MCAD Tech News (#299)

17 Feb, 2011 By: Cadalyst Staff

If You Can Dream It, They Can Build It

Dynamic Structures uses AutoCAD to design really cool stuff — from telescopes to theme-park rides.

By David Cohn

Editor's note: Through a sponsorship by Autodesk, Cadalyst editors bring you this feature, part of a special series of articles that highlight the role of AutoCAD and 2D design in today's demanding CAD work flows. Watch for the next installment in March.

Some of the coolest things in the world are designed using AutoCAD. Like what? How about the world's largest telescope, virtually every major theme-park ride built in the past 20 years, the ski jumps for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and an award-winning pedestrian bridge shaped like a DNA molecule. And what do all these projects have in common besides AutoCAD? They were all the work of Dynamic Structures, an 85-year old company based in a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, that has developed an international reputation for its extensive experience in the design, fabrication, and construction of elaborate steel structures.

The enclosure for the William Herschel Telescope presented Dynamic Structures with numerous challenges, including remote-site construction on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands. (Image courtesy of Dynamic Structures.)
The enclosure for the William Herschel Telescope presented Dynamic Structures with numerous challenges, including remote-site construction on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands. (Image courtesy of Dynamic Structures.)

Founded in 1926 as a manufacturer of wrought iron and subsequently merging with an even older company that made horseshoes, Dynamic Structures began building telescopes in the 1970s. Its first telescope enclosure, for the Canada France Hawaii Telescope, was the first to be built at the 14,000-foot summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Since then, the company has provided detailed designs, manufacturing, and on-site construction of enclosures and telescopes ranging from 3.5 meters to 10 meters. Projects have included Keck I and II on Mauna Kea (currently the largest ground-based telescopes in the world), the twin Gemini Observatories in Hawaii and Chile, and the William Herschel and Isaac Newton telescopes at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in the Canary Islands.

From the Stars to Fantasy Lands

When the Keck telescope project manager left that job and went to work at a major theme park, he approached Dynamic Structures and asked if the company would be interested in building a new ride that was under development. The answer was yes. Read more »

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
David Cohn is the technical publishing manager for 4D Technologies as well as a consultant and technical writer. A former senior editor of Cadalyst, he is the author of more than a dozen books about AutoCAD and is currently working on a book about the land speed record. He is based in Bellingham, Washington.



Mark Your Calendar: MCAD Events


Webinar: Lean Manufacturing — Reducing Costs and Increasing Efficiencies
February 23, 2011
2 p.m.–3 p.m. ET
This webinar will address the concept of "value" and how test and measurement has typically been a cost/inhibitor to flow instead of an aid to profitability; comparisons between "batch" processing or inspection vs. inline/single-piece flow inspection; and real-life examples of how lean manufacturing has been implemented. Read more »

Webinar: MCAD Smackdown! Direct vs. Parametric Modeling
February 24, 2011
Noon ET
Led by Cadalyst contributing editor and CAD guru Bill Fane, a panel of experts from the mechanical CAD industry will debate when, why, and how to use direct and parametric modeling and take questions from attendees. Read more »

2011 Esri Developer Summit
March 7–11, 2011
Palm Springs, California
This event will include a series of preconference seminars, technical sessions, a Tech Support Island, user presentations from GIS developers, and a plenary session with a keynote address by Bill Clark, research vice president at Gartner Research. Read more »

2011 Geospatial Solutions Conference
April 10–13, 2011
Dallas, Texas
This event from the Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA) will include eight half-day workshops, more than 70 technical sessions, an exhibit hall, an Open Source track, and forums with featured speakers. Read more »

Hexagon 2011 International Conference
June 6–9, 2011
Orlando, Florida
Leica Geosystems' User Conferences for Laser Scanning and Airborne Sensing have been combined with Hexagon AB's inaugural international conference to form the Hexagon 2011 International Conference. Hexagon 2011 will feature more than 200 break-out sessions tailored by tracks, incorporating training courses, technology previews, technical demonstrations and workshops, and customer testimonials. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to


What’s New at


Cadalyst Webcast: MCAD Smackdown! Direct vs. Parametric Modeling
On February 24 at noon ET, join Cadalyst and some of the mechanical CAD industry's most knowledgeable (and opinionated) voices for a good-spirited debate of one of today's existential technology questions: When, why, and how do you use direct and/or parametric modeling to best support your business? Learn more and register today!

CAD Manager's Toolbox: Disk Mirroring for Free
RoboCopy is a powerful, fast way to move files between offices. Read more »

Manipulate the Synchronous Technology Steering Wheel
On the Edge Solid Edge Tutorial: These techniques will help you manipulate 3D model geometry more easily. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

Add comment

Note: Comments are moderated and will appear live after approval by the site moderator.

AutoCAD Tips!

Lynn Allen

In her easy-to-follow, friendly style, long-time Cadalyst contributing editor Lynn Allen guides you through a new feature or time-saving trick in every episode of her popular AutoCAD Video Tips. Subscribe to the free Cadalyst Video Picks newsletter, and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!

Follow Lynn on TwitterFollow Lynn on Twitter

Do you use any augmented or virtual reality (AR or VR) technologies in your workflow?
Not yet, but we are planning to implement it.
No, but we think these technologies could hold value for us.
No; these technologies do not hold value for us.
Submit Vote

Download Cadalyst Magazine Special Edition