It isn’t too fluffy to refer to formZ as a “legendary” program. AutoDesSys, Inc., did shake up the world of 3D modeling when they got started with formZ back in the day. Throughout the 90’s the formZ software continued to grow diehard adherents, and it became especially popular in architecture schools around the world. But that was in the last century, and since then its territory and expertise has been seriously challenged by noteworthy competitors at both the low and high end.
Now the software house has a new product line based on a unified core base they’ve been working at for many years, and the most notable feature—besides the new clarity present in the product line itself—is the offering of a very capable free version in the new formZ free.
Three New Versions: formZ Pro, formZ Jr, and formZ free
With the recent reunification strategy of code bases, AutoDesSys, made the move to eliminate the old Bonzai 3D naming for the product offering that is now known as formZ jr. The three programs are various leveled versions of the same code base, essentially.
formZ free is basically the direct competitor to the free version of SketchUp (SketchUp Make) as well as an entry-ramp to the entire formZ product line. This free version has zero restrictions on professional or academic uses and provides the basics of formZ Pro and formZ jr. (we will key in differences in a minute).
formZ free can notably import key CAD files such as DWG and DXF, in addition to SketchUp files, KMZ, DAE, OBJ and STL. It exports to 3D printers too. It also supports dimensioning and annotation tools and of course is file compatible with the other formZ products above it. Dynamic interface, sun studies, reshaping tools and a dynamic clipping plane for sections are all included in formZ free.
formZ jr is the midlevel product of formZ and, as such, will have similar capabilities as the old bonzai 3D. In addition to all the features of formZ free, it includes notable additions in the way of subdivision surface modeling tools, native 64-bit architecture on Mac OS X, a suite of NURBS modeling tools, parametric capabilities, formZ components and a lot more.
formZ Pro is the latest version of the state-of-the-art in formZ professional technology. Inclusive of all the features in the lower level products, it features advanced 3D primitives like Paraboloids, for example, and advanced deformations. Several advanced modeling features—quite important to product design too—are also included like advanced rounding, etc.
formZ Pro includes numerous specialty tools that the other formZ versions do not, including line weight and line style attributes for all objects, hatch attributes for objects, numerous advanced transformations, alignment and path features as well as advanced NURBS tools beyond those found in formZ jr.
Pricing and Availability
formZ Pro retails for 995.USD and RenderZone plugin is another 395.USD. formZ jr is now 495.USD and includes the option for the RenderZone plugin as well. Same price. formZ free is of course, free. To learn more and see the products side by side go here.
The decision to create a free version of formZ is quite brilliant in light of the competitive landscape. This ideally would have been the strategy to deploy eons ago if the company was able to foresee the changes in the market. Naturally, nobody can peer into the future and it’s always an estimate of where the competitive landscape may go. We are quite interested to test out formZ free and to evaluate its practicality as both an entry-ramp for the entire product line as well as a direct competitor to SketchUp Make.
A signature difference between SketchUp Make (the free version of SketchUp) and formZ free is that the latter can import AutoCAD files, among other things. Interestingly, formZ free is not based on the Spatial ACIS modeling engine, the website says. But this confuses us and I wonder if this is correct. We will have to look into this.
The final lowdown on this release is this: AutoDesSys had leadership in the 3D modeling world back in the 90’s and has had to compete at both the low-end and high-end in this new century. By focusing on the formZ product core to address both sides of the competition, it may save the company precious resources that will enable it to execute more quickly. At the high end, the company still needs to deliver scriptable advanced parametrics which would enable users to compete with what folks are doing with Rhino and Grasshopper.