Inside Autodesk’s SF Technology Center

By Kaitlin Milliken |  August 13, 2019

Tucked inside a ferry building on Pier 9, Autodesk’s San Francisco Technology Center is a craftsperson’s paradise. The space not only has a wide array of tools for prototyping — from drill presses to 3D printers — but it also provides the skilled staff to help support innovators as they bring their ideas to life. 


“[W]e provide a really capable workshop staff who’s there to support [innovators] in their prototyping process. So we don’t leave them to the wolves,” says J.D. Sassaman, Senior Manager of Manufacturing Industry Engagement at Autodesk. “We want to support them in the process of testing, validating, succeeding and failing. And we learn as much from that as they do…”


Autodesk creates software for a wide array of industries, including manufacturing, construction, engineering, media, and entertainment. The company has established four Technology Centers across the globe that seek to “create a shared vision of the future that enables people to do more and make better things,” according to the program website. 


At the San Francisco Technology Center, a diverse range of teams — including researchers from Autodesk, customer led teams, entrepreneurs, and selected residents — focus on the future of manufacturing. The center also explores configurable micro-factories. Sassaman explains this new model break away from the traditional factory, which puts all parts of the production process under one roof.


The Technology Center also houses participants in Autodesk’s Residency Program. Innovators from startups, the corporate world, and academia apply for the program. Selected residents then have access to free workspace and programming from the Technology Center’s staff. Residencies can range from one week to over a year. 


“What’s really at the heart of the spaces is the experience [for innovators],”  Sassaman says. “So if we have a group come into the Technology Center, and on their way out the door, say, ‘I had no idea that was happening with our customers,’ or ‘That project just opened my mind about where we might go next.’ Or, ‘If this technology center didn’t exist, I never would have seen that…’ [T]hose are the kinds of things that we’re looking for.” 


Watch the complete video above for more information about the mission of the San Francisco Technology Center; how Autodesk prioritizes projects; and how they collaborate with residents.