Something Useful? A Space Frame

It goes against my instincts to support, but I understand people might like some practical applications for some of this Paneling technology in Revit 2010. Something to make "buildings" out of . . . philistines.
I hear that space frames are back, so here's something to hang your Googie on. Download the rfa file from here. Play around with it if you like and ask questions if you have them.


Rendering in the Revit Family Editor

Mental Ray rendering in Revit is not available in the family editor, and this can be vexing. However, this doesn't stop 3rd party API developers. Accurender built the nXt rendering engine as a plugin for Revit that seem to work in all 3d environments, including the family editor. Of course, it isn't as tightly integrated into the Revit platform as Mental Ray, and it isn't as fun to watch (those little orange buckets are absent). It actually really bums me out that they decided to make a photoreal renderer for Revit, as Mental Ray pretty much has that covered. What would be great would be a Penguin non-photoreal rendering engine. But there are a few other things to be said for this plugin that go beyond what MR offers:

Caustics (refraction and focusing of light passing through thick transparent materials, nice for aquariums and wine glasses)
Custom and preset HDRi skys
Background images
Fractal Plants
Assignment of daylight portals

It seems to be much slower than MR, but comparison in these things is not always clear. It does have a harder time as you add more geometry (MR is largely indifferent to how much geometry is in the scene). However, like Maxwell, it is also progressive: it can render on and on if you like, or you can just stop it and save out a finished image if it looks good enough. The interface is nicely streamlined and is pretty easy to figure out, although most materials seem to require some amount of customization.

Another plus is that is seems to be a really "out of process" renderer. After you kick off the render job you can work in the same Revit file while the image is created in a seperate window (providing you have a beefy enough machine, it seems to do OK with my no-so-fancy laptop).

I've only opened up the plugin a couple of times and made a few images, so take this review with a grain of salt. Because I'm familiar with Mental Ray and have workarounds for some shortcomings, I'd be hard pressed to pony up the money to buy this plugin. But depending on your workflow, the few features I have mentioned might make this plugin worth a look. Check out the 30 day trial version yourself and send in your observations.


API Yi Yi: Installer for Distance to Panels plugin

Horray for Angéla Germán of reviTTools.info who put together an installer for the API plugin that I wrote about a couple weeks ago that measures distances from panels! Now you can just download, install, and start making freaky stuff in Revit.

Download the zipped executable from here, run the installer, and look for the "Compute distance to Panels" tool in Add-Ins>External Tools. There are some sample files to try out in the package as well. By default they are installed to C:\Program Files\Revit buildz extensions 2010\samples.

Summary of the last post: the plugin calculates the distance between curtain panel by pattern instances and some other placed family, then writes this number to an instance parameter in each panel. The download includes a readme file with more instructions, but you can also read more in the original post.

A couple things to note, I didn't write this plugin, it's from Harry the API Guru who I work with at ADSK, I just compiled the source code which ships in the Revit 2010 SDK, and Angela wrote the installer. I'm just a fan.


Revit 2010 Review in AECbytes

Lachmi Khemlani just posted a pretty comprehensive review of Revit 2010. There's a section on API tools that reference some models that you can read more about here. Here's a snippet about the Conceptual Modeling tools:

"The new conceptual modeling environment, however, is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it lacks the fluidity and ease of use of tools such as SketchUp and the new Bonzai, and I don’t see it replacing the ubiquitous use of SketchUp in architectural design, given the fact that there is a free version of SketchUp readily available. On the other hand, Revit’s conceptual modeling environment is much more powerful and sophisticated. The heads-up dimension display that shows the dimensions as you are modeling and allows them to be edited—which is so helpful in the detailed modeling stage—also allows conceptual masses to be created to the exact level of accuracy desired. The ability to tie geometry to reference lines and planes, and add constraints and parameters makes it easy to iterate through many design variations easily and quickly. The new surface dividing, patterning, and panelizing capabilities makes Revit’s conceptual modeling environment even more compelling. The ultimate, of course, is the Building Maker capability, which allows the massing model to be converted to actual building elements so that you don’t have to start over to create the BIM model."


API Yi Yi: Measuring Panel Lengths and Angles

Time for another plugin made from a sample that ships with the Revit SDK, born from the mind of Harry the API Guru. Of course it's another curtain panel do-dad, that's just where I'm at. This one also does a fairly basic set of operations: after you place a four sided panel with some specific length and angle parameters in a divided surface, the plugin measures the length of each edge and the angle of each corner, then writes these numbers to a parameter in the panel instance. With this you can do at least two things:

1.) You can now schedule the individual panel specs, either for pricing, or refining numbers of different panel types. I've used this to verify that all my panels on a curved surface are identical in size, or within a certain tolerance. (for scheduling you will need to make the measurement parameters shared. There is an excellent tutorial by David Fano that shows how to set up shared parameters, although the tutorial is not exactly ABOUT shared parameters: http://designreform.net/2008/07/14/revit-using-tags-to-drive-instance-parameters/)

2.) Use the instance parameters to drive panel geometry. For instance, if an edge is very long, maybe the mullion is thicker, or the thickness of the panel extrusion could be tied to the panel size, wide panels are thick, small panels are thin.

A couple caveats: as far as I know this only works with quad panels. Also, it ONLY WORKS ON SINGLE SURFACES. That is, you can't use it with panels with extrusions, mullions, whatever. What the function does is simply measures the first four edges it finds, so if you have and extruded slab, it will measure one of the SIX faces that it runs into. Limited? Well, yes. But after measuring your simple flat panel and writing all the instance parameters, you can select all instances of the panel and replace with your fancier one, which keeps all the instance parameter changes. Welcome to the less than ideally BIMy world of the API. So try it first with the provided "basePanel.rfa" and then swap out the panel instances for something more interesting.


Freshen up your software for the Summer!

That's right, flowers are singing, birds are blossoming, so out with The New, and in with The Newer:

Blender 2.49
I look forward to trying out the Boolean improvements and the Landscape scripts

Revit 2010 update release
All sorts of stuff in this for RME, RST, and RAC, but - one trick pony that I am - I like that it fixes this bug.

Rhino Paneling Tools Update
Also an update for the user manual.