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Showing posts from 2011

123D apps from Autodesk > Create, Make and Play

Autodesk is hard at work trying to stimulate the creator in all of us. They are re-branding some of their previous applications into a suite of tools aimed at the creator and maker. 123D Catch : turn images into 3D objects Previously known as "Project Photofly" on the Autodesk Labs and discussed in  this is a Windows application to turn a series of photographs, taken with a regular digital camera, into a 3D model, automatically. It requires an online connection, as the processing of the images happens on the Autodesk servers. Beware: I have installed it in a virtual Windows XP on Parallels, but I had to take care to use a local path (e.g. C:\Temp) to ensure proper uploading. The My Documents folder which was linked to my actual Documents folder in OSX was not usable as such. You can export the 3D model in e.g. FBX format for use in other applications. 123D Make : turn 3D objects into

PythonOCC : Open Source interactive CAD shell (and how to run it on OSX)

What is PythonOCC? PythonOCC is an Open Source (LGPL) Python-wrapper for OpenCASCADE. So what is OpenCASCADE (OCC)? This is an advanced Open Source (custom license) modeling kernel, comparable to commercial engines, such as ACIS or Parasolid, which are used in quite some commercial CAD programs. When you want to develop CAD software, you could use OCC and write programs in C++. And why using Python? With this wrapper, you can create CAD and geometry scripts in Python, which is an interpreted Object-oriented scripting language. You can write almost "on-the-fly" and seriously reduce the implementation effort, by skipping the compiling-phase. You can even interact with a running program in the Python interpreter. Want to read more about this? The OpenCASCADE official website  (currently Linux and Windows are officially supported) The PythonOCC website/blog  (beware that the core of the actions happen in the development repositories). So far so good. Now the nasty, techn

Revit: Project Spark – quick overview

Revit: Project Spark – quick overview : So what is Project Spark? Essentially Spark, is a cut down version of Revit, a sort of Revit LT or beginner’s version. Some probably though... I was hoping to talk a bit about Project Spark , but found the review in the autodesk-revit blog to be complete and quite detailed, so I advice to read it there first (and then come back to comment if you want). Autodesk is quite active in providing new Lab projects and also launched several new products recently in the Mac App Store and in the iTunes App Store (for iOS devices). This product is a free, limited version, based on Revit 2012. It provides a subset of what you can do inside Revit, while having enough limitations that it won't interfere with license sales of Revit. You can use it for modeling, but not for rendering or analysis. FBX export does allow you to link it to external rendering software DWG import/export is also good to have. Could it replace AutoCAD in some offices? No ma

Working in the cloud with free software

This post comments briefly on some of the "cloud"-enabled software utilities that I have started to use more and more. Short definition: these apps will allow you to work from different computers or devices on your data, yet are more optimized and user-friendly than a web page, despite the javascript goodness that seems to flood many new "organizer" and "authoring" and "managing" projects. I'll discuss Dropbox , Evernote , Skitch and Mendeley Desktop . Not CAD this time, but usable and free utilities that I have start to rely on, almost every day. Dropbox ( register using this link to give you and me some more space ) This one is quite popular. You want to access your files from different places and possibly share them with others. Dropbox provides a free 2GB (with some more to obtain when referring others) to host your files. Files are synced, you can work offline, you can have a local folder on your computer (Windows, OSX, Linux)

Open IFC Tools : Open Source IFC Libraries and software

Open IFC Tools ( ) This is a set of Open Source (for non-commercial use) libraries written in Java. It should work on Windows, Linux and OSX. They follow a modular approach, where different packages are being released in order: Open IFC Java Toolbox Boolean Modeller IFC-loader for Java3D 4D Scheduling Assistant Currently, only the Toolbox is available, together with a Java Webstart demonstration to launch the software directly from a browser. This automatically installs the necessary extensions for Java3D, OpenGL, GlueGen. I tried the web-demo but first had to update Java3D on my Mac (as mentioned on ). This viewer loaded the ArchiCAD file without problems and displayed it adequately. You get a view on the actual IFC code, a 3D visualization, the hierarchic object tree of the Spatial structure and the particular attributes of selected entities, which is exactly what you need from a

