Technical drawings - Is LAYOUT the best way?

Hi guys,

I’ve been working on some construction projects (Metal, Wood) and still have trouble creating a descent technical drawing out of Rhino fast enough.

SO, I’ve been looking at other softwares 'approaches to this problem.

Currently, Rhino - sort of - uses the “AutoCAD approach”, by creating layouts and referencing certain parts in the 3D Model Area.
In order to create a descent drawing (with arrows, and text and welding signs), this requires me to heavily use the “MAKE2D” command. Then I need to apply hatches, which can be very tiring. The whole process is not much different from AutoCAD or a digital version of a drawing board. Also every change I make in the 3D Model will have to be done again. (Time consuming work) It takes more time to create a drawing than to model the object in most cases.

The result is, that the “Model Space” is now a Mix between 2D Drawings and 3D Modelling… (most put on different layers), but still a mix somehow.

Software packages like Inventor have a different approach.They strictly distinguish between 3D and 2D, even with two separate File formats. What they got right, in my opinion, is that these things are different and need to be treated differently. Drawing Files have lots of options to organize a drawing.(Filling header information semi automatic, welding symbols, etc.) Their drawing files import the model files. They can very easily create a section through a model and zoom-in on special areas. They apply hatches automatically using the right density of hatches so the drawing is “readable” when it’s printed out.
Since they are parametric Modelers, the drawing automatically adjusts to changes (which never works right).

Is the layout approach the right way? Would a stronger separation maybe be a good idea?
What is your opinion on this?


P.S.:My current workflow is as follows:

  • Do my modelling all in Rhino (using scripts and all that great stuff)
  • Export the relevant parts as separate 3DMFiles
  • Import the whole thing into Inventor (of course no parametric intelligence)
  • Create my technical drawing there (app. 10x faster than in Rhino)
  • Export the drawing as PDF (or DWG file)

Have a look at SectionTools plugin for dynamic sectioning from Rhino Labs.

Does it look like it can help with what you need?

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It seems to me that if Inventor is truly 10X Rhino in drawing creation there is a serious deficiency in Rhino. I suspect the issues go well beyond what Section Tools will help.

I think a detailed discussion of the differences that account for this deficiency is in order. And how the Inventor approach can be improved.


What would be an approach that would work for you?
Can you describe a specific workflow?

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thanks Rajaa. I’m not looking so much for a concrete solution to a problem. It’s just that I wanted to share my experience and also point out, that this is something I get to here quite often from other users.
“Making technical drawings is quite a pain”. Rhino 5 has improved the creation a lot in comparison to Rhino 4 and also the section tools help.

However, if you need to make a lot of drawings, the creation is quite time consuming.

Here is a 2 min video of me creating a drawing in inventor from a model. It’s not beautiful but maybe illustrates my point a bit. (

… at this point I want to make clear that I don’t like working with Inventor. It has MANY downsides, starting at the limited freedom of geometry creation, over bad scripting possibilities and ending at the subscription bill coming every year for updates without any improvements. But it’s not bad for 2D Drawings:-)



Hi again.

I think one cool thing to have would be a standardised way of defining header Informationen through Parameters.
Basically smart layout templates.

Maybe it would also make sense to introduce certain symbols or the possibility to define symbol libraries yourself. Like blocks in 2d without layers or so.

Thanks Martin


Rajaa, in this discussion I am strictly a bystander. I am simply reacting to the reported difference in speed between Rhino and another widely used program. If this is not an unusual situation resulting in such a difference, I think there must be fertile ground for improvement in an area that many people use heavily.

The first step would be identifying and classifying the details of workflow and software performance that contribute to the difference. Then Pascal’s proverbial “big brains” could go to work on it. (Wouldn’t that include you? :wink: )

It would also surely help if users could make similar comparisons between Rhino and other software that does a faster, better job than Rhino. (If any. :smile: )

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Hi Martin,

I think I experienced the same issues. But unlike you I used SolidWorks instead of Inventor. I created particular shapes in Rhino 5, imported .3dm file into SolidWorks assembly, and then made a 2d drawing in literally a couple of minutes. I took a look at your video below, and SW has basically the same possibilities - you add views, details, sections, dimensioning in a click of a button, and everything is parametric. I even wonder if these two applications copied some of the principles from one another.
The only problem with this is a bad .3dm convertor SolidWorks has, which can create buggy double curved surfaces sometimes.

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Looks like Inventor does have some very useful 2d from 3d drawing tools.
Would be great to see this in Rhino.

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Pro/E (Creo) and NX also do this. It’s pretty standard for parametric CAD.

Please no more requests to make Rhino more like Inventor or SW. Unless of course that added functionality comes at no extra $ cost or performance cost, then sure it would be great. Until then keep eating your Wheaties and use all the apps for what they are great at.


