BIM/Arch development news articles from Yorik's blog

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BIM/Arch development news articles from Yorik's blog

Postby yorik » Sat Sep 17, 2016 9:38 pm

I'm trying to resume posting more often about FreeCAD on my blog, and to cross-post on the different communities (facebook, google+), so no reason not to cross-post here as well. Not too sure which section is best, but this one seems appropriate for now. From now on, when I write about FreeCAD there, I'll cross-post here.
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FreeCAD news and Arch workflow

Postby yorik » Sat Sep 17, 2016 9:47 pm

Reposting this article from my blog.

So, let's continue to post more often about FreeCAD. I'm beginning to organize a bit better, gathering screenshots and ideas during the week, so I'll try to keep this going. This week has seen many improvements, specially because we've been doing intense FreeCAD work with OpeningDesign. Like everytime you make intense use of FreeCAD or any other app, you spot a lot of smaller bugs and repetitive annoyances. But a look a the commits log will inform you that many of those have already been fixed on the way.

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The above image shows one of these jobs, more about it below. Generally speaking, working with FreeCAD is becoming very stable. Drafting and modelling is very straightforward already, and the workflow even begins to become fast. The biggest bottleneck I encountered during this week is using the Drawing workbench to build 2D sheets of the model. This is mostly due to the limitations of Qt's SVG engine, which doesn't support the full SVG specification, and many features like clipping, multiline texts or hatches are not supported by the Drawing viewer. When exporting your final Drawing sheet to SVG, however, and opening it in a better SVG-supporting application such as Inkscape, Firefox or Chrome, the result is very good. But it is annoying to have to work in the Drawing module without seeing the actual result (that's actually the main reason why there is a "preview in browser" button in Drawing).But, bearing with these difficulties, it is already totally possible to produce this kind of result:

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This is about to change, however, with the new TechDraw workbench that is currently already available in development versions of FreeCAD (refer to previous posts to obtain one). TechDraw is not based directly on SVG anymore, but on the more generic graphics engine of Qt. The final SVG sheet that it produces is built from it, at the moment you export, but what you see while you are working is not the SVG data itself anymore. This might seem more complex (it is, actually), but opens up a huge array of possibilities. Most of the limitations above don't exist anymore in TechDraw.Of the two main tools that we use in architectural and BIM work to build 2D sheets, which are the Draft view and the SectionPlane view (which is also built with the Drawing Draft tool), so far only the Draft view has been implemented in TechDraw, once the Section View tool is implemented too we can think of abandoning the Drawing for good.

