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Other Improvements and Discussion
Another key improvement that users have been wanting to see is grouping within the materials palette. This new grouping structure will really help users to organize their project’s materials creating groups such as woods, glass, stone and tile, et cetera. Matthew Holewinski says this will save the user time—they will not have to sift through hundreds of materials.
The wireframe rendering improvement mentioned earlier isn’t one that presents itself visually. The user will see the same thing but performance wise this mode is much improved. In formZ 8 file sizes can be reduced dramatically in size through both new engineering improvements and the user’s ability to dynamically reduce data with new user controls.
formZ 8 now has a more built in pathway to SketchFab, which is a community website where visitors can view models using WebGL technology in the browser.
BIM Workflows and Options
During the presentation I asked Mr. Knopp how formZ users typically think about their models in relationship to BIM workflows. I asked in particular about the IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) file format. Mr. Knopp said that typical users are using formZ in the front end of the design process for the most part—implying that a lot of this work doesn’t lend itself to a BIM workflow stage just yet. But importantly, he said, formZ data can be brought into all kinds of tools including BIM authoring applications. Sometimes users bring is discreet pieces they have created in formZ.
“One of the major limitations of BIM,” says Kropp, “is trying to represent or generate free-from shapes.” “The strength of BIM is actually one of its weaknesses when it comes to design. There are often design details and features that cannot be fit into the formal structures of the BIM representation,” adds Kropp. “Users therefore utilize formZ to bring in special shapes on architecture and then build the rest of the building around it using the BIM authoring tool’s built-in features.” As for IFC support in formZ 8? Kropp only said that while formZ supports a wide variety of file formats, they recognize that it [IFC] is important and are working on it.
Another aspect that AutoDesSys recognizes in the market is the popularity of modeling tools that enable scripting or mathematically driven form making—such as in the case of Rhino with the Grasshopper add-on software package or Bentley’s Generative Components.
Kropp stated that they have something in development that will hopefully be put into beta later this summer. This will address the area of computation-design. “formZ has a powerful SDK that supports script and plug-in development but its really a programmer’s tool, thus we are developing a new visual scripting solution,” stated Kropp, “and we are really excited about it. We have said in our forums that we are doing work in this area.”
What is exciting about this development and acknowledgement is that formZ will be the only native Mac OS X application that will support architects and designers who have felt ignored by the batch of Windows-only computational-design modeling solutions on the market (eg: Rhino + Grasshopper, Generative Components and Autodesk Dynamo). This is not to say there are zero tools like this available for Mac, just not at the level of formZ—which competes at the highest level with the most advanced modelers in the world.
formZ version 8 is due on the market this early summer.