I don’t think anyone wants Rhino to be more like SW (even if the price and performance, would stay the same :slight_smile: )

My intention here was mainly to say, that creating a technical drawing in Rhino is in comparison to the parametric modelers (SW, Inventor, Creo,…) etc. quite time consuming and that their approach is quite different from the way Rhino is approaching it right now… The fact, that it also works with exported Rhino Geometry (non parametric), lets me believe, that such an approach could also be possible with a non-parametric modeler (like Rhino).

Rhino, other than these programs, handles also a wider range of customers. (Have you tried building a HighRise in Solidworks :wink:)
The requirements from 2D representations of 3D Geometry differs probably quite a bit in “Architecture”, “Ship-Building” and “Industrial Design” - so the solution is probably NOT doing it like Inventor does. It’s: finding a Rhino solution.



Thanks for posting the video. I have been struggling with some of the layout features as I learned them. They are very powerful, but currently very opaque and ‘tweaky’ to use. This is a major problem that slowed my learning curve. There are too many areas to access detail-related commands.

If the layout page and detail information were all in one place (secondary areas are great!) then it would be more polished and easier to learn. For example, you can right-click on a page tab, double-click on a detail (or layout page), click on a detail frame, pull-down the viewport label (for shading), and then even more options are in the properties side panel … with global settings in the Tool – Options.

A very interesting thread as Martin’s views almost exactly match my experiences. A client I used to do a lot of in-house sub-con work for uses Inventor, so I got to see the ‘other side’ (compared to Rhino) in some detail. I hated the 3D environment in Inventor. It felt like modelling in a straitjacket after using Rhino for so many years. The one area that Inventor left Rhino way, way behind was in the creation of 2D drawings from the 3D stuff, and maintaining a link back to the model so that changes appeared automatically in the drawings.

The way you could ‘drag’ views (including oddball projected auxiliary views) at will from a base view was almost magical. Add to that the ability to add drawing details (part numbers etc) by clicking on a part and dragging a ‘balloon’ off of it which also had the balloon contents automatically completed just compounded the effect. Repositioning the annotation was just a case of dragging it around - it always stayed attached to the model feature and the leader arrows stayed perpendicular to the balloon circle/obround. BOMs that could be pre-formatted (and again the content updated automatically after any change to the 3D) were great too. This was using Inventor 5-6 years ago. Things have probably moved on again since then. If Rhino could do even a quarter of this, I would be very happy. I just don’t get on with Layouts.

Something that has confused me for some time however, is the very poor quality of the 2D drawings (I’m talking about drafting quality here) when exported from the likes of Inventor, Solidworks, Catia etc. In all cases, they are extremely poor with lots of fractured lines where one would do the job so much more cleanly and elegantly. As the above features I mentioned clearly indicate some sort of ‘intelligence’ in the drawings, this must be hidden in an invisible ‘layer’ between the user and the actual drafting, which then gets hosed when the drafting is exported to DWG or DXF.

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This associativity between 3D and 2D drawings is not new. I think is better to compare AutoCAD 2012 and up with Rhino in this respect. The two apps are close in many ways and AutoCAD from 2012 uses a similar approach to generate 2D drawings form 3D geometry.
Creating 2D Drawing Views from your 3D Model in AutoCAD

Update Drawing Details in AutoCAD

Yes, that is typical for all of those. The curves seem to be taken off the display mesh somehow (and the accurate geometry is underneath so one can snap to centers, etc - really much like Rhino actually in that respect). There are settings to make this more or less coarse but generally the output is messy. As long as hatches and solid fills come across, though, I’m not worried about this too much. The generation is pretty much instantaneous (also for dumb imported STEP geometry) and the output is vector.

Apart from something like this, Rhino still needs to be able to extract accurate 2D geometry from the 3D models. To me, that is naturally a more time-consuming process.

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Rhino is not entirely a mechanical friendly software but the team is trying to implement more tools. In my humble opinion they should make it work for mechanical too because lots of users can benefit from it and buy the software. The other cost effective solution is to buy Geomagic Design. It is an useful parametric “sidedish” for Rhino. You can open .3dm file, save it and create 2d drawings. The dxf and dwg file format totally sucks, or at least I never had any luck with it, but they have some pdf publisher. You are better off buying SodaPdf and use that as a pdf printer. Very useful for editing pdf files too.

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Take a look at Geomagic Design, used to be called Alibre design.
It’s a low cost alternative to SolidWorks and Inventor.
You can import 3dm-files and make 2D dfrawings that will update automaticly when you re-import.

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When it comes to 2D, Rhino IMO is very potent at making drawings from a 3D model. It’s not parametric though which obviously presents some workflow issues. If you need construction/production drawings from Rhino, you really have to commit to your design. The more complex your design, the less efficient Rhino. As usual, things rarely go their way the first time, which is why there are parametric tools for design iterations.
For conceptual 2D drawings Rhino+Illustrator is a very good combo.
Also I think VisualARQ has some powerful 2D functions. Check it out!

That’s pretty much how I remember the bare bones of Inventor to be, which isn’t surprising as it’s all Autodesk. Because it maintains view alignments (unless the user specifically requests otherwise) it’s a useful time saver when setting a drawing up.