Rhino lost hobbyists to Autodesk. Are architects to Blender next?

My weekend is about to start and I got intrigued by this. Wait for me guys, I’ll jump into it later tonight.
I’m a Rhino hobbyist who uses 5% of his time in Rhino and 95% in Revit / AutoCAD for work.
Is the Rhino good for Architects? Yes. and the 5% of usage can really get expanded into architectural practice.

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Nurbs verses Mesh verses Solids or whatever else:

For me, I don’t care what “type” of modeler it is as long as it can model (and present) what I want.

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Software that emerged after the birth of Grasshopper, sorry if there is a slight date difference, it doesn’t change the dynamic.
Some of the software from the list below is in the early stages of development and other (like Dynamo) is already usable and well-known. Even if you think that they are crappy, if the companies behind them will put effort into development, in the time when we will have Rhino 9 (let’s say 4-5 years) they should be much better and at least usable.
When it comes to Node Editors, developers of new ones, can learn directly from the Grasshopper and Dynamo (and other solutions found in Houdini, Unreal Engine, etc.) Both of them are modern Node Editors so comparisons are easier than referencing to some old solutions.

Blender Geometry Nodes (2021)
Geometry nodes fit well into Blender’s ecosystem and it’s much more than just modelling. If someone was working in Blender and considering using Grasshopper to construct parametric hard surface geometries, it’s no longer the case.
In comparison, something opposite, the first glimpses of Grasshopper’s material nodes are at least 7 years old and this project do not seem to be just around the corner.

Revit Dynamo (2011)
Dynamo is much easier to adapt in the office by the Revit users than going Rhino Inside Revit route. Not only do many architects don’t know Rhino, but Rhino must be bought first be the office.
Interesting how the world could look like if there was no Dynamo but Rhino Inside Revit.

Archicad Param-O (2020)
The implementation of Grasshopper inside Archicad was crappy and I don’t know if it’s developed at any meaningful pace anymore. I was never convinced by the Archicad and I can’t say much about Param-O but they know the need for such tool and they try to deliver it.

Plasticity (2024)
There is a niche in the CAD world for the artist modeling “hard surfaces” for the VFX. NURBs suites better modeling car bodies, guns, tanks, all sorts of electrical devices and other props that you can find in the video games. Some people were even attracted by the MOI 3D because of the meshes it could export out of NURBS. Sadly, Rhino never managed how to produce usable meshes for the 3D artists and in general be a friendly software in the Pipeline. Plasticity gained huge hype in the 3D art community.
During the time when Rhino user is fighting with the fillets for the 1 design iteration, Plasticity user can produce multiple assets. Maybe there was a time to attract some 3D artists but it’s gone now.

Sketchup Trimble Creator (2022)
Sketchup is still widely used and for years it was the first 3D software learned by architecture students, many just sticked with it. I don’t know if it is as popular as it was, but there is a large number of users number and if SketchUp parametric tools will grow in the 5 years, it will certainly hold some long-time users from ditching SketchUp and moving to Rhino because of Grasshopper. For sure some parametric bench cliché is already achievable in the Trimble Creator.

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Rhino definitely needs to overhaul its UI.

For friends and acquaintances, it doesn’t matter, because we know who you are, but for the strangers it is a deal breaker.

I came from Fusion 360.
The reason I needed to learn Rhino and Grasshopper was Fusion 360 can not make complex pattern. There was a live bridge between Fusion and Dynamo just 2 years before, but that was taken down by Autodesk itself.

Though the need was there, When I first saw Rhino, I was pretty much discouraged, because it seemed like an outdated piece have been long forgotten by its developers and users.

If the live link between Fusion and Dynamo existed, I would have never learnt Rhino and Grasshopper.

I know Grasshopper is better than Dynamo in many aspects, but I would definitely have been staying in Fusion for the cost of learning it.

There is a new grasshopper type modeler called Beegragh, it runs on a browser. If Beegragh existed then, I might lost drive to learn Grasshopper and Rhino too.

The looks matter, specially when all your competitors looks better than you.

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In a few years time we probably can let some AI write our next gen architectural app (Recently we let Bing write some Python a few times. It even worked, mostly)

This is a joke.

Is it…?

You intrigued me with this thread, as an architect by profession and a Rhino user by hobby. I have a strong opinion about this topic and I won’t be able to sleep without typing a few paragraphs.

