Carl Bass is president and chief executive officer of Autodesk, Inc., a maker of professional 3D design software and consumer applications, and was a co-founder of Ithaca Software, which commercialized HOOPS, a 3D graphics system. Bass has been credited with expanding Autodesk beyond its core AutoCAD software through acquisitions and new product developments and transitioning from 2D to 3D model-based design.
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UPDATE 2: Back for a little while to answer some of the unanswered questions
I'll check back tomorrow to see if anything has risen to the top
UPDATE: Thanks for having me today reddit, this was so much fun.
A little about me:
• I’m a Cornell grad. (Shoutout to r/cornell!)
• I have my own woodshop and a separate metal/CNC/robot shop.
• I’m a total Deadhead.
Thank you to Victoria at reddit for helping me out today!
Here are two recent announcements we’ve made:
We’re giving away our software to students, educators, and schools for free around the world.
Our first piece of hardware, the Ember 3D printer, is now available for preorder.
Ask me anything about engineering; architecture; mathematics; woodworking (Ron Swanson jokes are welcome) and the future of making things. AMA!
Which one of your two sons is your favorite?
Jake get off the Internet!
Is there ever going to be a day where I won't have to sell a child to use your products? Also, props to your company on letting students get copies for free.
Thanks about the comment on free software for students and schools. Totally excited about that.
Things like Fusion are free for startups and enthusiasts.
How many kids do you have?
Have you see https://Clara.io? It is like an online version of your great 3DS Max software that runs in your browser, uses WebGL, has full 3DS Max-style polygon modeling tools and it includes a built-in render farm with real-time V-Ray rendering that streams into the browser.
We are only in beta, but we already have nearly 100,000 users.
Gallery of public scenes, many of them "forkable": https://clara.io/library
NOTE: I am the author of Clara.io, its named after my daughter. :)
I haven't seen it yet, but I'll be sure to check it out after the craziness of Autodesk University and this AMA!
Also, great name.
What does the future hold for 3ds max?
I think think 3ds max is a great product -- it's being used for all kinds of great work. We're continuing investing. I see less use of it in film than before but lots of use for games, design viz and lots of general 3D modelling
Is Civil 3D losing Autodesk's focus?
Over the last several releases, we have seen very few upgrades and additional tools for land development professionals. I understand bug fixes and stability are great additions, but I'd also like more functionality/usability for my sphere of development, not just road work.
Carl here, sorry for missing this earlier. I’m at Autodesk University this week and stepped away from my computer after the AMA. We’re absolutely investing in Civil 3D, but we’re also developing newer civil engineering tools. You should check out Infraworks.
If you have more feedback, head to the AutoCAD Civil 3D product forum where the product team can respond to your questions.
What prompted you to offer Autodesk's products for free to students and educators (kudos for that), and what are you hoping to see as a result?
We thought it was the right thing to do.
In many places, our schools are educating the students for a future that no longer exists. We want to help them learn the skills that will help them make a difference in the world.
Hi Carl! - Are you all about that Bass?
Yes, but no treble.
It is exciting that we are about to see an era where everyone can have a 3D printer at home to create. But when will we also see CAD software reach a point where average people can not only afford it, but use it effectively?
Until then, 3D printing will not quite be the revolution that everyone believes, IMO.
You can do it today. Go start using Fusion 360. Shameless plug: it's available for free. http://fusion360.autodesk.com/about
Oh man I am so excited that you are doing an AMA!
One of the hardest decisions of my life was choosing to pursue a degree in computer science over architecture. I have always hoped to eventually work on designing CAD software as it combines my love for both programming and drafting.
The majority of my experience lies in developing algorithms to efficiently make use of clustered systems. Do you see this being an increasingly useful/marketable skillset as computer clusters drop in price, becoming increasingly accessible to the companies that make use of Autodesk's tools?
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this!
P.S. I would also like to say how much I appreciate that the Autodesk suite is free for students. It has provided me with invaluable experience in software that would be otherwise out of my financial reach.
Increasingly computer design is the language of architecture. The coolest thing that I see happening in architecture is the combination of using computers to do design, like generative design to make more interesting buildings. We’re also starting to see the use of software that drives output like robots that do fabrication of architecture.
3d print a 3d printer: possible? Or nah?
People have done it since the very beginning. The Made in Space team (first 3D printer in space) made the first print, a part for the 3D printer in space. So meta!
For our Ember 3D printer, we've been prototyping all types of parts and printing them on different printers.
What materials can be 3D printed? What are the next innovations?
When can I 3D print in wood, silicon, metal, or glass easily at home?
The most common material is plastic. Metal, carbon fiber, cement, paper, bioproducts, DNA and even food are all possible right now. Lots of work is going on in material science that is going to make a dramatic difference in the next few years.
First of all, I love the fact that both your kids are trying to weasel their way into your AMA.
I really appreciate you guys giving away the software to students, but my experience with free CAD packages (FreeCAD and Google's CAD package) were really great. Not terribly powerful, but excellent for small projects. What is the benefit of your free software compared to these packages? Will your free software have the same or similar capabilities as your full version?
As for the Ember, what sets it apart from the many other choices a consumer has for 3D printers?
Lastly, dumb question, but what was the first thing you 3D printed?
This AMA definitely got me a few cool points with my kids.
