Some Thoughts On Surface Modeling, vis a vis the 3rd Party Plugin Model

I figured I would start a totally new thread on a lot of the issues that are being discussed about Rhino/VSR etc in the “Why are Class-A surfaces…etc” thread, because I also think it’s important to zoom out and look at the bigger picture. The bigger picture - to my eye - is that what we (folks who use Rhino primarily as a surfacing tool) are seeing right now is a lot of the downside to the 3rd party plugin approach that McNeel has traditionally taken. I’m not faulting McNeel in this approach - it’s fostered so much innovation and cool stuff, but it’s also not without a downside. It’s crystal clear to me in hindsight that both T-Splines and VSR - tools that I use and have used extensively in my workflow - were using McNeel solely as a springboard to be acquired by one of the major CAD companies (Autodesk for both of those products). I see that McNeel is looking to step in and fill the void that T-Splines left with the sub-d tools in V7, but I’m not really seeing any sort of similar effort to improve the bedrock surfacing tools that Rhino provides. A lot of the tools are OLD and they show it. Take MatchSrf. It’s awesome, truly. It does a great job. Heck I made a whole video on it the other week. But it’s also been the same since…Rhino 3? Or maybe 2? The UI is Kafkaesque, and the lack of ability to select different matching for different edges in the year 2020 makes me feel like I’m taking crazy pills. The same could be said for basic commands like BlendSrf - as was discussed on other threads. It’s showing it’s age, the UI is clunky, and it struggles to make what you want it to make, even when given clean inputs. Those of us who use VSR have seen the much much better versions of these tools, but we can only do so by remaining stranded on 5. This goes to the heart of the problem with the 3rd party plugin model - when companies use Rhino as a springboard for getting acquired, they inevitably get bought and then that product and functionality is no longer available. It seems like folks enjoy xnurbs, and I have absolutely no information on this, I’m simply using it as an example - but realize that if Autodesk or Dassault decides they like whatever secret sauce xnurbs has and wants to put it into their products, folks are back to using the Rhino Patch command on the next version of Rhino. On stock Rhino, from a classic NURBS modeling perspective, things feel a bit like climbing into a time machine set to circa 2008. I’m not expecting that Rhino needs to be Alias - but I think there is a middle way between what Rhino is today and what those tools are. I also got a bit heated in a discussion with Kyle a while back about my refusal to upgrade to 6 - his point was that Rhino has allowed me to bill out many many multiples of what it cost me. I said that is true, but 6 not only offers me nothing that helps my workflow, it means taking functionality away from me, since I can’t use VSR. Literally, the only thing I’d use 6 for is to open up files that were saved in 6 and save them as 5. From what I’m seeing so far of what’s going into 7, I’m not seeing anything that makes that worth it either. FWIW - as a professional user, I honestly think Rhino is too cheap. I would have no problem whatsoever paying more for it - certainly 50% more but easily double the current cost - if it meant that there was some focus on the core surfacing tools. I would have had no problem paying $1.5-2k for Rhino5, because 5 gave me things that were useful to me. I’m sure others will disagree but that’s my two cents, or two grand. There’s a huge professional userbase now who use Rhino to make their living, but it’s priced for the hobbyist. There’s a disconnect there. I’m all for saving money…but I’d honestly rather spend more and have more tool development that comes directly from McNeel instead of 3rd parties.

As I said at top of this, I fully understand why we are in the situation we are in and I get why McNeel has structured Rhino to be a wonderful sandbox for 3rd party development. But for users, this can leave a pretty bad taste in your mouth when the plugins you depend on get acquired and then you are stranded on old versions. The whole dynamic is…utterly dysfunctional and frustrating for the user. My hope is that at some point in the near future, a concerted effort will be made on the part of McNeel to dramatically improve both the UI and functionality for surfacing and analysis. Like, a total and complete refresh of the toolset from the ground up. Fingers crossed for Rhino 8?

@theoutside @bobmcneel


I second that. Except for the price, because the price itself plays a huge role for how many people will consider buying Rhino instead of some other CAD program (or using the “free” Fusion 360).