I have been using Revit, AutoCAD, 3Ds Max, Maya and occasionally Rhino for my daily work in large corporations for two decades. I rarely did any personal or freelance projects until 2017, when I felt that the 3D technology was stagnating. That’s when I explored Rhino and bought a V6 license as a hobby, since then this hobby evolved into freelance work with conceptual work, product design, architectural competitions and small residential buildings.

Earlier this year, my boss asked me to come up with 20 ideas to enhance our use of technology in the new decade, as we might face a recession soon and need to work smarter and more efficiently. I gave him 20 futuristic ideas, and the first one was ‘Invest in Rhino’. I admitted my technological preference, but I also argued that architects will suffer from a tech shortage in the next five years, when every software company is pursuing technology for Big Data, AI, Metaverse. And no one is actually offering good tools for the design community. This is beyond frustrating to me.

What makes Rhino special for Architects?

  • No Marketing Teams: This means no false promises, no changes in plans, products or user experience. And the product is very consistent and reliable, most people learned about Rhino through word of mouth instead of big conferences.
  • The most powerful 3D geometric engine with diverse capabilities.
  • Great SDK (a healthy ecosystem of third-party developers).
  • Easy to Learn, Hard to Master.
  • Grasshopper. (The Gateway to Data Rich Design)
  • Being a collection of different commands, Rhino can easily serve as a valid alternative to AutoCAD with a smoother learning curve for AutoCAD users.
  • Also, the technology serving the Architectural Practice is completely flawed, I looked into our overhead expenses when it comes to the Autodesk Revit and the supporting plugins, it is ridiculous to see that 25% of my Billing Rate can be easily diverted into the subscription of a half-baked overpromising product that doesn’t work. I can easily combine three or four of the plugins into a single license of Rhino that can do even more.”

Why Architects uses Rhino?

  • Geometric Exploration and Design Studies.
  • Solving complex Facades, mostly with grasshopper.
  • Energy and Environmental Modeling with Ladybug Tools.
  • Ability to work directly with Fabricators for unique custom work.
  • Advanced Building Research , Stadiums, Auditoriums, Isovist, …etc
  • Recently Rhino.Inside.

Why Do Architects Avoid Rhino?

  • Lack of Design Documentation tools : “Our work is not about designing buildings, but designing workflows to make the building design happen. We work in parallel to get the project designed, permitted, priced and value engineered. All in one process, this involves different design packages such as conceptual design sets, Planning Department Submission, Building Permit Set, Foundation Permits, Offsite and utilities permits, pricing sets, bulletins, addendums… etc. These packages need careful management and tracking of the drawings being issued and Rhino v8 cannot handle these tasks yet.”
  • Inability to Handle Changes : Our work is characterized by frequent changes in our designs. We have to deal with a complex set of factors, such as Jurisdictional requirements, Political field, Client divorces, company mergers and even the recent interest rate hikes that made us remove two stories from a building a week before the structural steel was ordered. Therefore, it is essential for Architects to be able to issue, track and document any changes throughout the design and construction timelines. Rhino does not have this capability built-in.
  • Another Software to invest in : it is not just the price of the licenses, but the logistics, workflows, company standards let alone the training of the individuals and teams to develop a sensible use for this product. I don’t think Rhino has an issue with that, and I feel soon many of the companies will find them selves stuck to get into the Rhino ecosystem, as other software companies are ignoring the voices of the Architectural community.

So, Does Rhino have a future in Architecture?

Absolutely, Rhino is positioned perfectly to gain widespread adoption within the Architectural community Globally, The Biggest Player – Autodesk – is clearly showing a form of distancing themselves from design software and looking towards position themselves as a Construction Cloud company, they recent push towards Autodesk Forma and their indirect statements discussing the end of desktop applications (Revit, AutoCAD) makes me anticipate a short-term gap left in our workflow caused by:

  • Pause or slowdown in the development pace of Revit / AutoCAD, while directing most of the development resources towards ACC, Unified Database, Construction Coordination.
  • The proprietary closed nature of these services will limit their ecosystem giving the designers little to no choice in defining their own workflow.
  • Limited ability is sharing / transferring and collaborating design data (It is either their way, or no way)

Here is an interesting Article about the future of BIM, and why it is going to be imperfect.

