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CAD Modeling in Blender

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CAD Modeling in Blender blender community Can Blender be used for professional CAD graphics? Ebow3d has started an interesting experiment on the BlenderArtists forum to find out.

He is a professional architectural 3d graphics artist from South Africa but he would like to make the switch to open source software. He writes:

I create architectural 3d graphics for a living. The past ten years I've been using proprietary software, like everyone else. However, I really believe in the open source course, and would like to move to a complete open source environment. The only hurdle in my way is a decent 3d modelling app. Don't freak out now, I do believe that Blender is more than just decent. My problem is that I have not been able to build an acurate architectural model yet.

He then continues to describe his experiment: everyone is invited to use a 2D DXF drawing from one of his old projects, convert it into a 3D model and from the lessons learned, compile some constructive criticism. Be sure to read the entire thread before you begin; there are some very helpful comments in it.

I like the Ebow3d's attitude: instead of talking about it, just give it a try and let's see how far you can get. The real problem areas can be quickly identified this way and with luck, someone will pick them up.

Very nice. I'd love to see more initiatives like this one.

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  • Riccardo Gagliarducci

    As you can see Dxf import is in a very bad mood and you get very bad results since v. 2.38:

    https://projects.blender.org/tracker/?func=detail&aid=3964&group_id=9&atid=125

  • http://yellowsblog.wordpress.com/ yellow

    Hi

    I'm also looking into Architectural Visualisation with Blender being an Architectural technologist and IT Manager for a Practice of 50 technical staff. We use 3D Studio Max and AutoCAD.

    I'm looking to identify the short comings in Blenders toolset and how longer term Blender could fit into ours and others design / CAD workflow.

    Blender users may be interested in a blog i'm putting together at http://yellowsblog.wordpress.com/ and my first completed blender project at http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?s=70bfb860a2447a2f8ca58ee3216d8f34&t=53071&highlight=architectural

    Good luck to all those interested in architecural viz with blender.

  • http://www.revoltic.de Simon

    Hi,

    i`am technical draughtsman- CATIA V4/V5 User and (in my Sparetime) Blenderuser.
    I think Blender is a great Visualization Tool, but you can`t use it for CAD Modeling! Ebow3d discribes CAAD Modeling (Computer Aided Architectural Design) thats a BIG difference to CAD Modeling!

  • http://www.stefan.nl/ Stefan de Konink

    The biggest problem I have when editing in Blender are the relative coordinates per object. If Blender has a good way to edit the objectsize, not in scale, but in units, or in a way to specify go from point x,y,z to point u,v,w it would help a lot.

  • etr9j

    @Simon
    I'm sure you are correct on this, since you are obviously a pro. I suppose for me though (an architectural layman), the term itself, CAD, covers both traditional CAD and CAAD. Could you go over why Blender can't be used for true CAD modeling? Never thought about it so I'm interested.

  • Hai

    I hope that Blender will improve in this way. I had several problems with accuracy when trying to design something architectural.

  • http://www.wa1gsf.net davewa

    I don't know about DXF import/export, but my latest modeling project was a piece of machinery (a Schmitt-Cassegrain telescope on a German Equatorial mount on a tripod). And to make the model, I built the mesh using the orthographic grid and absolute positioning -- essentially running Blender as if it *were* a CAD program. And it worked fine for the purpose.

    I'm a newbie to 3D, so maybe your mileage will vary.

    (This model will be a free Poser "figure" on my site when it's completed -- probably by the end of next month.)

  • http://cogitas3d.site.vu Cicero Moraes

    Hi!

    I work with CAD, in my site have many images, examples, 3d models free and some tutorials.

    Cheers

  • http://www.revoltic.de Simon

    @etr9j: my job is to design seat adjusters for Jaguar and Landrover (Ford Europe)- so i work every day with CAD Systems. Here are some things that a good CAD Prog should have (..to use it in the mechanical engineering industry):

    1. clean and accurate Boole Operations (to modify parts very quick- time is money)- we use only boole ops for modeling (90%) and surfaces (10%)
    2. a high-precision virtual measuring tool (for distances, volumes, shapes and so on)
    3. a coordinate system- to assemble the parts...exact with a tolerance of 0,00001 mm
    ...and much more.

    so- please don`t call blender a CAD Prog!

