Our solid modelling roadmap

What should a modern solid modeller for AEC look like? We put a lot of thought into how to enable architects and contractors to efficiently model their buildings with increasing accuracy, flexibility, detail, and intelligence.

In our previous post, we advocated for a model-centric approach to building design, emphasizing a shift from traditional 2D document exchanges to a model-driven workflow throughout the entire project lifecycle. We highlighted the importance of solid modeling over surface modeling paradigms, for precise calculations and details, with Qonic’s modeller supporting complex geometries. In this blog post, we will further dive into our roadmap for solid modelling.

Before we do that, let us have a look at the existing modelling tools today. Typically, modelling tools are positioned at one of two opposing ends of the spectrum: creative, free-form modelling with support for complex geometry on one end, and object-based, data-rich, and intelligent modelling for BIM on the other end.

Each method has its specific applications depending on the context, and the fact remains that both approaches can and will coexist. Today’s reality, however, is that the current tools are not flexible enough to seamlessly employ both simultaneously. This often leads to the point where the model is re-built multiple times, causing loss of valuable time and a higher workload.

Best of both worlds

On the one hand, our modeller will support direct modelling, which allows you to simply push and pull the geometry until you arrive at the shape you want. This offers full accuracy and flexibility for 3D modelling, not forcing users to adapt themselves to the limitations of the software. Moreover, it enables the finest detailing of components, offering the same power as today’s mechanical modellers (like SolidWorks).

At Qonic, we believe that it is possible to combine the best of both worlds. We are developing a unified modelling environment where designers can nimbly navigate between the two approaches.

On the other hand, we are working on intelligent modellings tools, or so called ‘procedures’, to automate modelling of real-life building systems (wall assemblies, manufacturable products, etc.) and details & connections (such as sills, insulation stones, roof caps, etc.).

These procedures work with the data (rules, relationships, and properties) that are related to the geometric objects in the model. They encode understanding and knowledge of basic construction principles, in the shape of re-usable and automatable procedures.

Direct modelling roadmap

Building a complete solid modeller is a huge endeavor, because of the sheer number of solid operations needed for creating complex 3D models. Below is a non-exhaustive list of solid operations that we are working on today.

  • Boolean operations: Including union (combining two or more solid objects), subtraction (removing the volume of one solid object from another), and intersection (keeping only the volume that is common to two or more overlapping solid objects).boolean
  • Fillet: Rounding off sharp edges or corners of a solid object.
  • Chamfer: Like fillet, chamfering involves cutting away a beveled edge or corner from a solid object.
  • Sweep: Moving a 2D profile along a path to create a solid object.sweeping
  • Push pull: Extruding or recessing a face of a solid object by dragging or pushing it in a specific direction.
  • Basic manipulations: moving, rotating, and mirroring solid objects.

Note that solid operations targeted towards creation of new geometry (which are more often used during early conceptual design phases) are not in the scope of the first Qonic release. Some of these operations include:

  • Primitives: Including box, sphere, cone, etc.
  • Extrusion: Extending a 2D shape or profile into the third dimension to create a solid object.
  • Revolve: Creating a solid object by revolving a 2D profile around an axis.
  • Loft: Creating a solid object by blending between two or more 2D profiles

The reason these creation tools are not included in the first scope of modelling operations, is because our initial focus is on enabling users to ‘upscale’ a design intent model to a construction model.

More specifically, we are working towards the use case of importing an IFC/Revit model with a low level of development (LOD) and bringing it to the LOD needed to support full project detailing and accurate model information. That is our first use case – our ‘minimum viable product’ – yet rest assured, the creation tools are also on our roadmap.

It is our ambition to create a full-fledged modeller from concept to detailed design, but we must start somewhere.

Procedure roadmap

As described earlier, procedures are re-usable and automatable operations that encode some kind of building or construction logic. More importantly, procedures not only work with geometric objects but can also operate on the data that is available in the model, ranging from the building level, down to the element level.

They are highly targeted towards AEC-specific use cases, mimicking how buildings are designed and constructed in real-life. Below is a non-exhaustive list of use cases for procedures that we are working on today.

Wall/slab assemblies

A set of procedures to create real 3D geometry for wall/slab layers, instead of 2D layer compositions. In this way, walls and slabs are represented as assemblies of parts, similarly to mechanical assemblies. This allows for better modeling control, more accurate quantities without approximations, and easier modeling of more complex layer connections.

We often refer to this use case as the ‘core workflow’. It consists of a set of procedures to split, flip, delete and strip parts – mimicking how complex assemblies are designed and built in real-life. The core workflow is the first set of procedures that we will make available in Qonic, and we will talk more about in a future blog post.

Sweeping details

A typical building has numerous linear details in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some common examples are insulation stones, roof caps or copings, base boards, railings, window reveals, etc. All these linear details can be modelled in an equivalent way, but without automated and intelligent tools, they are quite tedious and error-prone to make.

Let us elaborate on the example of adding baseboards. We are working on a procedure to automatically add baseboards to rooms. To do this, the procedure needs to ‘understand’ the concept of rooms, and their relationship to the enclosing walls. If this relationship can be understood by the procedure, we can find the correct positioning of the sweeping axis along the perimeter of the space.

Moreover, the procedure is sufficiently intelligent to detect openings in the walls, and act accordingly upon these conditions. This kind of intelligent procedure makes the addition of linear details to your model a breeze. Hard to believe? Have a look at the video below.

Wall openings

Another tedious and error-prone workflow is the modelling of wall openings, mostly windows and doors. Windows are one of the most complex components in the BIM model, because they have numerous relationships to other objects, including sills, railings, reveals, lintels, casings, and more. Moreover, the window geometry depends on different properties associated with it, for example the thickness of the wall in which the window is hosted.

The most widespread practice today is to create a library of heavily constrained and complex window components. Because of the technical expertise and sometimes even scripting that is required, this work is reserved for BIM specialists or even programmers.

Instead, Qonic is working on procedures to manipulate windows (including moving, copying, and re-sizing), while considering the context of the window.

The efficiency gains of this approach are huge: users can simply manipulate windows, and the related objects will be updated accordingly – no expert knowledge needed. Moreover, it is feasible to model the window details once, and then automatically apply these changes to all similar windows in the model.

What’s next?

Besides the solid operations (both the direct modelling and procedures) described above, there is a great deal of other ‘machinery’ needed to deliver the next-gen powerful yet easy-to-use 3D modeling tool.

At Qonic, we take nothing for granted and even re-think the most foundational concepts of solid modelling, including navigation, (dynamic) dimensions, and snapping.

In the next posts, we will provide more insights into these topics.