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I'll describe a bit more of the workflow used in the jobs illustrated in this post. Almost everything was done directly in FreeCAD. The only pieces done outside were the cleaning of the existing floor plan, that we got in DWG form, in DraftSight, and the preparing of the Drawing template, and a couple of SVG objects to be placed directly on it, in Inkscape. All the rest is pure FreeCAD.The basic workflow was this:
  1. Clean of unnecessary stuff in the DWG file, reduce number of layers, export it to DXF (in DraftSight)
  2. Import the DXF file in FreeCAD
  3. Draw a couple of lines and wires on top of the walls and columns of the existing floor plan (You can draw walls and structural elements directly, but I like to draw the baselines myself, to make sure they are where I want them, and I find the Draft tools much more convenient to draw stuff).
  4. Turn all your lines and wires to walls or structures (this whole thing is actually almost as fast as drawing them directly)
  5. Adjust thickness, height, alignment, etc... of walls and structures
  6. Put everything in groups. For me a huge power of FreeCAD over other BIM applications is the free grouping possibilities. By creating groups, and groups inside groups, you are basically organizing your data the way you want. No limitations, no rigid building/foor structure to follow. All the separation of, for example, the existing walls, the new walls and the walls to be demolished is simply done with groups.
  7. Add doors and windows. In most cases I didn't use the "in-wall" capability of windows, I made the openings first by subtracting a volume, then made the doors outside of any wall, and simply cloned them and moved them to their final places. This is bit slower, but makes your geometry much more failsafe, since windows are a delicate matter and still have bugs here and there.
  8. Add annotations, linework, texts, dimensions, in 2D, directly in the model (in the future, we hope to do most of this directly in TechDraw, but at the moment this "old-school" workflow is solid and works well. Again, separate annotations in groups, depending on the subject.
  9. Add one or more Section Planes to define plans and sections you'll need. If you grouped your objects well, you will only have one or two groups to add to the section plane as "seen objects". It is best to leave all the 2D geometry and annotations out, and have section planes only see 3D objects (being Arch or not).
  10. Prepare a Drawing template in Inkscape
  11. Create a new sheet in FreeCAD's Drawing workbench, give it our template, and start adding our stuff there, by using the Draft View tool, either with section planes selected (for cut or viewed 3D geometry), or groups containing linework, texts and dimensions (for 2D and annotations). This will allow you to create only a few Drawing views, so it keeps manageable.
  12. The clip tool of the Drawing workbench is annoying to use (it draws a big black rectangle on the sheet, which is not exported fortunately), so it's best to think about your layout beforehand, and model only what will appear on the sheet.
  13. Use the Drawing symbol and annotation tools to add stuff (logos, titles, etc) directly on the sheet.
  14. Export to SVG, open in Inkscape, there you have a chance to do more last-minute fixes if needed, and save as PDF. It is possible to export a PDF directly from FreeCAD, but opening it in another app is good to make sure everything is OK.
  15. Finally, in order to export to IFC, gather the arch objects inside a Building, export, and you are done. It is always a good idea to verify the exported IFC file in another IFC viewer application to make sure everything is there an dat the right place. A quick fix for buggy objects is to force them to export to Brep (there is a command for that in Arch -> Utilities).
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Interesting detail, the small city map in the images above, is taken directly from OpenStreetMap. There you have a "share" button that exports to SVG. You can then open that in Inkscape, rework it a bit if you like (change some colors and linetypes, etc), save it and place it directly on your Drawing sheet. Of course this workflow above is somewhat distant than what you are used to with commercial BIM applications. But things are improving, and also this is not necessarily something negative. It also gives you a lot more freedom, and the mix of 2D and 3D that FreeCAD offers, that you had in the old times of AutoCAD or in apps like Rhino is something I find much valuable.

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Don't forget that almost all the work of OpeningDesign is open, so all the files from the examples above are available online.

Finally, a word about two features I added this week, one is a new display mode for walls, which shows them in wireframe, but with the bottom face hatched, which makes it very nice to work in plan view

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Right now it's still in testing, to see how useful it is and how well it behaves, but if it works well it should be extended to support different patterns (taken from the material, for example), and to extend this to structural objects too.And finally, another feature is a new addition to the structural precast concrete presets, a stairs element:

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Re: FreeCAD posts from Yorik's blog

Postby yorik » Sun Sep 25, 2016 11:02 pm

This is a repost of this post on my blog.

Since I have not much new FreeCAD-related development to show this week, I'll showcase an existing feature that has been around for some time, which is an external workbench named geodata, programmed by the long-time FreeCAD community member and guru Microelly2.

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That workbench is part of the FreeCAD addons collection, which is a collection of additional workbenches that are not part of the core FreeCAD package but, since they are programmed entirely in Python and therefore don't need to be compiled, can be easily added to an existing FreeCAD installation. The FreeCAD addons repo linked above also provides a macro, which, once run inside FreeCAD, gives you an easy graphical installer that allows you to install, update or remove any of those additional workbenches. Click the link above and you'll get all the necessary instructions.

Also, this year was the first participation of FreeCAD to the Google Summer of Code. We got one student, Mandeep, who worked on building a more solid plugins installer for FreeCAD, capable of installing these workbenches but also all the macros found on the wiki. The work is not finished yet, but no doubt in the near future we will finally have a decent way to install all these additional features in FreeCAD.

Microelly2's geodata workbench basically allows you to fetch terrain data from the net, basically roads and building data from openstreetmap and terrain height data from both openstreetmap (but it doesn't always have accurate data) and NASA's SRTM data.

