Experience Rhino 3D

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Rhino 3D UK User Group Meeting 2017

I’m excited as I walk down the steps into the Rhino 3D User Group Meeting. It is a veritable CAD cave of technology. An underground space called the Crypt in Clerkenwell, London, on a 26’C day. I’m excited because I know what’s coming. I can't wait for he talks and presentations, what’s new and what’s on the horizon. And a peek at what other companies are doing and how they are using CAD.


Over the past few years we have seen more softwares pushing towards a cloud based and VR enabled future. Now in Rhino with apps like Yulio, Prospect and Mindesk, you can upload your models to VR platforms. If you have the equipment you can use VR as a new environment to make your 3d models. Whilst it is still in it’s infancy, VR is not just a fad. It is here to stay. As we begin to see better, smoother and cheaper integration, we will have access to an amazing array of design and communication tools. 

Grasshopper 3D

It is not surprising that at an event of about 100 people at least 98%  are heavily invested in Grasshopper. In fact I said to another designer, that this event inspired me to do some fast and thorough Grasshopper learning. He agreed and we realised that we must have been that 2%! The most common saying in the room was:

‘I don’t know how I would model today without Grasshopper’.

Many of them are architects. Taking advantage of parametric modelling's rapid update capabilities. Others are product designers. Taking the opportunity to control every aspect of their design, and make many iterations for feedback.


At the exhibition stands I am impressed by the shear number of physical tools available for CAD. They all have one function - to help users interact with the digital world. We are no longer constrained by a 2D mouse and a keyboard for the 3D world. Now you can choose from the 3D Conexxion mouse, the Wacom Cintiq range and the the crazy 3D Rudder. ‘A foot-powered controller to move in VR, gaming and CAD like you move in real life’. See Below. This was the most fascinating product on display. I had a go moving around a Rhino architectural file. Like with a 3D Conexxion mouse it takes some getting used to. Once you have it, it feels so natural moving your feet to navigate a space. It also helps you to sit better in your chair. You are moving to adjust your position in the scene and keeping yourself in good posture in the real world.

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On the subject of interaction, one of the projects included a design from Moritz Waldemeyer. It included Jamiroquai and a CAD sculpture of JK’s head. They are using Grasshopper to create a slider interface CAD file in Rhino. Providing JK with the opportunity to finish and customise certain aspects of the design with the sliders. This resonated with me on the same level as the physical products. Allowing us to interact with CAD in a different way. It gives people who are not CAD users the chance to get a feel for the programs and process. They may not be able to design the product as a whole. But they can still be involved and have some ownership of the final outcome.

Excellent Technology

There were some inspiring uses of VR through out the day. Carsten Astheimer gave an excellent talk on transport design. See Top. He talked about how they have integrated VR into the design process. They are using it as a way to showcase the scale of their designs and communicate ideas to clients. They are ‘Very much looking to the future with VR’.

He had a particularly brilliant answer to the Question:

‘How do you make Class A surfaces for the auto industry in Rhino?’

His answer:

'To understand the form you want and what it is trying to achieve. Then get everything into the design, constraints, form, everything. Then scrap it and start again.'

Rinse and repeat. They went through 80 revisions until they got the perfect surfaces for their product. (In some cases).

Part of my now rabid hunger for Grasshopper stems from the great examples of the day. The Elliott Wood presentation about making the Battersea Pump House Pavilion was brilliant. See Above. They have a simple design modelled parametrically with Grasshopper. This allows them to get fabrication information directly from the file very quickly and onsite if needs be. Their user centred approach on a shoestring budget was inspirational.

Arthur Mamou-Mani gave a great talk about fabricating a giant block building robot. It is the size of a building, and Grasshopper is instrumental in the success of this project. Instead of using robotic arms it uses a winch and wire system. The same principle as football stadium spidercams. One the most fascinating parts was the software Flux. It translated multiple designs gathered from crowd sourcing into Grasshopper. See Below. The software uses cloud based data transfer to feed geometry into Grasshopper and G code. Run on the host computer this cuts out compatibility issues associated with the crowd sourcing. The final robot uses an 8 wire and winch system and is indeed HUGE!

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It was here we were reminded of the Grasshopper 3D User Group Meetings in London. And that many of the speakers are regular attendees. So anyone reading this who would like to geek out or learn a bit more, I urge you to attend!

More Presentations

There are so many great parts to the day it is hard to mention them all but some of my other favourite parts are:

Bart Radeki, Digits 2 Widgets gave a brilliant presentation on 3D printing and model making. Their method of using micron accurate 3d printing to make fabrics is amazing. Each fibre is printed to a degree of accuracy so that all the fibres are separate and do not fuse together. This allows the flexibility and strength of fabric.

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Moritz Waldemeyer had such a prolific portfolio to show I can scarcely mention it all. See Above. His expertise in wearable technology and name dropping is mind boggling. (Ok Go, U2, Take That, Will I Am and recently Jamiroquai.) One of his many fascinating stories revolves around a complex sculpture. It has an even more complex Grasshopper definition that randomised certain features. Their fabricator completely ignored the model. And made it perfectly without referencing the CAD at all. This Prompted his great quote:

‘Sometimes you can think too hard about something’.

Among others there were talks from RhinoCFD, about using their plugin to optimise gold casting in jewellery. Zaha Hadid Architects about building bigger, better computer systems. They are seeking to optimise their workflow and get feedback data faster. Kangaroo 3D made an appearance. Daniel Piker, it’s creator, took us through the developments and the mechanical design features available for Rhino. Carlos Perez and Phil Cook were there all day. They showed us what to expect next in Rhino v6 and demonstrated the new v6 wip on some very impressive systems. See Below. 

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There was a brilliant presentation from Oliver Salway from Softroom. See Below. His talk centred on not losing the human element whilst building an architecture practice. He made a great point:

As advanced as tools get don’t lose the benefit and what you want to use them for. Don’t lose the human element’.

I though it was great to stand up at an event full of Grasshopper users and remind the room. 'Just because you can make every element different doesn’t mean that you should.'

And of course I can’t leave without mentioning the Chaos Group presentation. See Below. Yavor showed us the brilliant new Vray 3 for Rhino and I was so impressed with the new interface and experience. I won’t get into the tech specs. It seems like this new interface has been truly designed with users in mind. I can’t wait to get it downloaded and into my workflow. And they throw a great launch party as well!

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I have seen so much this week at the user meeting. If this event has show us anything it is that with a few choice plugins you can transform the NURBS modeller. You can make it into a cost effective power house for different design industries. This is why Rhino still remains at the top of many people's list of favourite CAD programs. It streaks ahead for it’s versatility, adaptability and affordability. With rapid improvement in VR and design tools coming ever faster, I can't wait for the full release of Rhino 6 and what the very near future will bring.

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