IFC-SDK : Open Source IFC 2x3 Library

IFC-SDK Formerly: Moved in Dec 2011 to This is an Open Source C++ library for reading and writing IFC files. It does not depend on any external libraries and can be compiled on most modern compilers. It was tested on Windows (g++ and VC++ 2003+2005) and on Linux (g++ 3 and 4). I had no problem compiling it on OSX Snow Leopard, using XCode 3.2.5. It contains a STEP library and an IFC library, alongside a quite large list of example programs, including tests, to explain the features of the library. Using CMake it could compile the full library without problems and the example programs seem to work fine. They are all command-line, so no GUI problems, but nothing fancy to see either. However, there are some caveats... I see very little actual information (project homepage, author and licensing details). however, inside the source code, it is " copyrighted 2009 CSTB " and releas

ifcGears : Open Source IFC Library/Framework & Viewer

ifcGears ( ) This is a C++ Open Source library, providing a framework to generate IFC reader/writer classes from the Express files. In addition, there is an IFC Viewer program, using OpenSceneGraph or OSG ( ) and Nokia Qt SDK ( ). Compilation Issues I was able (after some serious struggle) to compile the ifcGears library and the ifcGearsViewer on OSX. It uses the CMake build system ( ) which has support for OSG. But the GUI-version of CMake on OSX does not properly generate all settings, as it seems to miss the environment variables somehow. When generating the XCode project or the Makefiles using cmake from the command line, things run smoother. Anyway, if you use the graphical CMake, you have to ensure that all libraries are found. I have only used the release-versions. With the OPT_VIEWER you can optionally enable the generation of the IFC Viewer too, but you need OpenSceneGraph ins

ifcOpenShell : Open Source IFC Library/Framework & Geometry Conversion

ifcOpenShell ( ) This is an Open Source projects, written in C++ and which uses the Open Source OpenCASCADE  or OCC libraries for all geometric work (info on ). It is currently available as Source code and some basic programs are written: a 3ds Max IFC Importer (as a max plugin), compiled into a DLL (but renamed for max); a Blender IFC Import script (in Python); a standalone convertor to translate IFC geometry into a Wavefront OBJ file. They use a common parser library and the OCC libraries. I was mostly interested to the approach of both the setup of IFC classes and the integration with the geometry kernel. Currently, the focus seems to be on extracting the geometric objects from IFC files, to use in other software, e.g. for 3D Visualization. For me, the more interesting aspect would be the other way around: having complex, freeform geometry and convert this into valid IFC models for analysis purposes. Compilation

Open Source IFC Frameworks : some experiences

I have been looking at programming Frameworks for IFC ( Industry Foundation Classes ), the open standard to exchange Building Information Models. I assume you are at least aware of what they are and what they contain... While most commercial BIM software currently exports and opens IFC documents, I was interested to learn about actually doing something directly with these files, e.g. analyzing and visualizing or even generating them. There are a few free IFC viewers available. Tekla BIMsight and Solibri Viewer are both recommended (the latter even cross-platform). But they are closed and can not be adapted for other purposes. However, I also read about a few interesting Open Source projects for creating and opening IFC files. BIMserver : ifcOpenShell : ifcGears : IFC-SDK : Open IFC Tools : In the next posts, I will discuss some of the

CryENGINE 3 : free SDK for non-commercial work

The CryENGINE is a professional Game Development system, in which you can fully author interactive content, games, simulations. The Software Developers Kit (SDK) was already free for schools, but now individual students can also freely use the 3D engine. It is a powerful platform, but it requires fairly up to date hardware and Windows. I have not had the chance to use it, nor play any of the CryENGINE powered games, but it is one of the more famous ones (apart from the Unreal Engine and the Unity3D engine which both are also freely available under certain limitations). Info on (Edit: Feb 2015 > updated the above link)

Free IES-Gaia for education

IES (or Integrated Environmental Solutions) has a range of tools for sustainable design analysis. They now offer free 12-month academic licenses to VE-Gaia for educational institutes (contact enquiries at They already offer £50 licenses for students (per year) so I'm not sure what is provided with this academic offer. The software seems to be Windows-only. Announcement: The VE-Gaia software Info on This is a standalone application focusing on building performance simulation with included visual and text-based reporting. It looks at following criteria: building characteristics: area/volume ratio, solar loads, thermal mass, material usage climate exploration energy/carbon (including temperatures, humidity and comfort at room level) lighting (daylighting and solar shading) use of natural resources

OS X Lion : to upgrade or not?