    BUT: I use Blender for Product Design and for Visualizations- and it`s great! THAT are the real strengths of blender- when you use it in the Architecture/Designindustry.

    bye

    Simon

  • http://www.micahfitch.com Micah Fitch

    I am no pro, but I've taken a class in high school where we used Inventor (cad for mechanical design). Blender is in no way a good tool for CAD. CAD needs some good math and geometry tools, and geometrical constraints that come into use during modeling. Also, Blender's primary geometry is polygonal, and I think most 3D cad programs do no use this. Many of the surfaces used in architecture are mathematical curves, like arcs, circles, and splines. Blender has Splines, but there are no tools to compare two curves you have just made mathematically, or line them up, or loft along a curve to create an accurate geometrical surface. Expanding the NURBS modeler in blender might be a good start for making blender a good CAD modeler, but it's a long way off right now.

    Organic modeling and CAD modeling are so completely different!

    Oh yea, blender needs a good ruler system!

  • gopakumator

    I use AutoCAD at school, i've tried doing some of my projects in blender but it ends to being to hard. Blender is good for abstract or other art-like purposes. But bleender lacks the features to draw exact replicas/models. For one, like someone previously said, the coordinate system is a bit hard to understand. Furthermore, the set of tools for replicating and modeling is extremely limited. AutoCAD has features like, ORTHO, OSNAP, SNAP, DIMESNSIONING, GRID, and a PROMPT,

    ORTHO- Ortho lets only lets you draw lines perpendicular to another. THis feature would be excellent for blender to become a CAD program. For example, you should be able to extract at 90 degree angles by putting ORTHO (or equivalent) on. If your creating a plane, you can have it perpendicular to another plane, Blender has some features kinda like this but this area definietly could use some work

    OSNAP/SNAP- OSNAP only lets u move the cursor at specified intervals. Blender has this (when you clikc CTRL), however, it is still limitied. For example, if i switch o snap off and size a plane to 24.2 by 24.2, then i switch osnap back on to move the curson at .5 unit intervals, the next step will be at 24.7, but what if i want to move to the closest .5 interval (24.0/24.5)? Also, AutoCAD lets you start one line EXACTLY at an endpoint, perpendicular intersection, intersection, tangent, etc, by snapping the crosshair to these points when it gets close to one. This would be nice in blender.

    DIMENSIONING: Some dimensioning in blender would be AWESOME and not too hard to implement

    PROMPT: THis is were blender can really leap forward. Put in a prompt window like AutoCAD, so instead of using the 3d view to draw a plane, you can use the promt to enter it's exact size, coordinates, rotation, etc...

  • http://www.nextborg.hpg.com.br bestfx

    It is good for improving blender to be a better modeller of surfaces but it does not need to be a CAD.

    I daily work with the Rhino 3D and it is one of the best modellers of surface that exist, but it is not a complete CAD and it does not need to be.

    If we include in blender a function to import and export complex curves as nurbs, for example IGES/STEP, it´s already will be a great improvement.

    OK. It is good that let us improve the SNAP and others things, but the main function of blender is to be a program for animation.

    Blender can give supporte for CAD programs with render, and I prefer to have one another software GNU to drawing as CAD.

    Currently I use the Varicad in linux.

    http://www.tech-edv.co.at/lunix/CADlinks.html

    http://www.freelists.org/webpage/cad-linux

  • Mike Elkevizth

    I am fairly new to Blender, but I have been trying to model an accurate house and I am having some trouble. I am trying to make it to scale which I'm sure anyone wanting to do CAD with it would want to do as well. I have been having trouble with it as it seems to be quite difficult to make sure things are lined up perfectly. I am using 1 unit in Blender to equal 1 foot. In order to make a wall, I have to adjust 8 vertices manually using the Transform Properties (n key) command, rather than in AutoCAD, which is what I designed it in first, where I could just adjust the length of 3 sides (X,Y,Z). I think that I will be able to get things right on eventually, but it is taking a long time (about 5 hours for an accurate window). Maybe there is an easier way in Blender than what I'm doing, but I haven't been able to find one. I think that maybe a Python script could be created for the job, and I saw that at one time someone had started a project called BlenderCAD for this purpose, but it looks like that project has been abandoned. I would like to see this feature, and I can't believe that it would be a bad thing for an artist either to know the distance between 2 vertices rather than just the position of 1 vertice at a time.

