Autodesk Gallery at One Market in San Francisco Exhibit: Vicious Cycle


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. Autodesk Gallery Ambassadors conduct gallery tours as a sideline to their day jobs. The tours provide employees with opportunities to practice public speaking in front of small groups.

The Vicious Cycle exhibit is an exhibit that you see on the 2nd floor of our One Market office in San Francisco:




While most machines are built to create, this machine, "Vicious Cycle," will in time, put an end to itself. Inspired by "Machine with Concrete," an Exploratorium art installation by Arthur Ganson, this collaboration between Autodesk and the Exploratorium makes visible the invisible; in this case, using interconnected gears to illustrate the unseen but powerful presence of force and time. "Vicious Cycle" is a cascade of gears arranged in a near full circle. The gearing dramatically slows the rapidly spinning motor, making about 30 revolutions per second, such that the cascade's final gear takes about 1.3 years to make a single rotation. The gears' torque — the amount of force that the rotating shaft can apply — increases in an inverse ratio to the speed.


Here are some fun facts about some of the gears that comprise the exhibit:

Speed Torque Could Lift
6 revs/second 4.8 pounds a small cat
1 rev/4.2 seconds 120 pounds an average teenager
1 rev/1.8 minutes 3,004 pounds a Prius with 3 passengers
1 rev/44 minutes 75,120 pounds a semi-truck loaded with cargo
1 rev/18.3 hours 1,878,000 pounds two 747 jumbo jets
1 rev/19 days 46,950,000 pounds USS Hornet aircraft carrier
1 rev/476 days 1,170,000,000 pounds the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty

In other words, the incredibly slow final gear provides enough theoretical torque to lift the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty — together! This final gear is attached to a vise that slowly crushes a glass tube that will eventually fracture from the stress, dropping the motor, and halting the gears. The entire cycle takes about a year, at which time it will be reset for another 12-month run. Talk about self-destructive behavior. Can't wait a full year? With the interactive 3D visualization, you can fast forward through the accumulating stresses in the components to witness the simulated moment of destruction.

The exhibit team used Autodesk Inventor, tools in the Exploratorium's exhibit workshop, and an OMAX waterjet cutter and Objet 3D printers at the Autodesk Pier 9 Technology Center to bring the exhibit to life. The exhibit's stress levels were analyzed with Simulation Mechanical (now Autodesk Nastran In-CAD), and the assembly was then rendered and animated in Autodesk 3ds Max.

in-progress rendering

An artful exploration of gear ratios, power, and velocity, coupled with stress analysis, Vicious Cycle's gleaming gears belie its self-destructive nature.

Thanks to the Autodesk Gallery team for the descriptive text for this blog post.

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.

Viciousness is alive in the lab.