A few weeks ago, the new release of OS X (without the "Mac" now) called Lion , was made available in the Apple App Store (no DVD or boxes to buy!) for the small sum of $29.99. If you are using a Mac and have the hardware to run it (intel, recent processor), you can easily upgrade. However, having "some" experience with upgrading Operating Systems (from Windows 3.1 till 7, from MacOS 7 till 9, from OSX 10.3 till 10.6, from several Ubuntu and other Linux distros), I know that thing can and will go wrong. Not with the core software from the manufacturer (e.g. Microsoft Office when upgrading Windows or iLife when upgrading OSX). So I started to look around a bit. Snow Leopard (OSX 10.6) still took a while before some of my hardware was supported (some still isn't). I compiled a list of some of the expected problems for some of the applications I use. I advice you to do the same. Beware, running on the new OS does not imply that applications will support the new

New release : Cinema4D r13

While I haven't had the chance to try it out, now is a good time to check out the improvements announced for Cinema4D release 13, which is said to be available in September. Right... So when we start the new semester, suddenly we will have to upgrade our software: Cinema4D r13, ArchiCAD 15, maybe Rhino3D 5? This is quite inconvenient as we need some time to learn the new features, see if it makes sense to incorporate them into our learning material and maybe update a few of the screenshots or text in our learning material. I just finished the text for release 12... (see  ). Anyway, there are some interesting new features. The full detail can be read on different places, e.g.  which has screenshots and movies linked. The downloadable tutorials are free for a short while without registration ! Hurry up! The "executive summary", with the new or improved feat

Sculptris : a free 3D sculpting software

Scultpris is a free, cross-platform (Win+OSX) 3D modeling and texturing software, from Pixologic, famous for their ZBrush sculpturing top software. It allows you to work with e.g. Wacom tablets and can handle both 3D meshes and the texturing, although you can combine this with Photoshop and other 3D software. After some minutes dabbling with a small Wacom tablet Info on  (current version is Alpha 6, indicating it is not fully finished) Real example from Sculptris website (artist: Barry Croucher) While the ZBrush software is seen as the logical "next" step, when you outgrow Sculptris, it is already quite complete: dynamic tesselation (refinement of the mesh when sculpting) to support details in the regions which require it, without having to overwhelm the rest of the model with more smooth, flat surfaces. painterly-like interface , dark color scheme, icons, lots of rounded edges. If you use this only occasionally, this might be

New release of Tekla BIMsight

I was informed by people from Tekla (they did a Webinar preview on 16th of June) that the new version of Tekla   BIMsight 1.2 will be released on June 21st. Here is a sneak peek. More info on  soon. BIMsight is a standalone and free application (windows-only) to load, compare and view BIM models. It is  focused on IFC documents, but can load DWG and DGN (from AutoCAD-compatible and MicroStation compatible) applications as well. The highlights of the original release still stand (I discussed it earlier in this blog :  Tekla Bimsight ), but the new version adds some nice features: red lining in 3D  = making annotations to the model, to give feedback to the model owner; re-locating the model, which I read as being able to position different models (from different files/programs) to be properly aligned; improved management , through grouping and linking (multi-files?) So far, my biggest gripe is that it is Windows-only, but I intend to use it fo

Project Photofly 2.0 available from Autodesk

A free application to turn images into 3D models. The new release of Project Photofly, from Autodesk, is now available in the "labs" and expires at the end of 2011. It is currently free and runs on all recent Windows PC's (Core2Duo recommended, XP or 7 in both 32- and 64-bit). Beware that to use it, the software uploads pictures to an Autodesk server for processing, so if that does not suit you, then do not use it. Funny: the software is available only in English, but the End User License Agreement (EULA) is made in 15 different languages.

Announce: Virtual Design World Cup

Check out This is a sponsored competition for students to combining BIM and Virtual Reality models. The participants can win large prices, but they have to use the software proposed by the organization (being Allplan and UC-win/Road). Welcome! This student competition utilizes Building Information Models (BIM) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology to aid in the design of an innovative pedestrian bridge. Participate for your chance to win the  $12,000 Grand Prize! Two pieces of software will be used and are provided to contestants for free (for the duration of the competition): BIM software  Allplan  by Nemetschek and VR software  UC-win/Road  by Forum8. The request is not so simple: The concept for this competition is based on the design of Shibuya bridge – a new way of imagining Tokyo’s most famous intersection. The criteria includes architectural design and visualization of a pedestrian bridge/deck in, around, or above the context of this lan