    Thanks for the great program, and I realize that it was intended for artists, but it seems like this would be a very real possibility in the future.

  • Paul

    I fiddled around with a script for a while that had a couple of AutoCAD type tools. I found ways to accomplish them in Blender without the utility so I stopped. The one tool I think about re-creating is the Feet-Inches-Sixteenths to Blender units converter. It worked well and was easy to implement. Right now I'm modelling my dream home in Blender using my hand calculator to convert from architectural dimensions to Blender units I really think that a CAD type version could be created but it would take a lot of work. I haven't got into the innards of Blender yet to start writing code and I'm just a beginner in Python. Maybe if I won the lottery and had time to work on it . . . .

  • http://afecelis.blogspot.com Alvaro F Celis

    Great! I've always thought of blender as an alternative for CAD 3d visualization although most argue blender is more an artistic modeler than a cad app. It's great to see many people around the world have even got architecture offices set up around blender as their main tool.

    A great tutorial I also ran into:
    http://es.geocities.com/jm00092/blender/tutoriales/bloquesdepisos/index.htm
    It's a tutorial on how to create building blocks in blender. It's in Spanish, but It's very well documented and illustrated. Check the results, they're amazing! ;=

  • http://yorik.orgfree.com Yorik

    I think it's right to say that Blender is not a real cad modeler, since usually software made for engineering and architecture obey to different optics. But in the field of architecture, what happens in 90% of the offices around is this: People build models using autocad or another major cad software, because it's easy, it's the same program you use to draw plans, so basically it's a matter of extruding your wall lines and putting architectural elements around (doors, stairs, etc), and then, export to their favorite 3d program, which in most cases is 3d Max because it's easy, it's the same company that makes it, your boss gets a discount if he buys both, etc... and you put your materials, lights, cameras, and render. 3d software is used only for rendering. And for doing this, Blender does the job perfectly. To draw a plan in a program and build the 3d in another is still something complicated for us simple architects... But all of this is evolving quickly, several opensource cad software are in the growing tanks, just a little more patience and i think many things will integrate nicely.

  • http://www.blenderanimation.com JimC

    At our school in the drafting lab, Blender is one of 4 main programs we use. We use AutoCAD for 2D design, SolidWorks for 3D design, SoftPlan for architecture, and Blender to tie it all together. SoftPlan and SolidWorks export perfectly to Blender. This is a great combination of experiences for our students plus it keeps me from feeling like an AutoDesk salesman :-) I have a few kids doing some nice detailed modeling in Blender, but most do the major design work in the other programs, then move over to Blender.

    Now if only we can get some improvements in the sequence editor in Blender I can get rid of my one seat of Adobe Premiere.....

  • jawt301

    I'm Noob :) interested in Blender application for Archt Design. I think the key of drawing for successly is on cursor snaping (grid,selection,etc) for command operation, different scale object in xyz,slicing object using knife K command. Rotate exactly in global axes, Spin,Fill, Duplicate, Mirror. etc.

  • Dan

    While do like to have increased functionality, the one-size-fits-all approach rarely works out well. So i don't think turning Blender into a CAD program is the best idea.

    Just looking at the Blender wiki ( http://mediawiki.blender.org/index.php/Competitive_Analysis/CAD ) made me find an Open Source CAD program http://www.opencascade.org . Doesn't that one fulfill your needs?

  • Esben Stien

    Blender is definitely not suited for CAD;). An application suited for CAD is called a CSG modeler and includes an extensive NURBS environment

  • Jerry Segers, Jr.

    Dan:
    I use a mac, so I can't download it to be sure, but I think from the stuff on the web site that open cascade is a set of libraries, and an application framework so you can build a cad program yourself. So, I don't think it will work, however BRLCAD might be worth looking at if anyone finds this page and needs a free cad program. I personally couldn't get it to compile, but that probably says more about me than the software. http://www.brlcad.org/

  • Octavian

    Does anyone know a good way to convert AutoCAD 3d models into Blender? I've tried with the last version of Blender (2.4) to import a very simple DXF file (a box) but it seems it doesn't work...

    I'm doing architectural visualisation and till now I was doing the 3d modelling in AutoCAD and the renderings in 3dsmax. I've just found about Blender and installed it. It seems very nice and I was thinking to switch from 3dsmax to it, but the first condition is to be able to import from AutoCAD at good quality.

    Thanks

  • leuteris

    I my work I need a cad for mechanical design. I use Solidworks. I try to do some thinks with brlcad and blender.
    The above application are very good but they 've disadvantages. Blender is too complicated and slow down my work and brlcad based in command line with poor render capabilities. VariCAD is a good solution but it's not open source software and it needs improvements. People need a program under GPL.

  • Michael Harkins

    While I do agree that Blender is not a replacement for a Mechanical Solid Modeler I think it shows what a great open source program can be. I am a Solidworks Certified Professional and currently instruct Solidworks. I have been looking for a good open source mech solid modeler with no success. I'm not a programmer by any means but I am willing to work with anyone intrested in creating an open source solid modeler. I think the guys who have done the work on blender have done a great job and I think they would do any equally great job on a solid modeler. They would also have the undying gratitude of thousands of Solidworks, Solidedge and Inventor users.

  • afecelis

    @Michael Harkins: you should give this link a look ;)
    http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?t=96553
    Nice approach on precision modeling with blender.

  • Esben Stien

    I must say that I have totally given up on blender as a parametric solid modeler and I've followed this project for many years.

    There is little driving force in the blender community for engineering applications, as it's mostly an artist tool.

    Projects such as BRL-CAD are in the process of implementing full interactive NURBS support. Parametrics and constraints are also on the horizon for it.

    There is also a new parametric solid modeler starting up for engineers and artists alike (a dangerous combo;) called kreative-3d (not to be confused with k-3d).

  • uhhuh

    Uh-huh, it's very clear Blender is not suitable for CAD!

    First of all, it is seriously lacking features important for CAD workers!

    For example, show me how you generate a technical drawing out of a 3D-model in Blender, so that it is assosiative! So that when you change the model, the drawing changes also! And so that you can insert dimensions into the drawing...

    Second, Blender's user-interface... well compare it to Catia V5 for example, and you might get an idea why Catia V5 is very good and Blender is definitely not good for CAD, in commercial projects where time really costs, the projects must return a profit! Blender's user interface is far from intuitive. It looks like some old Catia which was run in Unix in 1980 :p

    Yes, I have used both programs extensively to make a judgement.

    For simple, inaccurate visualisation of architectural projects, maybe Blender can be used, but any more complex than that, no way!

  • Spanky

    You can use Blender and a python script called Calliper to CAD stuff pretty well:

    http://www.allanbrito.com/2007/05/02/3d-dimension-lines-with-blender-and-caliper/

  • http://www.jazzros.com jazzros

    Hi all.

    Recently, we have implemented own IGES importer to Rhonoceros with help of OpenNURBS. I know that Rhinoceros already has the ability to import IGES-files. We just want to create own converter between various geometrical formats. Base storage was chosen as the Rhinoceros OpenNURBS already exists and has proved popular.

    Now we want to assess the necessary to convert data from IGES to Blender3d. Does it make sense to develop such a converter? I know that such importer has for 3DMax (http://www.3dmax-tutorials.com/IGES_to_3D_Studio_Import_Table.html), and judging by the list provided, we can realize more substantial importer for Blender3d.

    So, I will like to ask readers of this forum - what do you think, does it make sense to implement the ability to import data from IGES / STEP / X_T / SAT files Blender3d?

    Thank you.

  • Bertrand Boyer

    Hi all,
    I work in the field of Orthopaedics, and a lot of prosthesis designs are made with Pro Engineer. A IGES to Blender converter would be great, we could use both apps to make quality animations, that we could use both in research and advertisement fields.

    So, for me, it does make sense.

  • http://www.jazzros.com jazzros

    Hi Guys.

    After our last message some time has passed.
    Now we could propose you our first results: Surface Reconstrctor for Blender3d.

    More info and download it You can at:

    http://jazzros.blogspot.com/2011/02/hi-all.html

    I hope you enjoy our product and it will be useful in your work.

    Waiting for your feedbacks.
    Thanks.

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