Generatively Designed Reception Desk at Autodesk MaRS Office in Toronto

From previous blog posts, recall this gang of four:

Arthur Harsuvanakit
Senior Designer, Arthur Harsuvanakit, has been tackling new technologies and design processes by producing projects that showcase and communicate the potential of these technologies. His work improves Autodesk's understanding of what is and isn't possible with our tools as part of a hands-on approach to improving our products and services.

Brice Dudley
Brice Dudley is majoring in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford. He will graduate in May 2018. He was a key member of a 4-person team that designed, made, and used a Two Towers Project — a tower system to transport multiple buckets of Ping-Pong balls within specific constraints, and a pinball machine with working mechanical parts built out of foam cord, hot glue, tape, dowels, string, and marbles. And similar to our previous interns' Handtriloquist glove, he designed, built, and helped code an exoskeleton robotic arm to help research rehabilitation methods for stroke patients. He also helped engineer a haptic bicep curl machine.

Brittany Presten
Brittany Presten Brittany is a glutton for punishment. This summer was her seventh year interning at Autodesk (started in high school) where she has done stints with our Gallery and Bio/Nano teams. For years, year she has helped us put Fusion 360 through its paces. She is a biomechanical engineering graduate from Stanford, a masters of philosphy graduate from the University of Cambridge in Technology Policy, and will complete her masters of science in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford in June 2018. On previous interships with Autodesk, she worked on projects like the Elbo Chair and an orthotic Handtriloquist glove.

Jack Reinke
Jack Reinke is majoring in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Florida. He will graduate in May 2020. He was the leader of a 3-person team that created the first carbon fiber composite fly fishing reel and has a patent application in progress. Jack has been using Autodesk Inventor since 8th grade. His high school had a large engineering lab that allowed him to use CNC mills, lathes, laser cutters, and 3D printers. Jack will start his internship fully versed in Fusion 360 as he will have been using it for almost a year.


Well Arthur just filed this report:


This summer, the Applied Research Lab collaborated with the Living Studio to design and fabricate a reception desk for the new Autodesk MaRs Office in Toronto, Canada. Though the MaRS name started as Medical and Related Sciences, the facility now focuses on information and communications technology, engineering, and social innovation. The MaRS location brings together educators, researchers, social scientists, entrepreneurs, and business experts under one roof. Such an auspicious location requires an auspicious first impression, and the Autodesk reception desk helps give visitors just that.

This reception desk uses a novel method for both fabrication and design by reinforcing thin sheet metal with robotically controlled welded patterns that were generated through a multi-objective evolutionary algorithm. The result is a reception desk made of only 0.1-inch thick sheet metal, reinforced to hold the weight of a 200-pound table top.


The process started with the Living's setup of a parametric model of a sheet metal surface that used an evolving genetic algorithm that could easily scale to the different sizes of the panels and resolutions of reinforcement for the weight of its table top. This parameterization created a complex design space and a wide variety of possible design solutions. These design solutions were then tested for structural metrics and optimized according to structural goals.

Once an optimal design was achieved, it was fabricated using a custom robotic welding workflow. Starting with a thin sheet of steel, the robot used a custom end effector and a modified short-circuit metal inert gas (MIG) welding process to transfer metal along paths specified by the digital model. These paths selectively reinforced the sheet so as to meet the structural goals of the design. In other words, more reinforcements were added to the parts of the desk that needed to support more weight.


By combining a generative design workflow with a custom robotic fabrication process, we have showcased a novel fabrication method that can be applied to steel structural design across a wide variety of scales and applications for architecture and engineering. Since our ultimate goal is for our software to help our customers make more things, make them better, and make them with less, this project demonstrates how to get maximum support with minimal material. Generative design and robotic fabrication can be applied in 2D as well as 3D! The team included Arthur Harsuvankit, Nick Cote, Brittany Presten, Jack Reinke, and Brice Dudley of the Applied Research Lab, along with Danil Nagy, Ray Wang, and David Benjamin of the Living Studio.

Thanks. Arthur. Well done, team.

A welcome reception is alive in the lab.