Right now for free software, take a look at TinkerCAD, 123D and Fusion 360.
Our free software for students and schools is the very same as our professional versions.
The Ember printer is not really meant for consumers. It's really a reference implementation to show how hardware and software work together. Open software, open hardware and open materials.
Awesome question! Not a bunny or a bobble head. The first thing I 3D printed was a piece of plastic that I tried to use as the basis for a bronze casting. (this is going back to the 90's!)
I'm interested in becoming a Maker, but have next to no experience. What basic tools and techniques would you recommend to someone like me? And what advanced tool would be a good one to learn at the same time?
Everybody thinks that you need to start with a 3D printer, I'd start with a really cheap MIG welder.
Metal is awesome.
The most important thing is to start making stuff you really care about. Find something you really want to make or want to make better and then figure out how to do it.
What are new developments in 3D scanners?
Will the time come when I will be able to walk up to Michelangelo's David, wave a laser up and down it a couple of times and have a 3D model to print at home?
That time is now.
You can do it with lasers and phone cameras.
I think it's rad that the Ember is going to be open! How open is open? Open-source like LulzBot, where the source designs are available online?
Open software, open hardware and open materials.
All the plans for the machine will be online. Good luck hacking it!
According to you, does prohibiting people to 3D-printing a gun online amount to violation of freedom of speech and expression?
3D printing guns is a red herring, a distraction. There are dozens of ways to make a gun—plus you can kill someone with a scissors, so it doesn’t really matter.
So I want a feature in Civil 3D to swap multiple pipes and/ structures, why can't Autodesk successfully include this when it's about an 8 hour task plus ui/ux and testing time?
I'm passing it on the product team as we speak. Great feedback!
What's the coolest thing you guys have at AutoDesk HQ?
We have robots, boats, CNC machines, water jets, 3D printers and welders, but the coolest thing is the people that work there.
Carl, Where do you see the future of 3D printed prosthetics? I am a student at GBC in Toronto & am looking into educating myself on 3D printing, any resources & advice would be helpful!!
3D printing is great for prosthetics and other bespoke orthopedic things.
Take a look at the great work being done by E-Nable: http://enablingthefuture.org/
What are your thoughts on the shortage of tech workers? Truth? Fiction?
Would you recommend a career in software development for a young person? Why?
Only if you think it's fun, but you'll need more skills than just being able to program.
I'll do you one better, here's a picture of Buzz Aldrin swinging at the table: http://imgur.com/cmaHX7a
Do you see a future in car parts? I ask because I restore classic cars on the side for fun. Right now i'm restoring a 67 Camaro which is a labor of love. What I have found with these classic cars is that frequently there is Part A that is only made for Model Year Z and finding Part A is damn near impossible.
Do you see trim pieces and non-load bearing coming soon? How about suspension pieces?
The best known person using it to restore cars is of course Jay Leno and his awesome collection.
Huge potential as we start having carbon fiber and metal printed parts.
By the way, awesome car to restore.
As the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, what does your typical work day look like?
Get up early
BART to work
Go to Peets
Most of my days are spent talking to people
Come home and annoy my kids.
New entry: and brag about knowing Victoria at reddit. (Shoutout u/chooter!)
How do you see the market evolving once 3D printers become mainstay?
Do you think companies will stay profitable catering to an ever increasing DIY model?
3D printing is just going to be another tool. Sometimes injection molding will be best, or machining will be best and other times 3D printing will be best.
Mass customization is going to become the norm.
Do you think the anticipated impact of 'the internet of things' is overstated?
Yes, in the short term.
Right now, it's really the Internet of "Thing". Most everything doesn't talk to each other, it just talks to my phone. In the long term, most products will be connected.
Do you hire? :)
Me personally? Not much. But Autodesk does.
Check out careers.autodesk.com
I'm pretty new to the 3d-printing scene, so forgive me if this is a dumb question. Aside from bio vs. synthetics, what are the biggest limitations in 3d-printing?
Speed- time goes up at the power of 3 and I'd really like to see more materials.
What are you most excited to see in the design/engineering/maker world in the next year? Five years? Decade?
And what do you think are the biggest problems (societal, technical, etc.) we'll have to face in that time?
P.S. That is an awesome-looking woodshop. Do you have any idea where to get started if I want to start woodworking as a hobby?
First off: most excited about really using computers to help us design stuff generatively. (Check out what WithinLab is
The biggest challenges are climate change and unequal distribution of wealth. The robots taking our jobs is not helping.
Good places to get started in woodworking are community colleges and local maker spaces.
Have you come across any particular applications of 3D printing to legal practice? I imagine that the opportunities are, at present, few and far between. But have you discussed any possible uses with lawyers? Maybe to recreate items for trial?
Haven't seen it being done, but that's interesting.
Hey Carl, great to have you on here! It seems to me that reality computing is becoming an increasingly interesting avenue to explore for companies such as Autodesk. I'm an especially big fan of the 123D Catch app and how it makes reality computing accessible to the masses. Can you tell us a little bit about what other paths you guys are exploring with these technologies?
I love 123D Catch also-use it all the time.
We're doing some stuff for professionals called Memento and Recap. Good example of this being used to 3D print the bust of President Obama: http://youtu.be/zXkmZObBrEM