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Graphisoft, the company that produces ArchiCAD design software, has tied-up with MAXON Computer GmbH, a leader in free-form modelling and animation software, and developer of CINEMA 4D. This allows it to offer MaxonForm organic modelling software that runs on both Macintosh and PC, and has the powerful modelling capabilities of CINEMA 4D, without rendering or animation. AJ asked a small practitioner to give us his opinion of it.

I am a sole practitioner based in St. Neots in Cambridgeshire and have been in practice for four years. My main types of projects have been for schools in the voluntary aided sector, with some domestic projects. The contract value of these projects ranges from £50,000 to £250,000. I have, until recently, always used AutoCAD software to produce my drawings. I started with r12 with AEC 3.1 and then moved to ADT 2006. Twelve months ago I switched to ArchiCAD by Graphisoft. There were two reasons for this switch.

Firstly, after 15 years of AutoCAD I felt that ADT was becoming too complicated to use and, secondly, I wanted to work in a singlemodel environment. I found ArchiCAD much easier and userfriendly. My plans, sections and elevations were all intelligent.

Whatever I did in one updated the others.

Recently I was asked to try MaxonForm. This is a freeform modelling application that enables the user to create any shape they might require. The application can be used to create models for any purpose - from product design prototyping to creating complex building objects. Previously this is something for which I would have used 3D Studio Viz. Viz is an extremely powerful modelling, rendering and animation application. As an architect I only used Viz to render images of my designs. There were large portions of the application that I never used. I was interested to see how an application that cost a fraction of 3D Studio would compare.

The installation of MaxonForm is a simple two-stage process. First, I needed to install the add-on to ArchiCAD and then second, to install the MaxonForm software. Both of these installations were completed without incident and the software ran without any problems.

The most noticeable difference between MaxonForm and 3D Studio Viz is that MaxonForm doesn't offer rendering and animation capabilities. These functions are provided in ArchiCAD and it is therefore not necessary to duplicate them in MaxonForm.

This is a definite advantage as it removes a lot of clutter and complexity from the application. The work environment is very clean and easy to navigate. On the left of the screen are the tools for creating base objects such as cubes and spheres, plus selection options and deformation tools. On the right are the various object managers, which display objects and applied deformations in a tree structure. The centre of the screen is occupied by the model. I found that this layout allows me to keep track easily of the objects I'm working on and of any transformations that I have applied.

Although MaxonForm can be run as a standalone application, it is intended to be run from within ArchiCAD.

This allows objects to be swapped between the two applications without any need for complex translations. Objects that come into ArchiCAD from MaxonForm are created as GDL objects and can be placed in a user library for easy access. This link between the two applications means that the workflow is very smooth, eliminating the need to translate from one to the other.

I found MaxonForm very easy to use. You can select objects from the 3D window in ArchiCAD and, along with their associated objects, transfer them into MaxonForm so that editing and manipulation of an object is done in its full context. Creating new objects in MaxonForm for use in ArchiCAD is equally easy.

Selecting any of the primitive object icons on the left results in that object appearing in the modelling window. Fine adjustments can then be made to the parameter spinners on the right. Deformations and NURBS generators (representations of 3D geometry) can be added to the manager tree and applied to objects. Changes made to any part of the model are immediately shown on screen.

MaxonForm makes it possible for the architect to model and visualise very complex geometries. Multi-directional curved walls and roofs are very easy to create and to incorporate in the computer model. Previously, this was only possible with very expensive software tools and proficient operators. It was therefore only the very large practices that could afford to model complex curving geometry. This application now brings complex computer modelling, at an affordable cost and acceptable level of effort, to the smaller practice.

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