I don’t think there’s a disconnect there if we strip out a few words from the sentence and rephrase like so instead:

Also the little word “but” had to go. Now the connection is more obvious, I do believe. :slight_smile:

// Rolf


I can’t believe I’m saying this, but a “pro” and “hobbyist” tier of Rhino would be interesting to see.

The price was debated a bit already here:


First of all I agree with Sky 100% and would love to see more development/improvement on surfacing tools. Like Sky, I have seen both VSR and TSplines get sold to Autodesk and it leaves big gaps in functionality. The new SubD functionality will be great, but it’s been years since TSplines was sold to Autodesk.

Regarding price, I’m with Sky there as well. I would gladly pay an extra $1,000.- to $2,000.- for better surfacing tools. This is not just talk on a forum, I believe I paid $1,800.- for VSR when it was first released.

There’s a lot of people that do not want the price of Rhino to go up, so here’s an interesting option. You can currently purchase Flamingo and Bongo plugins from McNeel that extend the functionality of Rhino. If you need those, you get them, if you don’t need them you don’t.

What if McNeel were to offer a VRS style plugin for $1,000-$2,000. If you need that functionality the option is there for you. If you don’t need it, you use standard Rhino that retails for $995.-


If the proposed segmentation of prices happens, Rhino will become one step closer to the majority of CAD programs that have improved tools for modeling, but intentionally remove the best few of them if you can’t afford the highest price and instead pay less for the stripped-down version.


I’d be fully stoked for McNeel surfacing plugin as an option!


Which I sorta think is the way it should be, personally. In fact - it’s ALREADY like this - it’s just that we are paying 3rd party vendors for that functionality and not McNeel, and then getting totally hosed when those companies get bought.

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My point of view is a bit different. Once Rhino offers more advanced NURBS surfacing tools in order to reduce the gap with Alias, it will naturally attract more people, including users of competitor programs that may consider switching to Rhino.
A stripped-down Rhino with lesser functionality will not attract people if they have to pay 1-2K extra for the few tools that make the big difference. Some users of Rhino 5 with VSR may be willing to buy Rhino 7 in this regard, but they are a minority compared to the overall number of Rhino users.
The idea is to offer the full modeling toolset by default, in order to attract prospective customers. Remember, Rhino is primarily a modeling program.

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We can debate it all we want but really it’s up to Bob. I’m for whatever gets us better surfacing tools that are owned by McNeel.


We have a different opinion regarding this. I see it as an option to pay extra if you need said tools. And like Sky, this is already the way it is. If you need Bongo of Flamingo, you need to pay extra. Plus, not everyone will need the tools and hence choose not to pay for them. I don’t own either because I don’t need them.

If you need tools that are only provided by a third party such as VSR, TSplines, or XNurbs you need to pay extra. It’s no different if these tools would be provided by McNeel vs. a third party.

The development of new tools is most definitely not free. If McNeel were to support this, they would need to reallocate existing resources, add new staff, or work with outside consultants to develop these tools. If there is $0 return on investment for McNeel, why would they want to allocate time, resources and money to develop specialized tools that serve a small subset of Rhino users?

I realize this is a real cost and in return I would be more than happy to pay extra for that, case in point with my purchase of VSR, TSplines and XNurbs.


One other thing I’ll throw out there to Bob/McNeel - what virtually NO ONE realized about VSR is that it is an utterly bonkers powerful reverse engineering platform. Seriously, it’s been what I’ve been using for making surfaces over laser scanned data for years now, but don’t really talk about. Once you figure out how to use the “Projection Base” and realize that so many tools can reference that feature, you are sitting on a gold mine. VSR did an utterly terrible job of explaining their tools to the world, and none more terribly than showing how they had built an amazing RE platform. Incorporating that same functionality into a surfacing plugin would allow McNeel to sell the product to the same userbase. It’s not going to be the auto surfacing that you get from Geomagic etc, but there is a definite market there. I did an RE webinar for T-Splines back in the day and we were shocked by the viewership numbers.