Comments on the Breakfast 2011

Yesterday, I was at the BIMserver Breakfast , in Amsterdam (which is not too far from Leuven by train). At this event, people could download, install and run the Open Source BIM server, to collaboratively host building projects using IFC files. The BIM Server software The free, java-based server is easy to install, as it is completely self-contained (even includes a small http-server) and cross-platform. As admin, you can set up some project and define users. BIM Server (left) and Web administration interface (right) Currently, this is mostly a specialized, domain-specific, content-management system: Projects  contain name, description, sub-projects and geo-location; IFC files can be uploaded and downloaded; people can make revisions (new versions); sub-projects define user roles, e.g. architect, structural engineer, MEP; there is a modelbrowser , which shows the IFC model structure and can be used to make queries (request for particular objects to inspect); RSS feed

Karamba : I'm slowly getting started

In my recent quest to discover possible tools for design analysis, I already noticed Karamba , which is a free (for now?) Grasshopper-plugin for integrated structural calculation. It means you can define a structural system, with beams and loads and with control over connectivity, support conditions (degrees of freedom of nodes) and analyze it directly within Grasshopper. Real-time if possible. Nice. So I launched Parallels Desktop and stepped through the manual (which is well-written!) and tried to create a basic learning example. Don't shoot me if there are glaring mistakes in this, as I have to re-learn some of the things that have been kept under a rock for the last 10 years (Finite Element Analysis, Building Mechanics). The following screenshot displays a small example with three nodes, two beams and a single force . The nice thing is that, once this is setup, you can interactively play with it, e.g. move nodes, adjust the force, with the simulation running alongside.

3dtin : modeling and sharing inside (modern) browsers

At you can use your gmail-account to login and freely create 3D models, using a small set of modeling tools (cubes, some primitives and basic color). It resembles a basic paint program, but with all pixels being 3D boxes. There is even a "smooth" option to make a subdivision surface. The application runs directly inside the browser , so ensure you have a very recent one, such as an up-to-date version of Chrome, as it needs WebGL support and JavaScript to let the magic work. Nothing to install, nothing to launch, just open the site and start creating. However, beware that everything you create on this site is automatically licensed under a Creative Commons license, allowing anyone to make adjustments, without royalty fees, but with reference to you as the original author.

Archmedium Student Competition : Rethinking Mallorca’s Seafront

Proposal Tourism is without a doubt one of the largest economical activities in the world. This development has in many ways damaged seafronts to an almost irreparable point. There are many cities that can serve as an example for this; such as Benidorm in the coast of Spain, Playa del Carmen in Mexico or Cartagena in Colombia. Ironically many of these destinations lose their charm when they become too crowded even for the same tourists who flock to them. Architecture is definitely one of the main responsible for all this process, but at the same time has the opportunity to remake and correct its errors. We propose a redesign of the seafront of Cala Millor while taking advantage of the fact that the city council has decided to push back the automobile accessible area away from the seafront, making more space for pedestrian walkways and public spaces. This investigation is at the same time based on the pilot plan for the zone that is being promoted by the “Consell Insular de Mallor

AxisVM LT : freeware version of Structural Analysis software

While AxisVM has been around for quite a while, they are not as known as other programs. They do present a friendly approach to educational users, by providing both a free 6-month license of their full software and a permanent "LT" version. The LT version is functionally identical to the full version, but is limited to 40 beams or trusses, 400 surface elements, 20 load cases and 10 mode shapes. For teaching and learning this might suffice, but probably not for freeform roof shapes generated in other software, where the amount of trusses will be too limited. It is Windows-only, so I had to fall back on Parallels desktop to try it out, but it performs well. I followed one of the step-by-step examples to learn how to input nodes, beams, assign sections and materials, define Degrees-Of-Freedom (DOF) for nodes, add loads and perform the analysis. Once I get the hang of a few of these applications, I will try to do a more complete comparison and then see how I can automate mo

iRhino V5 contains PanelingTools (without GUI)

With all the attention that the Grasshopper plugin receives for Rhino, it is understandable that people look less at other approaches. However, I was pleased to understand that the current test-version of iRhino (the Mac OSX port of Rhino), which is now more or less in sync with Rhino V5, contains the PanelingTools. The Paneling Tools are a plugin for Rhino v4 or v5 and are already included in the latest builds for the OSX version. These commands add the creation of grids and panels and patterns to Rhino. You can generate independent grids or add grids based on surfaces, curve/surface intersections or projections in the first step and then use the generated grid of points to generate paneling . Paneling can follow patterns (pre-set or custom created) allowing you for quite elaborate translations of freeform geometry into something more rationalized for construction and/or fabrication. The tools can be controlled with a series of "pt" commands, and also through Rhino

