Approachable fabrication

By Gretchen Salois

Autodesk opens up fabrication facilities, providing tools for capable hands

May 2014 - With its latest facility opening at Pier 9 in San Francisco, Autodesk offers artists in residence, vendors and Autodesk employees a facility that gives them both the space to work as well as the latest in fabrication equipment.

The Artist in Residence program requires applicants to submit project proposals for their plans at the facility. Once selected, artists are provided with a monthly stipend so they can focus solely on their work. “Projects can be FFJ-0512-webex-autodesk-image1produced using basic construction, CNC prototyping and 3-D printing workflows for digital fabrication and additive manufacturing,” according to an Autodesk representative.

One such artist Ben Cowden found out about the program through a friend. After being accepted as an artist in residence, Cowden set to work on his “Manhattan Project,” a cocktail mixing machine. “The great thing about it was I was able to model parts on my computer and cut them on Autodesk’s Omax waterjet. I was able to cut the parts the exact same day as I modeled them—I couldn’t do that normally.”

Previously, Cowden would outsource waterjet parts, waiting as long as two weeks for parts to get back to him. “I was able to both make parts as well as resolve any errors and recut that same day. There were days where I went from model to finished part in one day and that kind of speed was wonderful for me.”

Perfect pour

In order to get the mixer working, the operator turns a crank that drives an axle with four cams and a partial gear. Each cam pulls on a different cable that travels through tubing to one of the ingredient bottles or mixing mechanism. The first cam pours bourbon from the bottle on the left, the second pours vermouth on the right. A third cam pushes a pipette filled with bitters. The partial gear stirs the mixture with ice, and the final cam releases the drink into a glass.

The cam followers and the levers they pull are all adjustable, so the operator can customize to perfection. The cams and gears were waterjet from 0.125 in. T304 stainless plate and then welded to the axle or to shaft collars that allow adjustment.

Working requirements

Artistry isn’t enough for Autodesk participants—you need to be certified to use machines at the facility. “I used my own welder to put together components but could have used Autodesk’s much better welder—it’s just that I hadn’t had time to take the class for it,” Cowden says.

For this particular project, Cowden wanted to keep everything about it mechanical, avoiding use of electronics. “Each part is modular so they clamp onto the machine’s chassis. I made everything adjustable, including cams that attach the drive axle, so it could fit the timing of the machine.

“I do this because otherwise it’s impossible to see how it’s working. I often have children looking at my work—even if it is a cocktail machine—and I like that they can look and try to figure out how my machines work. It’s a fun challenge.” FFJ


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