Defining BIM 2.0 - AEC Magazine

So What Rhino can do to grow within the Architectural Design Community.

____ Keep the Rhino Spirit: Openness, Inclusive, Multi-disciplinary and great community.

____Better Documentation:

  • Handling multiple drawing sets, Additional system parameters for Revisions, Packages, Print Sets….etc.
  • Including time functionality to track project phases.
  • Better handling of 3D scanned building data.
  • Tabulation of Built-in Properties, User Defined Properties, and User Text.
  • More control over Layouts, Layout sets and index Generation for the drawing set.

____Advanced Parametrics:

  • Constraints.
  • Parametric Blocks (2 decades after the release of Dynamic Blocks)
  • Live Report of Elements properties (size, position, direction, materials…. etc.)
  • Wiring of Parameters and user objects between multiple attributes / objects.
  • Better Control and Management over block definition panels.
  • Parametrics in Rhino to work in tandem with Grasshopper.
  • One more wish for Tabulation.

I tested unreal engine, solidworks and blender for potential utilization within AEC, so far, I didn’t feel the alignment of features towards a wide adoption by architects, on the other hand, something that Rhino proved to be a valid contender. and I’m glad that I see a clear positive direction for Rhino in the next few years, you ask me how? Simply as a Revit Heavy Company, a lot of my peers doesn’t know Rhino but they know pretty well who is @Japhy and @eirannejad who are doing big contribution to the AEC community and it seems that Autodesk is realizing that, this is a screenshot from an Autodesk webinar about Forma and Data Rich Design.

So who is the #1 Believer in Rhino? Not me, It is Autodesk.

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Spot on tay.O, in fact Ehsan and I are in New York this week and have had the pleasure of visiting many of the top firms. There were a lot of people actively using Rhino as we toured the offices, the most pervasive was BIG architects where almost every screen had Rhino up. That said one of the people on the Tech Crawl asked how much they used Revit and it turns out all the projects at some stage end up in that platform as well.

One of the big differences is these are large firms (+200) who have the resources to use Rhino as a development platform, creating tools with custom UI’s and offloading intensive calculations to compute.

The heavy usage seems to be in the early stages where it’s fun to draw in Rhino and in computational design workflows.

Talking to the Autodesk folks it’s evident that they do consider us competition of sorts in some areas, but the overwhelming positive reception they get when doing workflows such as the Forma one far outweighs the alternative. We are friends, not food, or something to be squashed.

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Curious what software this is? Can you share?

I think it’s called “Marvelous Designer”. There’s actually a few programs that can do it (including Autodesk Maya and some plug-ins for Blender).

Rhino + Vray

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@scorr1988 @keithscadservices
Our community member @Mariusz_Hermansdorfe is working on this tool.

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Yes, like @keithscadservices says, there’s Marvelous Designer that’s actually the small version made for VFX guys from the big CLO3D.
Clo3D is really focused on fashion design while MD is much more for 3d avatars like you can find in Maya or Blender( 3dmax and Cinema4d).

Would be amazing to have similar capabilities in Rhino3D. Being able to implement rigid parts with textile is a pure dream today.

is that going to be a plugin, or part of a different plugin? is that going to be available to the masses including both platforms? or are you just teasing us here :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: i see that the video was uploaded a year ago, but it looks very usable in that state already. a few people asking for more sculpting tools in rhino in the past here on the forum might love that.

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This functionality will be released as a plugin called Shape.

Could you please elaborate on which minimum set of features you’d be specifically interested in having access to?

It would help us set priorities for the beta release :slight_smile:

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that is quite difficult to assess not knowing what your plug in is going to be capable of, so all my feedback may not be much worth other than some brainstorm thoughts. recomputing the information i can gather from your video i assume it is going to be targeted at least by the idea of it for terrain sculpting, which is limiting in this perspective, what the tool can be used for goes for beyond that i would say. for instance in architecture the terrain is usually inherited and less an issue of having to be sculpted up completely. to some degree it might make sense to elevate, impress certain patches etc. making this something very niche and again just by the idea rather suited for game development or cinematographic purposes if you think about terrain only.