Hi Sgreenwalt, is your looking for votes?,I’m in.
A small group of people would probably pay for enhanced surfacing tools made by this software company because we know it will work and would be stable. Another reason is , these tools should always work with Rhino because they are made by the same company. Lastly we could get support.
What would be nice is someone from the company to say,”it isn’t ever going to happen” or “ we are going that way and We expect to get there in x amount of years”. That would stop all the begging over the years .
Glad your back with the forum. —-Mark

Hi all,

ok, here we go, another thread on surfacing… I was going to skip this one, but Sky is bringing some interesting points about the 3rd party plugin reality. So, I’m biting…

I’ve been very vocal about the 3rd party plugin model being very user hostile in the long term. And I always say that most plugins are pretty much a dead-end road.

Last time I believe was about a year ago, when a plugin developer tried to convince me in the moddle of a thread why I should consider going with a plugin, instead of asking McNeel to build a featured I needed natively: a simple VR viewport (something all 3D apps should have natively in 2020). And my response has proven that my hunch was right, they have been acquired by now, and still I don’t see anything developed any further than a really weird tech demo:

There are two exceptions to this concern I have about 3rd. party plugins:

  1. When the price is so low, that if you only get to use it for a few jobs, or luckily for a year, it is enough to be worth its value. With zero future expectations. Case in point here: Xnurbs. It’s super cheap and super useful, and if they are gone in a few months, oh well. But I do have a feeling they’ll stick around.

  2. Programs that have a multi-platform plugin strategy and/or also a standalone product, so they have scale to make a good business outside of just a tiny tiny tiny niche segment of only Rhino a few hundred (or thousand) Rhino users. Examples here: Octane, Vray, RhinoCam (I think I’ll be buying it soon)

So why does McNeel allow these flight-by-night companies to come and tease us with functionality that we might need and then they disappeared, acquired by usually dysfunctional and fucked up companies? Is McNeel Evil? No!

These fly-by-night plugins are a great way to see what happens if a company puts development/marketing/support effort in a niche solution and see how many people find it valuable. It’s a zero cost way for McNeel to test if a dedicated effort into one of the under-served areas by Rhino is important enough to be putting more development effort.

I think in the both cases many of you keep mentioning: VSR and Tsplines it is obvious that the market opportunity is just not there. The Rhino user community has already voted with their Dollars on these two ones. Those companies would have never been sold to Autodesk’s Competitive Software Burial Service Bureau if they were sound businesses.

So McNeel/Bob I think they already know that putting a ton of effort in Class-A fancy surfacing tools might actually be a waste of time (just my opinion here). I also think that a lot of the problem you are trying to solve with head-splitting Nurbs workflows (like blendSrf and MatchSrf) will be much better served with SubD topologies, and proper tools for control them. Nurbs and Breps are old useless shit, used mostly by sick/ODC/old people like us. Look at all these twin threads lately: they are an echo chamber of the same 10-20 usual users. And many of us will be retiring soon, even before this work would get done!

I personally agree with your frustrations, I even share them a bit. But also, I think these problems makes our work even more sought-after. If it was all easy, and everyone could do it, would you then be in high demand? Would you be able to charge what you charge? So maybe the fact that this high-craft work is hard is not so bad after all.

I really hope I’m wrong here and McNeel is building some kick us surfacing tools. But of they don;t I think it’s totally ok. We will all be ok.




With regards to VSR, I will remind you what @sgreenawalt mentioned above, and sadly it’s what happened in reality:
VSR did an utterly terrible job of explaining their tools to the world, and none more terribly than showing how they had built an amazing RE platform.”.
The VSR team had to do a bunch of deep-dive videos explaining every single function of their plug-in, so that people could see and appreciate its advanced surfacing tools. This is the reason why so few people knew about VSR or were simply unaware of its full potential.

