MCAD Tech News (#274)

17 Dec, 2009 By: Cadalyst Staff

Event Report: Autodesk University 2009

In a year when canceled events are common, Autodesk draws nearly 6,000 to Las Vegas and 19,000 to AU Virtual for learning opportunities and technology updates.

By Nancy Spurling Johnson and Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Kudos to Autodesk for pulling off Autodesk University 2009. In a year of plummeting sales and slashed travel budgets that have led many other companies to cancel user events or offer them as online-only presentations, Autodesk pushed ahead. The Las Vegas–based event moved to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, reportedly to accommodate the ever-growing crowd — only to see attendance drop from nearly 10,000 in 2007 and 2008 to approximately 5,900 this year.

To reach those who couldn't be there in person this year, Autodesk introduced AU Virtual, which streamed many key events via the Internet for free. In the end, Autodesk reported, 19,000 people registered to participate in the online activities. Recorded events remain accessible on the AU Virtual site, so take in something new or review a keynote or class you think is worth a second look.

Attendance wasn't the only thing that was down this year. It was tough to ignore the somber tone that pervaded the usually energized event. Yes, blame the economy. Las Vegas tourism is reeling. The casino at Mandalay Bay seemed quiet, and bars and restaurants that typically stayed open till the wee hours closed early when customer numbers dwindled — a common problem all along The Strip, we heard. In the AU exhibit hall, relatively few new products were announced, and keynote presentations were subdued compared with the experience in recent years. Many presenters and attendees conveyed a sense of resolve. (See Robert Green's report, "CAD Managers Seek Self-Improvement at Autodesk University 2009.")

Nonetheless, it was a busy week for all who made the trip, filled with tours through the exhibit hall, numerous networking opportunities, special events, and 549 classes presented by 391 speakers. Following is our annual roundup of key events and announcements. Autodesk University will be held at Mandalay Bay again next year, November 30–December 3. Read more »

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Nancy Spurling Johnson is Cadalyst's editor in chief; Cyrena Respini-Irwin is Cadalyst's senior editor.


Virtual Clay Turns 3D Modeling into Child's Play

Toy design firm Hot Buttered Elves uses SensAble's FreeForm to create greener decorations for nurseries and children's rooms.

By Cyrena Respini-Irwin

Powerful 3D modeling applications are often put to use in designing the nuts and bolts of life — objects that are essential, but often prosaic. Occasionally, however, the items being modeled are whimsical playthings, and the designers are, well, elves. If this description calls the North Pole to mind, envision someplace a little warmer instead. Hot Buttered Elves is a small Los Angeles company that uses virtual 3D modeling to develop toys and collectibles, sculpt product prototypes, and create special effects for movies and animated characters for games.

The Elves recently designed a new line of dimensional wall decorations for children's rooms using SensAble's FreeForm Modeling Plus system. FreeForm is a touch-enabled, sculptural CAD system that is used to design complex, highly detailed organic shapes for industries ranging from jewelry to dentistry. Unlike traditional mathematical-based modelers, FreeForm is based on voxel technology, which removes the constraints of topology (mathematical definition, geometry format, and order of operation). As a result, it provides unparalleled creative freedom, speed, and flexibility when modeling intricate organic shapes, according to the Elves.

Originally introduced as part of a fundraiser program for children's hospitals, the stick-on wall decorations — called Wallables — have since grown into a diverse line of consumer products. They depict a range of shapes, including letters and licensed characters. The Elves credit the FreeForm modeling system for allowing them to develop the complex designs quickly and cost-effectively. Read more »


Mark Your Calendar: MCAD Events


Webinar: Simulating and Optimizing Reaction Forces

January 27, 2010
2:00 p.m. EST
In this webinar from Mentor Graphics, presenter Nate Hanlon will discuss the complexities surrounding the design of a water pump, analyzing the forces it creates and what this means for the overall design of the finished product. Read more »


March 23–25, 2010
Los Angeles, California
This event for manufacturing professionals will offer keynotes from industry leaders along with technical sessions on topics including machining of small parts, high-speed machining of alloys, and advances in additive manufacturing. Read more »

ESPRIT World Conference 2010

May 18–21, 2010
Long Beach, California
ESPRIT customers, DP Technology staff, and guests from around the globe will gather at this conference for technical sessions, social events, and the unveiling of the latest version of the ESPRIT CAM software. 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


New Autodesk Seek Integration Aimed at Consumer Market
Web service now links with Dragonfly and Showroom to get building product data into the hands of homeowners. Read more »

CAD Manager's Toolbox: Survival Kit for CAD Machines
To recover from a computer disaster, follow a few simple steps before anything goes wrong. Read more »

Q&A Series: Autodesk Subscription, Part 5
How do I use Previous Version/Home Use? What is it?How do I register my subscription on a laptop? How can I also use the software on my home computer and remain compliant? Read more »

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