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From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 22 No 9 - SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2009
David Chadwick takes you through the 3D Modelling Guide to Vectorworks 2009
There are still quite a few architects out there who, in design terms, haven’t quite joined the twenty-first century yet. (The last time I said that, about AutoCAD 14 users, I got a couple of angry emails refuting the suggestion from people still using it!). So, to cover my backside and to give those of you who are struggling to come to terms with the latest 3D technology, I've just been playing around with an excellent guide that introduces you to the delights of 3D modelling - whether you are a mechanical designer or an architect. The guide, written by Jonathan Pickup and published by Nemetschek, who of course own Vectorworks, is based on Vectorworks 2009, which we looked at earlier on this year. Although it is useful for anyone exploring 3D modelling, Jonathan's background as a New Zealand born and NZ- and UK-trained architect means that the architectural aspects are well explored and defined. The guide is laid out in 3 principal sections. The first looks at simple 3D modelling, laying the groundwork for designing in 3 dimensions, a process that requires rather more process management than simple 2D draughting, and takes users from single and multiple extrusions up to fairly advanced 3D techniques, such as the creation of surfaces from curves (one of the features that I was most impressed with when I reviewed the architectural version of the software).
It then looks at some of the features of architectural modelling, like creating the site, working planes and the extraction of surfaces, building up to the third section, which invites users to get involved in a small building project - the creation of a bus stop, with bollards and litter bins - the normal street furniture one associates with public transport!
All of it is accompanied by a CD containing a series of models to be used in the exercises that mirror the sections in the guide's manual. The examples are very easy to follow and are written in plain English, so that you’ll have no problem following the logic. That might sound quite trite, but the next example given - multiple extrusions - not only introduces the slightly different concept of extruding between two different shapes, but provides users with an insight into the way in which Vectorworks works in relation to the stacking order of its objects. You then get a chance to put this into practice by creating a multi-3D shaped object using the same techniques.
The same pattern is followed throughout, introducing simple solid modelling and lofting surfaces, with a loft that takes you through multiple 2D objects and edge filleting, until you get to lofts with one and two rails. This introduces techniques that will eventually lead the user into creating some very interesting and complex shapes.
PROTRUSION AND CUTOUT TOOLS
These appear to be all the rage at the moment, and are the staple fare of direct 3D modelling tools like SketchUp and SpaceClaim. They provide the ability to select a face, create a 2D sketch on it, and either push or pull the selection in and out to create new attached 3D volumes, or hollow out the original volume according to the selected shape. it is just one of a range of modelling tools within Vectorworks, and the guide gives a clear definition on how to drag faces in and out to create the new volumes. Strangely enough, it is only at this juncture that Jonathan explains about 3D primitives - cubes, cylinders, spheres and cones - and working with wireframe, hidden line and rendered views. The reason, though, is to get users familiar with not just using the mouse to modify the tools, but the appropriate toolbars and property selection boxes as well. Some further simple exercises then focus on shelling and extrusions along a path, till we reach the pinnacle of the section - surfaces from curves! This shows how a number of NURBs curves can be created in 3D, combined, and then, using the 3D Power Pack, part of the Model toolbar, create a new surface from the NURBs curves.
BUS STOP PROJECT
The last part of the Guide is taken up with a a snazzy project to build a modern bus stop. Once again we use the same set of tools, and in particular the one for creating a curved solid roof from a complex set of curves. First of all, though, Jonathan starts with the building site - before he sets about designing the small structure. It’s part of the software, and very useful, as the proportion of structures that are not built on the flat must be quite high. Vectorworks is used to convert the contour lines to NURBs to produce a a 3D section of terrain. The software is then used to layout a simple road, and the different elements colour coded for differentiation. The sample project then follows a more familiar path as we locate and create the building using techniques that we have already explored - shaving the roof line, pushing and pulling profiles to create porches and doors and, more importantly, leading the user into working on the various planes of the structure - having previously set each of these up to jump from one to the other.
Initially created as solid objects, the models have to be converted into architectural structures. A simple way of doing this is to use the Extract Surface tools to pick up the surfaces of the model, and then the Shell Solid tool to add defined thicknesses to each surface - hey presto, walls and roofs!
From my last article you may recall the Vectorwork’s ability to constrain the tops of walls to fit them to the 3D roof object. This is a handy tool that does all the work of ensuring the walls accommodate and match the irregular shape of the roof. In the sample project, the roof is kept as a skin, rather than a solid - which, after you have constrained the walls, can then be given a suitable thickness. The roof sits upon a couple of steel beams as well, which support its weight rather than the walls. The sample exercise shows how these can be extruded to meet the roof surface.
Finally, you learn how to install a skylight in the roof, a simple oval inserted into the complex surface, and to create a presentation of the whole project, bringing in materials, lighting, rendering and even a couple of trees, cars and people that you will find through the Visualisation tool - before you set up a walk-through through the site!
WHAT'S BEYOND THE GUIDE?
The Guide is only an introduction, of course. It merely touches the surface of the capabilities of Vectorworks, a comprehensive package that takes users all the way from site and space planning - hence the small section on setting up the site - to the Building Shell - a set of architecturally inspired and completed 3D objects that can be used to create concept structures - 3D modelling, visualisation, fixtures and fittings, MEP - which covers all plumbing, air conditioning - central heating and so on, right through to detailing.
Each of these sections comes with a specific range of tool sets, displayed when the option is selected, and supplementing the standard range of 3D modelling tools. The Visualisation tool set comes with icons that enable object material selection, camera viewing angles, lighting selections and so on. On selection, detailed property boxes are available to the right of the screen to modify attributes, dimensions, angles, colours, etc.
There’s a bit I particularly ike in the site planning tool set. Besides tools for laying out roads, complete with Armco barriers, you can select a small bulldozer icon to modify the site. Haven't tried that yet, but could be fun!
GETTING HOLD OF THE GUIDE
To use the Guide there is a precondition. It runs under Vectorworks 2009 - or the latest version 2010. Making that important transition to 3D modelling from 2D draughting might make more sense when you select a solution that eases the path somewhat. Jonathan Pickup’s guide will certainly do that. www.vectorworks.uk.com
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