.


What's even better is that the team is working on applying the lessons learned to the design, making, and use of all prosthetic devices — not just the ones for elite athletes. Way to go team.


The Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco is open to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. There is a guided tour on Wednesdays at 12:30 pm and a self-guided audio tour available anytime. Admission is free. Visit us. If you're ever in San Francisco, make sure the Schindler exhibit is on your list of things to see.

Paracycling is alive in the lab.