With the release of the Data Exchange Connector for McNeel Rhino public beta, Autodesk is aiming to make it easier to share data between the popular concept modelling tool and Revit
Autodesk has long been trying to improve data flow between its disparate applications. To specifically help improve the flow of data between Revit and Inventor (Autodesk’s 3D CAD tool for product design and mechanical engineering), Autodesk developed a plug in for the Forge Data Exchange Connector component.
This made it easier for Revit users to share specific subsets of data with Inventor and combine architecture model with fabrication elements that will appear in the building. It meant all users could work on the latest data and there was less hassle when creating specific files.
Autodesk then expanded the Data Exchange Connector to include Microsoft Power Automate, a popular tool for building automated business processes that can be used to share data between hundreds of apps.
In essence, collaborators can share subsets of design data with a wide number of applications like Excel, generate insightful PowerBI dashboards, as well as get notifications with Microsoft Teams, Slack etc.
The connector comes with some pre-defined workflow template examples for the Power Automate platform, helping those who are project managers, VDC managers, or BIM managers. Autodesk is now adding another connector to the exchange ecosystem, to include the highly popular McNeel Rhino.
Rhino Exchange Connector
With its generative Grasshopper capability, Rhino is one of the leading conceptual design tools in AEC, used for anything from simple massing models to complex façades. The new connector allows users to move geometry and property data from Rhino to Revit – or from Revit to Rhino. This keeps project designers on the same page and aware of the latest changes to levels, grids, floors and (curtain) walls.
Autodesk claims that without its Rhino Exchange Connector, sharing data for consumption by other applications can result in lossy or incomplete translation, requiring time intensive workarounds or third-party plug-ins to capture the full extent of the information being shared. Autodesk says this new Connector offers a step forward for interoperability and collaborative work, and better syncs Rhino and Revit workflows for more seamless design development.
To use, install the Rhino Connector into Rhino, select the geometry that needs to be shared, and create a Data Exchange. The Data Exchange is published to ‘Autodesk Docs’, the cloud-based common data environment, where data can be stored and accessed from Revit or any other application with an available Autodesk Data Exchange Connector.
The workflow can be seen in the video below.
Autodesk’s latest development follows on from McNeel’s own application connector, ‘Rhino.Inside’, which is a range of plug-ins that embeds Rhino into other 64-bit Windows applications. ‘Rhino.Inside.Revit’ specifically allows an unprecedented level of integration between Rhino and Revit, enabling Rhino to run in the same memory space as Revit. This means that whatever Revit creates, Rhino can read, and whatever Rhino creates, Revit can read, communicating through their APIs.
Rhino.Inside.Revit also makes it easier to apply Grasshopper scripts to Revit geometry and read the recipes for each and every object.
Scott Davidson at McNeel explains how Rhino.Inside.Revit contrasts to the transactional nature of Autodesk’s Data Exchange Connector, “Rhino.Inside.Revit is quite a bit different in that it is a live integration of Rhino and Revit as someone is working on their desktop.
“You could look at this as a way to share and store other types of files within your Revit construction project. Rhino files alongside other formats that need to be used in a large project. In addition to the geometry there is also parameters that are stored/exchanged with the Rhino files.”
Rhino.Inside.Revit is free to use but you will need a full license of Rhino on your machine.
Proving Ground Conveyor
Proving Ground, a US software development and consulting company, has developed Conveyor, a plug-in that allows users to import Rhino objects into Revit as native elements.
The software integrates / extends ‘Rhino.Inside.Revit’ by adding a user-interface, which is Rhino-based (not Grasshopper-based, as Rhino.Inside.Revit comes).
The workflow demonstrated in Autodesk’s video for Rhino Connector Public Beta appears to strikingly similar to the workflow of Conveyor.
Proving Ground Conveyor costs $695. Proving Ground also develops Tracer, which can be used to connect BIM tools to Microsoft PowerBI.
The whole Data Exchange Connector concept seems to reflect what advanced customers have been doing for quite a while through applications such as McNeel’s Rhino.Inside, Speckle (https://speckle.systems) and Proving Ground’s Conveyor.
While Autodesk is seemingly trying to build one connector to rule all connections, it’s not completely clear what the cost will be to use it. Autodesk may use its own token-based system for each transaction. At the moment, however, it’s in beta and free.
There is also a question as to how deeply Autodesk would choose to integrate these tools to provide comparative rich feature sets and continue to maintain them, vs dedicated teams of developers with specific commercial products such as Proving Ground and McNeel.
To join the public beta sign up here