Inside Autodesk’s new San Francisco workshop, which opens up design space for artists (photos)

From the outside, Pier 9 looks like any other of the aging piers on San Francisco’s waterfront. But, on the inside, software company Autodesk has installed a manufacturing facility that will allow artists and its employees to prototype and tinker with technology for woodworking, 3D printing and more.

Autodesk CEO Carl Bass opened the new facility Thursday when he cut a “ribbon,” which was actually a metal banner made on-site. Sparks flew as he lowered a saw through it, Mayor Ed Lee at his side.

Autodesk Pier 9

I tagged along for a tour of the facility with Noah Weinstein, an Autodesk creative programs manager, who explained the building is not used to manufacture any commercially available goods. Artists and employees can put their creations online though, which is meant to inspire them to use Autodesk software to make their own creations. (We’ll be highlighting design and the creative process at our RoadMap event in November in San Francisco).

Downstairs, we passed through rooms for cutting and working with steel and wood.

Autodesk Pier 9

Autodesk Pier 9 Autodesk Pier 9 Autodesk Pier 9 Autodesk Pier 9

A room upstairs held seven big Objet 3D printers. Weinstein showcased a few projects artists have worked on there, including a 3D printed map of San Francisco, a wolf head that at one point breathed fire and glowing speaker cases. Autodesk also has a 3D printer that prints with regular office paper. Weinstein held up a bust of an Autodesk employee’s head that was printed on it.

Autodesk Pier 9

Autodesk Pier 9 Autodesk Pier 9

Then we passed into the actual offices, where a few artists were busy creating. One project involved using a Leap Motion gesture controller to move the print head of a RepRap 3D printer.

Autodesk Pier 9

The office itself was as quirky as any other tech company in Silicon Valley. Check out the slideshow for a few more photos.