The procedure to get a piece of terrain with its height data in FreeCAD is quite simple:
  1. Install the geodata workbench and restart FreeCAD
  2. Switch to the geodata workbench
  3. Get the exact coordinates of the center of the zone you wish to import. You can do that simply by zooming in openstreetmap or in google maps, and you will see the coordinates in the URL bar of your browser
  4. In FreeCAD, menu GeoData -> Import OSM Map, fill in the coordinates. Leave "process elevation data" off. Buildings and roads are imported
  5. Click menu GeoData->Import OSM Heights and/or GeoData -> Import SRTM Heights to import height data from these two sources (use the same coordinates).
When done, you will get a piece of terrain with the roads and buildings, and the two terrain data (the SRTM data comes as a points cloud):

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There will still be a bit of work necessary to turn this into data you can work with, but it's already a huge part of the work done.

The reason why I got interested in terrain data this week is also because I'm working on extending the Arch Site tool. Currently it is a simple container (it's actually simply a FreeCAD group with a couple of additional properties), but the idea is to turn it into something useful to:
  • Hold and process terrain data coming in various forms, such as meshes
  • Be able to get basic properties such as perimeter length or area
  • Be able to subtract or add volumes to it
A made already a couple of experiments to see how far that is possible, and it actually works surprisingly well. In the image below, a mesh was quickly made in Blender, imported and scaled in FreeCAD, then turned into an open Part shape (a shell). Doing boolean operations with shells gives a lot of interesting possibilities, and it's totally possible to keep the terrain surface "open" (no need to add an artificial thickness to it), and be able to subtract or add solids to/from it. Of course the volumes of earth that need to be added/removed are therefore easily computable.

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I still need to solve a couple of minor issues, then all this should be in the FreeCAD code pretty soon.
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Re: FreeCAD posts from Yorik's blog

Postby yorik » Sun Oct 16, 2016 8:18 pm

#FreeCAD BIM development news

This is a repost from this article from my blog.

Here goes a little report from the FreeCAD front, showing a couple of things I've been working on in the last weeks.

Site

As a follow-up of this post, several new features have been added to the Arch Site object. The most important is that the Site is now a Part object, which means it has a shape. Before, it was only a group, it had no "physical" existence in the 3D world. It now behaves like other Arch objects, that is, it has a base property (which is here called "Terrain"), that contains a base terrain object, that, at the moment, must an open Part object. Later on it will be extended to also accept meshes.

Then you have two additional properties, "Additions" and "Subtractions", same as other Arch objects. These are set by double-clicking the Site object in the tree view. With these, you can add solid objects as subtractions and additions.

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When adding these objects, the result you get is this:

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The difference with other Arch objects is that the site is always an open surface. It is not a solid. Other BIM apps usually require you to model a piece of solid to be the terrain, but I find that weird and arbitrary, most (all?) ways to obtain terrain data (GIS data, on-site measurements, etc) will give you only surface data. Why would the BIM app need a solid? Besides, in the long run, no doubt FreeCAD will gain tools for heavy civil engineering like roads and tunnels. These people certainly won't be satisfied with a simple block of uniform terrain. We'll need to be able to represent different geological layers. So sooner or later the solid representation would need to be changed.

It seems a safer bet to me to start slowly, and consider, for now, terrains as surfaces. Note that it is totally possible to interact with solids. In the images above, the red and blue shapes that get added/subtracted are solids. The result is a surface, but the Site object keeps track of the volumes of earth being excavated and filled in two separate properties (Addition Volume and Subtraction Volume). Additional properties will give you the terrain real area, the area of the projection on the XY (horizontal) plane, and the length of the perimeter.

Spaces

I also did some more work on spaces. Basically, they received a couple of new properties such as vertical area, perimeter and a series of properties related to space use (number of people, energy consumption, etc) that will be needed for GBXML export. Note also that Equipment objects can now also have energy consumption defined, and you can have the consumption of spaces automatically calculated by summing the consumption of equipment inside it.

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I also worked further on the GBXML exporter itself, but met a temporary showstopper. To test GBXML output, we need an application that can import GBXML and, preferably, do something with it. As far as I know, the only one avaialble that is open-source and runs on Linux is OpenStudio, which by the way seems a really nice thing. It is a bit hard to find the source code of OpenStudio, but it is on github. Problem: OpenStudio uses libraries about 2 years old (boost mainly) and doesn't run on modern Linux systems (their officially supported platform is an Ubuntu from 2012...) So I'm now busy trying to make OpenStudio work on my machine, which requires a ton of small fixes and is not a very easy task for a C++ ignorant. We could of course ask for help to the OpenStudio people, but the project has 691 open issues, I don't think we have a lot of chances to be heard.

