Carl Bass of Autodesk Hints at 3D Printing Opportunity

John Byun – UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

This is John Byun from UBS. I had 2 questions. One, how are you addressing the opportunity in 3D printing? And then second, related to the channel, can you give us an idea of what portion is today enable to sell the cloud products and the rental products?

Carl Bass – Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Yes, let me start with the 3D printing and then maybe Steve or Andrew, you want to take the other one? I mean, the best thing about 3D printing is you can only print something that you have a 3D model of. And that’s sometimes lost on people. Most of the 3D printing business these days is around a business that’s built around the consumables, and it certainly is a good business. I mean, I don’t know if you guys have looked at that business closely but people are selling consumables for 100x or 200x the price of the commodity material. I don’t know about you but I like being in any business in which you could do that. So the 3D printing business is a very lucrative business today but it is right for disruption. Our angle on it is in order to do this 3D printing, you need to use 3D models. And what we’re seeing is from manufacturing, construction, in media and entertainment, our customers build 3D models and want them 3D printed. We’re also doing some amount of research in 3D printing that you’ll hear more about later next year in terms of research on materials science and some other improvements to 3D printing. But let’s wait until next year for that.

Unknown Analyst

[indiscernible] also a mechanical engineer, actually I make CAD for HP, a lot. Currently covering 3D printer makers. And when I talk to them, one of the things they say is that a lot of the design software out there now doesn’t really have the capability to design for 3D printing. In other words, it assumes that you’re still constrained by the classic manufacturing techniques and doesn’t allow you to take advantage of the 3D printing. If you could comment upon that, I’d appreciate it.

Unknown Executive

Yes, I’ll take this one, because…

Carl Bass – Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Sure, go ahead.

Unknown Executive

We spent a lot of time on that. Part of it is true. I think there are some shapes you can make on a 3D printer you can’t make any other way, okay? And it’s a very unique material, it’s strong in one direction, very weak in another because it’s layered. So you have to design things very differently. So I would say 95% of the things that are made on 3D printers, our software can — any of our 3D software can do it perfectly, okay? There’s the 5%, I think we need to do some innovative new work. We are working on those things today in that we have done all the right things that connect to 3D printers, we could simulate those things, we can do things like toppling sort of programs, so we can add bracing and those things that will let you print. So we’ve done a lot for the most of the printing companies that are aware of, but I think we do have some innovative new work to do too.

Carl Bass – Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Yes, I would add, I think, this often happens when you see industries converging. I think the 3D printer companies, specifically, are trying to shooting at the tail. They identify something that’s a minor weakness, and they go shooting at the tail and 2 years later, they come out and realize that everybody else has recognized the same thing. So I think in the 3D printing market, what you’re seeing is a move from just using them to prototypes to being used for real production. And in that same way, we’re seeing the same thing going on with composites. Buzz talked about the analysis of composites. It turns out the design of composites have a little bit of the same problems, that a lot of the stuff that people are doing with design don’t anticipate both the new materials and the new processes used to do it. And there’s definitely some things that we can do to aid it. So for example, we kind of joke about people making black aluminum. Black aluminum to us is carbon fiber, where you take in aluminum part and you — by the way, that shows what a funny group we are, we joke about these things. But carbon fiber, if you just take an aluminum part with all the ways that you would’ve manufactured it before, and just do it in a composite-like carbon fiber, you probably don’t get the optimum design. And so it’s less that the tools are not capable of it, it’s as much that the designers need to think about how they design these products differently, given that the processes and the materials are going to be different.

Unknown Analyst

And if I can follow-up, you talked about you have to have a model to print. And one of the things we’re seeing is 3D scanner technology improving, Jay Leno talked about his Makerbot, just introduced a low-end one earlier this week. Any comment on how much you think 3D printing will be done from a model that might be built in softwares such as AutoCAD versus how much of that to be things that are scanned and, I mean, a better scanner in the gallery here as well?

Carl Bass – Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Yes, so one of the things to talk about is we actually have the leading technology for turning — for actually processing the information that comes from scanners, as well as we have the ability, and we demonstrated it out here in the gallery, of taking photographs or video and turning that into 3D models. So we actually — I think the scanners, particularly like the one you saw from the Makerbot guys, at this scale, it’s a great solution. You still find even after you scan, in order to be able to print, there’s often some post-processing. But we think an important new workflow is capturing reality. So whether that comes from photographs or video or laser scans or lidar scans, we think that’s really important. We have both a product that we aim at consumers called 123D Catch plus we have a product called ReCap for reality capture that actually allows people to do that. I actually think it’s important for both 3D printing. We also think it’s really important for our workflow, in which people’s initial starting point is not a blank screen, but you capture something that already exists and you modify it slightly and then you print or manufacturer it in some other way. So we think there are a lot of important workflows that are going to start with objects already there rather than starting with a blank screen in the traditional CAD program. And we think it’s really important and really promising.

Unknown Analyst

And one more question. If you look at Autodesk, and I am going back in time, I’m not as current as I’d like to be, Autodesk was always sort of the inexpensive every man’s solution competing against, say, Dassault or Parametric or something. How much of your opportunity now do you think is being disruptive with capabilities that a more expensive solution has versus creating new solutions?

Carl Bass – Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

I think that’s a good question. I think, historically, we have always been on the disruptive side of trying to democratize and put into volume things that have existed before. I still think, heart — the core DNA of the company is doing that. In doing that, I’m looking to where problems are with customers. I think we’ve probably stepped over the line — probably stepped over the line quite a bit in terms of being the leader. So when you look at things like reality capture, 3D scanning, or when you look at what we’ve done in cloud and mobile, I think, more so now, we see this as being appropriate for a broader spot of people before even our traditional competitors have made it available to the really high priced. So I think it’s a mixture. I kind of talked about it in PLM. PLM and CAM and some of those other things I would say is more — are more traditional disruption in which we go in and we take something that was done in an older, more expensive way and make it more available. I think some of the other things that we’re doing are actually where we’re breaking new ground, and that’s a slightly different position for us.


About Shaun Farrell

I have been involved in the construction sector since 1986 and over the years I have seen things change dramatically. Much of the change has been directly as a result of technology. This blog will be about the key combinations of People, Process and Technology. Any views expressed here are strictly my own.
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