my CAD Story, 3D

I had settled on my 2d CAD package of choice, was humming along doing small scale projects that required very little actual design*. HighDesign was working quite well for me. But after some time, i started to get inquiries about projects that would be more design intensive. This excited me, but i felt i needed to be able to model those kinds of projects in order to really take my firm to the next level. I had been using the free version of SketchUp for several years prior to this to model personal projects. But as it is not licensed for commercial use, i needed to look for something else.

Bunk Bed Modeled in SketchUP ca. 2007
Bunk Bed Modeled in SketchUP ca. 2007

I was basically looking for an entry level modeler that would not have a steep learning curve. I quickly narrowed it down to two choices: SketchUp Pro and Bonzai3d (now FormZ jr). Primarily based on ease of use, familiarity, and cost. At the time SketchUP was owned by Google and Bonzai3d was a relatively new player in the game. They both had similar promises of ease of use. They both had some level of familiarity for me. SketchUP via the free version and Bonzai3d via my use of FormZ in college. And they were both very comparable from the cost perspective. Needless to say, the decision was not easy.

I eventually ended up going with Bonzai3d for several reasons. One, it is a much more robust modeler than SketchUp. The toolset is larger. The tools are more powerful. In short it promised to be able to do a whole lot more than SketchUp. But this robustness did not come without a cost. Namely, it proved to be not nearly as easy to use as i had to pay close attention to tool settings and it had some quirky behavior (most of which seems to have been ironed out since then with subsequent updates.

The first project i used Bonzai3d to model. Study of storage cabinets / shelving.
The first project i used Bonzai3d to model. Study of storage cabinets / shelving.

Two, it is a solid modeler whereas SketchUp is a surface modeler. This can be a somewhat subtle difference at times. But at others it can make all the difference in the world.

Three, as an offshoot of the previous, each piece of the model maintains its individuality until explicitly made not to. This one is a bit hard to explain, but i will do my best. In SketchUp, as soon as two objects come in contact, they become one object. In Bonzai3d, objects remain separate even when touching / intersecting / crossing until an operation (like union) is performed to make them one object. This makes editing and manipulating the model so much simpler.

And four, it is a local product. It is developed right here in OHio. Columbus, in fact. I try to buy locally as much as i can. While this was not the key factor, it certainly did play a role in my decision.

I will admit i had some difficulty at first making well formed objects in Bonzai3d. I am not sure if it was user error, or something with the program. But several updates later, it generally works pretty smoothly and i am very happy with my decision to go with Bonzai3d over SketchUp Pro for what i use it for.

Massing model of new pavilion for South Park using Form Z jr
Massing model of new pavilion for South Park using Form Z jr

While the bulk of my time is spent in the 2d world of CAD, it has been extremely beneficial to have the capability to work in 3d as well. Quick study models. Generating underlays for Elevations or Perspectives. Even a rudimentary Animation on occasion.

With the recent rebranding of Bonzai3d to Form Z jr, Autodessys also introduced Form Z free. If you are looking to get into some 3d computer modeling, i would suggest checking it out. One big advantage that Form Z free has over SketchUp Make (the free version of SketchUP) is that it's license is unrestricted. So unlike SketchUp Make, it can (legally) be used for commercial work.

 


 

*Much of my work was for clients that only wanted a permit. Often times being brought in only after the building inspector issued a stop work order.

 

« Back to Community