If you read this and have some good knowledge of boost, I'd be very grateful for a little help!

About GBXML export from FreeCAD, it seems to me that the whole idea (looking at sketchup videos) of working with GBXML is to work with spaces. Spaces are the building blocks of a GBXML file. They have a series of properties, and each of their surfaces also has different properties such as material, orientation and what there is behind (exterior, ground or another space).

At the moment, spaces in FreeCAD are just containers for equipments, and carry information such as area. They can also be defined by boundary elements such as walls. But to make them work for GBXML, we'll need more, for example the ability to define a material for each surface, and also know if another space is behind a specific surface.

This would basically require spaces to touch each other, and not stop at walls like they do now. This might actually be easier for space calculations too. My idea at the moment is simply to make spaces behave differently when a wall or slab is used as boundary. Instead of stopping at the wall face, it would go up to the wall "midplane" (which will now need to be calculated). This way, any space would know 1) which material each surface is made of, by querying the material of the wall, and 2) which space is behind, by querying the wall for other attached spaces. All this should stay optinal of course, so you can still use spaces to calculate the "inner" area of a room.

Structural nodes

As discussed several times with Bernd, the official civil engineer of FreeCAD and one of the masterminds behind the FEM workbench, it is important to be able to extract an analytic model from structural elements in FreeCAD. Since quite some time, Arch structure elements have a "Nodes" property, which contains a list of 3D points. These form a linear sequence, that represents a structural line for the element. These nodes are calculated automatically, but can now also be edited manually, the same way as you can edit Draft objects. You can also easily make the nodes of several elements coincide, so it is now very easy to obtain analytic models like this:

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Note that the slab, on top of the beam, can have its nodes form a plane instead of a line. This will later on be added to walls too.

We are not sure how/where to export these models yet, I'll try to start with IFC, which supports such analytic representations. Later on, we'll see...

Panels

Panels also received a little upgrade that I needed for a project: The ability to represent corrugated panels like these:

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For this, a couple of new properties have been added to panels, where you can specify the type, direction, height and length of the waves. The rest continues to behave like before, so you just need to draw a 2D object, then press the Panel button to turn this 2D object into a panel.

Windows

Arch Windows could already have 3 kinds of components: frames, glass panels and solid panels. There is now a fourth: louvres. So now windows can also be used not only to make doors and windows, but also different kinds of shading devices.

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To add louvred panels to a window, all that is needed is to edit the window by double-clicking it in the tree view, selecting a component, and changing its type to louvre. Two new window properties, Louvre Width and Louvre Spacing, will control the size and spacing of the louvre elements.
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Re: FreeCAD posts from Yorik's blog

Postby yorik » Sat Nov 26, 2016 5:03 pm

This is a cross-post from this article from my blog

FreeCAD Arch development news

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There is quite some time I don't write about Arch development, so here goes a little overview of what's been going on during the last weeks. As always, I'll be describing mostly what I've been doing myself, but many other people are very actively working on FreeCAD too, much more is going on. The best way to keep updated is to keep an eye on the Features Announcements section of the FreeCAD forum. Here is what's been going on on my side since my last post in mid october:

Schedules

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The Schedule tool has been completely rewritten. This is something I wanted to do since a long time, but it takes that time to figure out what to do and how to do it. The schedule tool is now basically an "extractor". You fill a table with a series of lines, each line will be a query to be executed on the model, and the data obtained from the query placed in a line of a resulting spreadsheet. You can for example count objects of a certain type, or measure lengths, areas, or extract values of properties. Everything is explained in the docs above.

When your resulting spreadsheet is ready, you can for example export it as a .csv file, and link that csv file into a spreadsheet application like LibreOffice. You obtain then a "source" sheet from where you can link quantities to a main spreadsheet. Whenever you export the .csv file again, the spreadsheet gets updated automatically.

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So basically I gave up (for now) trying to build a full, final document directly in FreeCAD. You really need a much more flexible and powerful spreadsheet application than we have in FreeCAD. Rather, the schedule tool now concentrates on doing its task well and easily: gather quantities from the model. What you do with these quantities, it's now very easy to do outside FreeCAD.