Populate for 3ds Max : architectural parametric modeling

Some years ago, I was working with ArchiCAD and 3ds Max on a Dell Workstation. I started using the plugins from Marc Lorenz ( ) to help with it. Now I received a mail (funny how long your "old" registrations survive) announcing Populate ( ) Please check it out and try the public beta of Populate , it is a plugin for paneling free form surfaces. I worked on it for over 1 year, I think it turned out quite nice. Regarding my older plugin scripts, here is a quick status update: Tree Shop : This one is very popular, but also very old. I plan rewriting it from scratch, using new technology from Populate. Vray Ambient Occlusion : I'm not sure if it's still useful, and if there is a point in improving it, but I get much feedback on this. Cubic VR : I started working on a fully featured Pano-tour system for 3dsmax,which would replace this. The new site looks modern, has nice examples and is titled to focus on &qu

Z88 Aurora : Open Source FEA

When reviewing papers for a conference, someone referenced Z88 Aurora ( ) which is an Open Source, cross-platform (Linux, Windows, OSX) Finite Element Analysis software. It is quite extensive and comes with examples and documentation. There is also Z88 (without the Aurora) which is also Open Source. I'm not fully sure about the difference between both... but AFAIK, Aurora contains the more user-friendly GUI with more interactivity, whereas Z88 is more limited in scope. It contains a pre-processor (load geometry and FEA files, meshing, materials), FE-solver (calculates displacements, stresses and node forces) and a post-processor (visualization of results, export to CSV). For once, this software is (quite) easy to use on OSX as well, provided you have the X11 system installed, which usually comes with installing the Apple Developers packages, which are included with your OS system disk. It relies on a few external libraries, but even those are embedded or inc

DebunkTheBIM: Dear building owners: we will let you know what you need to know when and how WE think you should get to know it!

DebunkTheBIM: Dear building owners: we will let you know what you need to know when and how WE think you should get to know it! As a reaction to this post and venting some ideas on my own blog, I'd like to add some comments here. I agree that most model viewers are very limited and only focus on 3D mesh + textures/color . E.g. the Virtual Building Explorer (VBE) from Graphisoft (add-on for ArchiCAD) goes some way to make the design "viewable" by a user but don't expect the actual bulding information to be intact. It has gravity and collision detection (you can't walk through walls and you fall down when you pass an edge). However, if you want, you can do a lot of that but you have to do it yourself... I happen to like Unity3D as a 3D realtime platform (and the free version goes a long way to do almost anything, apart from realtime shadows). But my remarks are not (too) software specific. Just that I will focus on things I know will work. if you need north

Paracloud GEM : now also on Mac OSX

Paracloud GEM ( ) is a generative modeling system, which can be used to generate patterns on other mesh-based geometry. It can be used standalone or in collaboration with other software (e.g. SketchUp, Rhino, Maya, Cinema4D). You can freely download the trial, but to use it fully, you need a license. You can buy a temporary one-month license or a full license (commercial and academic pricing is available). At first, it can be puzzling to get started, as many of the icons in the interface are not self explanatory. But there is a tutorial which should get you going in about an hour or two, which is reasonably fast. Try the online documentation . Remember that Grasshopper and Generative Components, which are the most popular generative modeling approaches for parametric architecture, are both Windows-only solutions, although there is a slight chance that Grasshopper will eventually be ported over. This way, Paracloud has the OSX market for this kind of

What is the Autodesk 123D app?

Autodesk announced, with quite some vagueness, 123D , as an entry-level, free design tool with links to "make" things (reading: fabrication). It's unclear what it is, precisely, so no clue if this is Windows, OSX, iOS, Android compatible. It is said to be free and also to be some kind of entry into the range of Autodesk software solutions. I hope it is easy to use, yet sophisticated enough. There are so many complex CAD applications and even SketchUp is now quite extensive and overly crowded with tools, toolbars and add-ons. --- edited --- Currently, it has become clear that 123D is a free, Windows-only version of Autodesk Fusion, which in itself is based on Inventor, their MCAD offering and is also included with AutoCAD 2012. It aims to provide an Autodesk alternative against SketchUp (and maybe Bonzai3D) for advanced, yet simple to use modeling.