i would much rather believe that all these voices i recently gathered wanting to have sculpting tools in the sense of sculpting organic shapes like human animals or detailing artefacts into props or what not has far more importance for most i assume making this probably a very essential tool for some, something which is kind or implemented in Rhino but very goofy complicated in its execution so much that i never use it and probably nobody ever will :face_with_peeking_eye: something far more intuitive like you are showing so promising will make all these people happy i am certain.


getting back to the functionality which you seem to have covered in most of the core essences, so i will add some ideas or ruminated the already existing like:

· pulling out or
· impressing geometry along their normals
· setting brush width
· fall off
· not sure what the smoothing is for but
· smoothing in the sense of repairing changes is sure interesting if possible
· and smoothing in the sense of equalising elevations along their normals
· pulling geometry, not along the normals but something like pulling it sideways.

i think those are the essential sculpting settings most packages have in this or a similar way.

something to maybe also think about, the naming is maybe a bit ambiguous since the imperative to shape something is rather a special case and people might associate the meaning shape synonymic to form either or even rather. Maybe its superficial, i like otherwise.

now tell us more :slight_smile: when are you going to bless us with it and will it be running on every platform?

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This is crucial to understanding where Shape is at the moment. @Wiley and I have been working on it for approx. 1.5 years now. We both come from the landscape architectural/architectural background, and terrain modelling plays a significant role in the projects we tend to work on. Voices like yours, encouraging us to look beyond our professional bubble, are very valuable and help us make the right choices when it comes to prioritizing feature development.

In fact, this very post has motivated us to shipping a beta version with its current functionality, instead of waiting to finalize a few more tools geared towards landscape architects.

It would include (but won’t be limited to) the following functionality:

  • Modifier stack for a truly parametric workflow
  • Sculpting along normals
  • A HUD widget to control brush settings with mouse gestures
  • Mesh smoothing with a brush
  • Contour lines
  • Elevation/slope/aspect analysis
  • Interactive booleans for closed meshes
  • Interactive embedding of objects in open meshes with defined cut/fill angles
  • Minimal surfaces
  • Live remesh

If I caught your interest, I suggest we move this conversation to a dedicated thread, not to hijack this one.

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I’m guessing most of those shapes are subdivs, and hence can be converted to NURBS easily. There are NURBS add-ons in the works for Blender, though.

I guess my point with these threads I’m making is that when the free/hobbyist/student user (the forum didn’t allow me such a long title) wants to move to their next level, where do they go? Away from the Autodesk eco system they’re so used to? I’m guessing only if the place of work already uses Rhino…

Since all of Rhino’s competitors went subscription based, the future is very bright for the fixed cost niche (and it’s very sad that it’s a niche these days). But to compete with free, you need to be damn good. Rhino is damn good, but I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s moving too slow? (Note, I’m not advocating for a “move fast and break things mentality”, but rather just a little bit of “pull up the curtains and look at where the world is heading”… oh, and another disclaimer, I bloody well don’t mean AI either.) :laughing:

This looks interesting, but perhaps a mod could break out that discussion into its own thread?

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I’m pretty sure that you have this backwards- FreeShip came first and when the author saw there was a market for it along came DelftShip. So, someone with experience in the free market thought there was an up-market and turned out to be right.

The paying marine community seems to like Rhino.

I think there are some still-untapped market opportunities for Rhino or plugins there at both the low and high ends. Some hobbyists or hobby/business level types are IMO willing to pay if someone offers tools for the process they need- as an example here there are a few techniques for building small boats that could be turned into a good process in Rhino. The marine analysis side is what brought me to Rhino (to use Rhino as a UI) but there are some project management holes as well.

I wouldn’t lump students in with the free/hobbyists. Generally students bring their copy of Rhino to the office with them and it gets introduced there - if they aren’t using it already.

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I have been using Rhino for over 20 years, mainly for creating 3D models from 3D scan Data.
Rhino is seriously underutilised for this task, most people opt for other extremely overpriced, clunky software on the market because they dont know any better. Ironically, Blender is also extremely good at this task, especially retopology of scanned Mesh etc.

As 3D scanners are getting cheaper and cheaper (now under $1000 USD) I am getting more and more work from people who have bought 3D scanners… and dont know what to do with the scan data.

Rhino is also VERY strong in the Marine / boat building / design industry. Luckily, 3D scanning is now a big part of the marine industry, so everything can be done in the same package.

I am also drifting into the film industry …here is a very recent project.

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