BlenderBIM Add-on

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BlenderBIM Addon logo.png
Blenderbim-screenshot.png
Website: blenderbim.org
Source: source
License: LGPL-3.0
Bugs: report bugs
Community: community
Maturity: Promising
Donate: donate


Description[edit]

The BlenderBIM Add-on is an add-on to Blender and part of our Category:Blender_Add-ons. It provides functions related to OpenBIM reading, writing, and analysis through a user interface to IfcOpenShell.

BlenderBIM is alpha software, expect things to change and break. It is not ready for regular production work if you're not willing to expend a lot of pain and effort. Please read the BlenderBIM_Add-on_Roadmap to understand progress on the software.

You can find ways to offer financial support in the Donation_Directory.

Features[edit]

  • Featured projects
  • Import .ifc, .ifczip, and .ifcxml formats
  • Export .ifc, .ifczip, and .ifcjson formats
  • Checking IFC data against an Information Delivery Manual with MicroMVDs
  • Provide an interface to manage IFC data, including:
    • Assigning IFC classes
    • Assigning attributes to IFC elements
    • Assigning properties and property sets to IFC elements
    • Assigning quantities and quantity sets to IFC elements
    • Calculating quantities of IFC geometry
  • Clash detection

Benefits[edit]

The BlenderBIM Add-on is your free, open source, NativeIFC AECO toolkit.

  • Your” because it belongs to you, the users. The BlenderBIM Add-on is not owned by a company.
  • Free”, in two ways: you don’t have to pay, as in “free beer”, and free as in freedom/liberty. BlenderBIM will always be free because a company cannot buy the BlenderBIM Add-on and start charging you for it. BlenderBIM ensures your freedom by using a GNU license which provides the four freedoms:
    • The freedom to use our software for any purpose.
    • The freedom to learn how our software is built.
    • The freedom to change our software to suit your needs.
    • The freedom to share our software with others, so we can all work together easier. If ten people each share one improvement, then everyone in the industry gets ten improvements.
  • Open source” allows and encourages building communities around software projects. Users are in control of their tools.
  • NativeIFC” because it is not translating geometry to and from an internal schema. The native language of BlenderBIM is the IFC schema. Changes you make are changes to IFC data.
  • AECO” indicates that the BlenderBIM Add-on is designed to be used by architects, engineers, construction, and operations teams; everybody in our industry.
  • Toolbox” because it is a collection of specialised tools for users to solve their problems.

The BlenderBIM Add-on will transform the industry in three ways: through academia, as part of an AECO workflow, and as a forerunner of new AECO tools.

Academia[edit]

A few universities in Europe have already incorporated the BlenderBIM Add-on into their curriculum and students are already starting to use the BlenderBIM Add-on as part of their thesis work.

As the BlenderBIM Add-on becomes entrenched in academia, the new generation of AECO professionals will be familiar with IFC and with the BlenderBIM Add-on. When these people join the workforce, they will use the BlenderBIM Add-on to solve problems. Their supervisors will have no objection to this, because the BlenderBIM Add-on doesn’t cost the company any money.

There are three benefits of the BlenderBIM Add-on for academia: it is free, it makes it easier to teach IFC, and it is open source.

Free[edit]

The BlenderBIM Add-on is free. With the BlenderBIM Add-on on their computer, students don’t have to go to the university computer centre to work on a licenced copy of proprietary software.

Easier to teach IFC[edit]

The BlenderBIM Add-on makes it easier to teach IFC. The structure and terminology used in the BlenderBIM Add-on matches what is in the IFC specification. A professor can teach a lesson based on the IFC specification and then give a practical assignment on the same topic to be completed using the BlenderBIM Add-on.

Open source[edit]

The BlenderBIM Add-on is open source. An open source application makes research easier and makes the BlenderBIM Add-on a suitable platform for a thesis.

Part of the AECO workflow[edit]

There are three benefits of having the BlenderBIM Addon as part of the AECO workflow: It is an alternative to paid software, it works together with paid software, and it improves quality.

Alternative to paid software[edit]

The BlenderBIM Addon can be an alternative to paid AECO software. The long-term objective of the BlenderBIM Add-on project is to provide a free, open source alternative to paid software in the AECO workflow; an alternative that provides features equal to or better than what is available from paid software. It may take a few years to achieve this objective, but we are on track.

Some users may choose to continue to use paid software, just as many choose to use Microsoft Office, rather than the free open source alternatives available. What is important is that users will have a choice.

There is a rapidly growing number of utilities that are NativeIFC. These utilities, things like IFC checkers and IFC viewers, are useful tools, but they operate on the peripheral of AECO workflows. The BlenderBIM Add-on is game-changing because it aims to provide a NativeIFC alternative to the core applications in AECO workflows.

Works together with paid software[edit]

The BlenderBIM Add-on can work together with paid AECO software. You will rarely find an architect who uses both Revit and ArchiCAD on the same project; although sometimes the architect uses ArchiCAD and other members of the design team use Revit.

There are a few large projects on which the architect uses both Revit and the BlenderBIM Add-on. There are also a few large projects on which the architect uses both ArchiCAD and the BlenderBIM Add-on. There are also a few small projects on which the architect uses the BlenderBIM Add-on instead of Revit or ArchiCAD.

The BlenderBIM Addon has many features to address user needs on large projects using Revit or ArchiCAD.

  • The BlenderBIM Add-on can be used to analyse and debug an IFC file created by Revit or ArchiCAD. You can export IFC data into your favourite spreadsheet, use spreadsheet tools to analyse the data, modify the data in the spreadsheet, and then update the IFC file with the corrected data from the spreadsheet.
  • The BlenderBIM Add-on includes a patch utility that allows you to apply recipes to fix commonly occurring problems in IFC files. For example, many BIM authoring software packages do not handle geolocation properly and this can be fixed using the patch utility.

Improves quality[edit]

The BlenderBIM Add-on will improve the quality of all AECO software. With the availability of the BlenderBIM Add-on as a free, open source option for the industry, software vendors will have to provide better value to justify their price tag. Over time, as the BlenderBIM Add-on continuously improves, paid software will also have to continuously improve. The big winners are the AECO community because software improves quickly and they are no longer locked in and held hostage by vendor-controlled models. We don’t measure the success of the BlenderBIM Add-on using market share; we measure success by the quality of tools available to the AECO industry and the impact this has on the built environment.

Forerunner of new AECO tools[edit]

The BlenderBIM Add-on is the first of a new generation of applications based on NativeIFC for the AECO industry. The BlenderBIM Add-on will be a forerunner of new applications in three ways: it inspires imitators, it is an enabling platform, and it is a new category of tools.

Inspire imitators[edit]

The BlenderBIM Addon will inspire imitators. Before the BlenderBIM Add-on, the only NativeIFC applications were utilities and viewers. Nobody had attempted to create a comprehensive IFC authoring tool that was NativeIFC. In this sense, the BlenderBIM Add-on is a trailblazer. Inspired by the example of the BlenderBIM Add-on, software developers can say, “If the BlenderBIM Add-on can create an authoring application based on NativeIFC, why can’t I?”

Often, it is the companies who follow closely behind the trailblazer who make the biggest impact. For example, a computer user interface using a desktop, windows, and mouse was first developed at Xerox’s Palo Alto research centre, but it was Microsoft and Apple who brought them to the mainstream.

Who knows, maybe some company will grab hold of the NativeIFC approach and build a suite of world-class applications that ends up dominating the market. That would be great. There will always be the BlenderBIM Add-on as a free, open source alternative.

Even though the BlenderBIM Add-on is currently in its early stages, its potential has already been recognised. It won the buildingSMART 2020 technology award. It was given a MegaGrant by Epic Games. And in 2021, Google sponsored two people to work on it as part of their “Summer of Code” initiative.

Enabling platform[edit]

The BlenderBIM Add-on can be an enabling platform for new AECO applications. The BlenderBIM Add-on is much, much more than a new software application for the AECO industry. The BlenderBIM Add-on is also an enabling platform for an entire ecosystem of new NativeIFC software applications. To explain this, we need to look under the hood.

Under the hood

Everything starts with the user. The User Interface allows the user to interact with the BlenderBIM Add-on. The user experience, display, menu items, and input fields, come from a combination of existing Blender features and the new additional features of the BlenderBIM Add-on.

Under the hood, there are dozens of world-class 3D computer graphics features provided by the developers of Blender combined with dozens of AECO features provided by the developers of the BlenderBIM Add-on. Both the developers of Blender and the developers of the BlenderBIM Add-on regularly add new features. Typically, each feature is written as a separate software module, also called an application program. Some of the functionality of the BlenderBIM Add-on is available without using Blender.

A user can write a script to access the features directly, without a Blender user interface. This can be useful when you want to automate a series of tasks.

There are dozens of application programs. Sometimes, these application programs need to read or write data. Reading and writing of data are done through an application programming interface or API. The API allows each application program to interact with a software called IfcOpenShell.

The user never interacts directly with IfcOpenShell, only application programs interact directly with IfcOpenShell. IfcOpenShell provides a simple way for application programs of the BlenderBIM Add-on to read and write NativeIFC data. The developers of the BlenderBIM Add-on don’t have to worry about the complexity of IFC. IfcOpenShell hides all this complexity from the developers.

The BlenderBIM Add-on is built on top of the IfcOpenShell platform. IfcOpenShell is free open source software that allows any developer, not just the developers of the BlenderBIM Add-on, to easily read and write NativeIFC data.

IfcOpenShell has been around for a decade and already works as an enabling platform for many types of utilities and other software applications. Some of these may be free, while others may be paid software, but all of them will work together seamlessly because they all use NativeIFC.

FreeCAD and the BlenderBIM Add-on are software applications using the IfcOpenShell platform. They are both free and open source. There are also many paid software applications using the IfcOpenShell platform. IfcOpenShell is not the only free open source platform available to work with NativeIFC.

A developer may also choose to build their application on top of the xBIM platform or the IFC.js platform. Applications built on any of these platforms will work together seamlessly because they are all based on NativeIFC.

New category of tools[edit]

The BlenderBIM Add-on can be a catalyst for a new category of software tools. There is some really cool stuff being added to Blender and the BlenderBIM Add-on will be able to take advantage of this. For example, Blender is already being used for virtual reality and augmented reality. It will be easy to fully integrate this with the BlenderBIM Add-on.

There is an emerging need for digital tools, tailored to the AECO industry, that simplify communications, coordination, and collaboration between stakeholders, including clients and facility managers. Fortunately, buildingSMART anticipated this need and developed a BIM Collaboration Format, or BCF, for issue management. Tools using the BCF specification allow smart issue tracking and smart issue exchange between stakeholders. The BCF specification supports both a workflow using a file exchange and a workflow using an API in a client-server environment. The BlenderBIM Add-on is one of the first applications to support the new BCF API, ready for others to build upon. Just as IFCopenshell, xBIM and IFC.js are platforms for new NativeIFC applications, the BCF API is a platform for new applications that focus on smart collaboration between AECO stakeholders.

Conclusion[edit]

The BlenderBIM Add-on provides many benefits to the AECO industry. The BlenderBIM Add-on will transform the AECO industry.

Learn More[edit]

The BlenderBIM website has a tutorial to export your first model.

You can then read these articles to learn to use the add-on in more detail.

We are collecting tips, tricks and best practices for using the BlenderBIM Add-on on this page:

Advanced usage[edit]

External Resources[edit]

This page describes a software project from our AEC Free Software directory