Of course there is a lot of space for improvements, for example we'll at some point need to categorize and sort the data (imagine for example, gathering all the windows and group them by their size and type), but the tool should now be flexible enough to do that.

Structural nodes

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The Structure tool already had structural nodes since a long time. It is basically a property that holds a series of 3D points. These points could define a line or a polyline. This is used to represent the axis, or median fiber of a structural element. The nodes are recalculated automatically when the shape changes, but you can also set them manually. The line or polyline can then be shown or hidden.

This is a first (but important) step on the road to export FreeCAD models as analytic models. You need to be able to represent your whole structure as a big wireframe.

There were some utility tools missing, which have now been added. For example, Slabs can have their nodes represent not a polyline but a surface. And there are now tools to join and trim nodes from different structural elements so you can now achieve pretty clean wireframe models from your Arch structures, with just a few clicks.

Next steps will be to try to export this to software able to do something with such models. So far, on the open-source side I only know 2D analysis apps like PyBar and FTool. There are a couple of older 3D ones on sourceforge but I haven't met anyone who usses them. Another possible output is of course the IFC Structural Analysis MVD.

Panels

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The Panel tool also received upgrades. It is now possible to make wavy or corrugated panels, typically used for roofs. Users on the forum suggested we also add a way to build sandwich panels, typically formed by two metallic skins, and a layer of insulation material inbetween. This kind of panel is already possible to do, by making several panel objects from the same profile, and giving them different offset and thickness values. However, these sandwich panels often have a different profile for the top and bottom metal sheets. So the middle layer doesn't have a uniform thickness. There are also corrugated profiles that are more complex, with different wave heights or "peaks". So the whole panel tool must yet be extended to support these cases. So far I had no good idea on how to do that efficiently, but that's on our TODO list.

TechDraw

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The TechDraw workbench, for who doesn't know it yet, is the successor of Drawing. It has more or less the same functionality as Drawing has, plus most of the stuff of the Drawing Dimensioning addon, and more advanced features such as the ability to move views graphically on the page. So far the special Draft and Arch tools that could display Draft objects and Arch Section plane contents were not available in TechDraw. This is now solved, and TechDraw can be used fully to produce 2D drawings of your models.

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Doxygen

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Another side thing I've been working on is the code documentation. Apart from our wiki documentation, which is hand-written by community members, and is mostly for FreeCAD users, there is also a documentation made specifically for people interested in programming, which describes in detail how FreeCAD is programmed, and which classes, functions and tools are available to you as a programmer (both C++ and Python). This documentation is not fully hand-written, but extracted automatically from the FreeCAD source code, by a tool called doxygen. Doxygen "reads" the code, and builds a map of the source code and all its different modules, classes, functions, etc. It also reads code comments, which are pieces of texts that developers place in their code, to help people who read that code to understand what does what. Good code always has a lot of those comments. Doxygen also reads these comments and includes them into the documentation.

So far, the whole FreeCAD code documentation extracted by Doxygen weighted more than 2Gb, which makes it too heavy to place on the FreeCAD web server. The default "theme" used by Doxygen is also rather ugly.

I'm now working on producing a thinner version of that documentation, that could fit on the server, and a better them that makes it blend into the rest of our web environment.

Good code documentation that is clean and pleasurable to read is very important to help new people interested in programming for FreeCAD, so it's worth spending a bit of time on it.

Sun diagram

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The Arch Site has also received a new feature: By filling a couple of properties such as Latitude and Longitude, it can now display a solar diagram. That diagram can be scaled, oriented and centered on a specific point in the model, and of course turned on/off. So far it is just visual, you cannot do anything else with it than just looking at it. But in the future much more could be done with it. A first step I'll try to reach is enabling shadow studies.

Coin3D, the library that is used to manage the FreeCAD 3D view, is able to display shadows. So far I'm meeting some technical difficulties to make this handily and gracefully switchable on/off, but no doubt sooner or later we'll have a solution at hand.

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Re: FreeCAD posts from Yorik's blog

Postby yorik » Thu Jan 26, 2017 9:40 pm

Reposting this article from my blog

FreeCAD Arch development news

A long time I didn't post here. Writing regularly on a blog proves more difficult than I thought. I have this blog since a long time, but never really tried to constrain myself to write regularly. You look elsewhere a little bit, and when you get back to it, two months have gone by...