There was another thread a few months ago where people already had a discussion about a possible segmentation of Rhino depending on what type of tools every modeler needs. However, I don’t think that following such model would lead to a higher income if it’s applied to other specific functionalities, too. Imagine removing Grasshopper (which is not used at all by many, and I mean many Rhino users) and reducing the cost of Rhino with 10%. Then, remove the Rendering part and lower the cost with another 10%, because many users also don’t use it to create renderings. Then, remove the mesh tools, because it’s also used by a limited number of Rhino modelers. That’s another 10% price reduction. Then, remove Layot and Make 2D functionality, since they are also not used by many. Another 5% price reduction of Rhino.
Well, things don’t work that way. I just gave you an example that followed the same kind of thinking, because segmentation of Rhino is a major step that may be seen by many as a wrong decision. Since I never use about 90% of the commands in Rhino, I would gladly pay 500 Euros for a heavily stripped-down “Rhino 7 Surfacing version” that only offers tools for surfacing and analysis, an maybe dimensions. But that’s just something that belongs to never-happening dreams. And I would pay some extra for the “Mechanical kinematics” part of Rhino needed for mating of joints.
However, If Rhino offers the full package for 1000 Euros/USD, then I’m all in, even though I will never need a huge amount of tools that will only sit there unused! But many other people will need them, this is why Rhino proved itself as a versatile program over the years.


I started to want more from my basic Rhino modelling tools - cleaner surfaces and a focus on bezier patches, perhaps a ‘bezier-only’ mode.

But it was fairly clear this wasn’t going to happen so I had to purchase other software to progress.

I put my money with Dassault Systems and purchased ICEM Surf which pretty much gave me the ‘bezier-only’ mode I needed. At a large cost.

I still need Rhino to do my nurbs modelling and exchange data via iges. It works great.

But I’d have much preferred to have given McNeel some money instead. Half of what I paid for ICEM would have bought multiple licences of full Rhino.

I love Rhino and how easy/fast it is to use. I’ve always felt it’s been soooooo close to being the most perfect surface modeller ever…just moments away from greatness. I’ve felt that since V1.1 (oh, except for V3 which was an utter dog…sorry…) I’m pretty sure the McNeel Team know they’re sitting on a golden egg too.

Unfortunately I couldn’t wait for it to hatch though!

But I love you all the same McNeel team :heart_eyes:

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I hate to say I told you so, but:

Where VSR and TSplines were concerned and likely RhinoWorks too, I’d modulate my remarks back then because from what I was subsequently told none of them sold in anything like sufficient numbers to make the business models viable. We are talking a few hundred of each being sold in their (Rhino) lifetime. For all of the work their creators likely put in, you can hardly blame them for selling out if those volumes are true, however vocal their devotees (myself included) are on here.

As I understand it, some very clever software developers with a lot of experience of surface modelling techniques were behind the writing of VSR. That kind of expertise doesn’t grow on trees and expecting McNeel to ‘just’ cook up an equivalent or better replacement for Rhino 7 is pretty unrealistic.

So I’m ‘stuck’ on V5. I bought an upgrade to V6 when it was released, but I’ve yet to use it for work. It is the one and only time in my 30+ year working life that I have bought software out of a sense of moral obligation to the developer. McNeel are a fantastic company doing wondrous things with limited resources, and I owe an awful lot to them.


There was just one talented dude on VSR. Michael Guenther-Geffers has a super elegant thought process- as does Michael Gibson of moi3d (talk about your hobbyist Rhino). Agree with most of your thoughts Sky- thanks for articulating them here. Gustavo- if SubD to nurbs wasn’t so stinking heavy I would be so much more excited. There is not a lot that you can edit once they are converted. That’s why I keep coming back to Rhino/VSR to create light and tight surfaces to detail in Solodworks.


I know they know we know it’s a problem. Now you know.


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I wouldn’t bet on it. :slight_smile:

The developers seem to have delusions of grandure (and even worse marketing prowess than VSR), and already have a Solidworks plugin out so they’re on both Dassualt and Autodesk’s radar now. I bet the countdown to acquisition has already started.

@bobmcneel are you reading this? :wink: