October 03, 2011
Work in 3D Models with BIMx for the iPad
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News
Work in 3D Models with BIMx for the iPad
By Susan Smith

Imagine being able to work on 3D BIM models on mobile devices and share details of those models with non-CAD clients using the multi-touch functionality of iPads and iPhones. Not only would it save time, it is easy to use and employs game-like features that users are familiar with.

Now it is possible with a new product from Graphisoft called BIMx for the iPad. In a recent interview, ArchiCAD Product Manager of Graphisoft Hungary, Tibor Szolnoki explained that BIM Explorer is the most advanced version of the ArchiCAD Virtual Building Explorer. Their current announcement, BIMx for the iPad, allows users to work and “walk around” in 3D models on the iPad or iPhone.

According to press materials, BIMx (= Building Information Model E xplorer) is an interactive "game-like" environment to explore 3D building models published by architects and designers. With BIMx building models can be viewed by anyone in full 3D without the professional authoring software in which the building model was originally created. As a result BIMx is the perfect communication tool between the client and the architect.

Szolnoki said they shortened the name to “BIMx” for the entire BIM Explorer product line. The BIMx add on for ArchiCAD allows you to save models. You can view these projects on desktop or on mobile Apple iPads or iPhones. With the cloud, there is a new solution for distribution of BIM models, and you can upload to the BIMx Community website and access them either from desktop or mobile.

BIMx Viewer is a free application. Users can download models from other sources or from the BIMx community site through iTunes to the iPad. BIM Explorer add-on for ArchiCAD can play these models with BIMx Viewer.

“We wanted to create a whole ecosystem around BIMx,” said Szolnoki. “Anybody can play with the models. On the desktop version they can measure building dimensions, display information of building elements, which are useful for builders, and can turn on and off the layers.” Graphisoft would like to implement those same features for mobile in the future. Szolnoki also said there is no touch technology for the desktop right now.

Most 3D model viewers for the iPad/iPhone are generic purpose viewers, with navigation functionalities limited to 3D orbit, pan and zoom. BIMx offers a “natural building explorer environment” which includes gravity and egress recognition, visual filters to provide presentation features such as stereoscopic views, and is integrated with the desktop application and the online model sharing community.

BIMx Community looks like a Facebook page but it is in reality a cloud service. Facebook offers community features which can be built around these models. Szolnoki said many people are afraid to use Facebook so it’s possible to download models without having a Facebook account. If you “comment” or “like” you need Facebook to do so.” If you would like to share models from BIMx you can do so on the BIMx community website,” said Szolnoki. “The cloud is not running on Graphisoft’s servers but on Microsoft Azure cloud platform. This is the first example of the Graphisoft cloud service.” The Facebook integration is a cloud service with free access, search, filter or browse functionality. The website is becoming very busy with sample models that users upload.

To publish to the website you need a full or education license of BIM Explorer for ArchiCAD and a registration on gsBIMx.com.

For BIMx for the iPad, users wanted similar features as on the desktop, optimized for multi-touch. The models are saved to the iPad. Sample models are self-explanatory and even those not familiar with CAD can view models. There is joystick finger capability to move the model around on the screen. The feature Gravity allows you to keep an elevation above the floor. When Gravity is turned on you can’t walk through the walls, but you can look up and down.

The Apple version has additional features such as moving through doors. You can click twice and get there quickly. You can climb the stairs and experience the effect of climbing stairs.

If you want to explore the building from the outside, there is an icon of the building, and it shows the entire model. You can use a finger to orbit the model or pinch zoom.

The two finger pan mode can be used to go up the stories of the building either horizontally or vertically. View modes allow you to watch the model in a highly realistic Global Illumination phase and there is also a hidden line view. Another way of viewing is with simple shading with no textures. Some architects prefer the metal transference view with no textures or realistic view. There is also a 3D stereo view to be seen with 3D glasses.

A map shows the actual horizontal view. Graphical feedback can be found in the help menu.

BIMx Explorer is also used successfully with big projects like the Park Hotel Shanghai. It is useful on the construction site and for explaining architectural concepts, and users can send comments back to the office.

GRAPHISOFT BIMx is a standard part of the ArchiCAD 15 installation. Until October 31 2011 all ArchiCAD 15 users (Commercial, Educational and Trial) are entitled to use the full functionality of BIMx including sharing models on this BIMx Community Site.

Other Facts:

ArchiCAD 15 hotfix change in the BIMx functionality -
The Hotfix #1 contains basically 3 different types of changes:
  1. It contains the standard ArchiCAD 15 bugfixes to address mission critical problems of ArchiCAD 15 found in the last 2 months
  2. It also contains all the changes necessary to enable the new “sharing” functionality of the desktop BIMx application including all the user interface and functional changes necessary in the share/upload workflow
  3. In addition to the functional changes it also “triggers” the free BIMx TRIAL period for all ArchiCAD 15 BIMx licenses. The TRIAL period will end with a timebomb on October 31 in 2011

What are the different options available to create BIMx models for clients?
The different ways of creating BIMx models are available at different levels for the different BIMx license types:
  1. ArchiCAD 15 Commercial BIMx license
    1. Save “self-running” BIMx models in ArchiCAD 15 compatible fileformat without limitation
    2. Publish “static” BIMx models to the BIMx community site that can be viewed with the different viewers (iOS/Mac/Win) according to the terms and conditions of the BIMx community site
  2. ArchiCAD 15 TRIAL BIMx license
    1. 100% same functionality as the full commercial license between September 20 and October 31 in 2011
    2. Save “trial” BIMx models that can only be opened/viewed on the same computer they were created between November 1 in 2011 and June 30 in 2012
  3. ArchiCAD 15 EDU BIMx license
    1. Save “self-running” BIMx models in ArchiCAD 15 compatible fileformat with EDU watermark till the expiration of the EDU license
    2. Publish “static” BIMx models to the BIMx community site that can be viewed with the different viewers (iOS/Mac/Win) with EDU watermark till the expiration of the EDU license but according to the terms and conditions of the BIMx community site

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