Since this post is aimed principally at informing my Patreons of what I am doing with
their money, I'll start by saying thank you again, the last year has been a terrible economical crisis here in Brazil, and the last months have been awful, we thought seriously we'd need to close our architecture office. Fortunately things seem to slowly get back on track... Anyway, thanks to your support, even in the direst hours, I could still reserve a little time for FreeCAD, that is really very cool.

So the main happening, on my side, was without a doubt the new Panel tools I've been working on, that now allow to create Wikihouse-like projects fully in FreeCAD.

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Arch Panel objects have been enhanced so they can now 1) have a tag, 2) output a 2D view of themselves, in the XY (ground) plane, including the tag, and 3) a panel sheet object can gather and assemble different of those outputs, and 4) you can export these panel sheets to DXF, with a result that is identical to the ones produced by the Wikihouse project.

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By the way, the above image is a screenshot from LibreCAD, which started as a fork of QCAD, but now the two projects have evolved in very different ways, QCAD has become quite powerful, while LibreCAD stayed
more simple. However, LibreCAD has recently added DWG support, which was entirely coded from scratch by rallaz, one of their code warriors. This is truly impressive, given that the DWG format is proprietary, undocumented, kept as secret as possible by Autodesk, and even more, it changes radically each year. At FreeCAD we gave up a long time ago... Kudos LibreCAD heroes!

Getting back to wikihouse, once you have a set of profiles for your panels, it is now pretty easy to build complex wikihouse models, then quickly output the cut sheets for everything, no matter how they are assembled in the model.

There is much room for improvement of course, and we didn't even touch the possibilities offered by the Path workbench yet. However, I thought this is a safe and comfortable in-between step, the DXF output allows to check the results before preparing the actual cut, and it mimics the current Wikihouse workflow.

Another small feature, that was in the works since long, is an AutoGroup
feature (it only works in Draft and Arch at the moment). With it, you can basically get the kind of workflow you have in your favorite BIM app:
Switch to third floor, and begin to work on third floor. In FreeCAD, you would hide all floors except the third, then enable autogroup on the third floor, and there you are.

I also fixed a series of smaller bugs (these little things we never talk about, but that, when accumulated, really build the stability of an application), while working with Ryan on one of our Revit/FreeCAD experiments. I'll finish with a couple of screenshots of the FreeCAD work I've been doing there. All of this now exports perfectly to IFC, and imports (more or less) perfectly in Revit.

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Re: FreeCAD posts from Yorik's blog

Postby markko martin » Mon Feb 05, 2018 10:26 pm

Hi @yorik
Thank you very much for the monthly article from your blog !

http://yorik.uncreated.net/guestblog.ph ... complete=3

I've downloaded the 3 houses and they are great projects.

I have only a question.
When you start a new project , do you Know exactly all the groups that you need?
In my opinion freecad groups are very flexible but you can’t change their order in the object tree.

Don't you think that this is a limitation?
Last edited by markko martin on Tue Feb 06, 2018 7:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: FreeCAD posts from Yorik's blog

Postby Joel_graff » Tue Feb 06, 2018 12:29 am

The schedule tool is something I'll be keeping my eye on. Quantity estimation from a model is a huge deal in transportation CAD, too.

That stuff looks awesome, though. Good work!
You can find the FreeCAD Trails workbench for transportation engineering on my github at:
https://www.github.com/joelgraff/freecad.trails
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Re: FreeCAD posts from Yorik's blog

Postby yorik » Fri Feb 09, 2018 11:15 am

Indeed groups or any other objects cannot be reordered. But it's more a matter of organizing yourself (make more groups inside groups), at the end you don't find that inability to be a very big problem...

But it would be possible to allow reordering inside a group, I tested this with Path compounds already, it works apparently flawlessly. I'll experiment with that after the release.
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Re: FreeCAD posts from Yorik's blog

Postby markko martin » Sat Feb 10, 2018 5:50 pm

yorik wrote:
Fri Feb 09, 2018 11:15 am
But it would be possible to allow reordering inside a group, I tested this with Path compounds already, it works apparently flawlessly. I'll experiment with that after the release.
Great!
I can't wait 8-)

Thank's yorik
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