Wednesday, November 19, 2014


This work was done about 18 months ago.  You might think that urinals are fairly disgusting objects, (in practice they quite often are) but is that an excuse for the pathetic state of current Revit content for this very useful piece of equipment ?  That's roughly what I was thinking when I set about the task of creating some urinals that could sit proudly alongside my classy toilet content (like peas in a pod)
The first one is generic.  I didn't have a particular model in mind, but the general shape and size is very common.  I had previously tried to tackle this in Point World with little success.  After that, almost every time I took a walk down the corridor my mind would drift to puzzling out the geometry ... it can't be that hard, surely ?

One solid half-revolve cut by two voids gets us pretty close.  The extrusion cuts across sideways, and the void revolve hollows out the bowl.  In reality there are usually more subtleties than this, but I'm not looking for an exact replica.  Families aren't instructions for making things ... plumbing families certainly aren't.  They are there to represent an object.  I want them to be roughly the right size and shape, look good in orthographic views, not offend the eye in 3d shaded views, and render up fairly convincingly.

The basic form is almost there, but the sharp edges offend my eyes.  So we export in a solid format (ACIS / SAT) so we can do some rounding off of complex curves in another application.  I notice that I was using Inventor Fusion at first.  This is probably the only time I ventured into that territory.  Later on I realised that the same operation was available in Autocad.

Back in Revit you can explode the geometry to create a free-form solid that accepts material parameters.  Hide this in orthographic views and replace with symbolics. (masking regions and symbolic lines)  I think it is important to do all 3 views (top, side, front)  We often do internal elevations of washrooms with tile setting out etc etc.  Nothing like clean crisp symbolics to make these look good.  If your geometry has sharp edges and is fairly simple, then you may not need symbolics (a table for example)  But rounded, nurbs-like forms are unlikely to show up well in a hidden line elevation.

My next peapod is based on the Duravit Arc.  I didn't have a 3d download for this, just working from dimensioned jpegs.  That's more than adequate for what I want to do.

Actually this one is not very difficult.  Looks a bit scary if you select all the geometry: solids and voids all over the place. 

But it's not hard to figure out for anyone with a bit of experience with family editor. (Vanilla this time)  Important to set up a named work plane for the angled cylinder 

Once again the secret to making rendered views convincing is the softening of the edges so that they pick up the right kind of reflections.

Excited by my progress I went on to set up a rendered view on a tiled background.  This is a fairly low-res version by it gets the message across.  As far as I am concerned, this is a huge improvement on the urinal families that I have found on the web.  I even got excited enough to model a towel draped over a towel rail.  Nothing difficult in that, just a sweep, but taking care to shape both the path and the profile as gentle curves.

I'm not going to describe all these fittings in great detail.  I went on to make the Vero, McDry, Bill and Starc 1 (all Duravit) Other manufacturers have similar looking models so they could be useful even when you are not specifying Duravit. 

The Vero is a fairly straightforward modelling exercise in Vanilla mode.  Later on I adapted this to create a "Series" urinal & screen by RAK ceramics.  RAK are our local UAE manufacturers of ceramics producing good quality sanitary ware and tiles that are very competitive in the regional market.

McDry was modelled in point world.  As the name implies, this is a waterless type of urinal.  I haven't got around to exporting to SAT and rounding the edges on this yet.

The Bill is a slightly more elaborate modelling task, so I opted for using a CAD import for the moment and used my time to create the symbolic work in plan and elevation.  (This is DWG, not SAT, so everything vanishes if you try to explode it)  It's interesting to note that the orthographic views provided as downloads don't match the 3d file.  The boundaries are pretty much the same, but the internal lines (intended to represent 3d curves) are quite different.  I've noticed this before with downloads from other sources.  It doesn't matter much to me.  As long as the "footprint" is accurate and the overall impression is convincing, that's all I really want.

So I have at least 4 different strategies to choose from when modelling sanitary ware depending on my source material. 
  1. I can use a 3d CAD import and apply materials via Object Styles/imports in families.
  2. I can explode the CAD import (if it's a true solid, like SAT format)
  3. I can model in vanilla Revit
  4. I can model in Point World, export to SAT, re-import and explode
Option 3 is first choice: small file sizes and directly applied material parameters
Option 4 is good for curvaceous shapes, but go easy on the edge fillets and expect file sizes of between 1 and 2mb
Option 2 is fast and easy, but only possible if the right kind of download is available (rare)
Option 1 is also fast, but end users need to understand how the materials assignments work and you will have undesirable seams in shaded views.
In my view they are all useful methods which can help us to assemble a much better library of Plumbing Fixture content. 
More to come, including access to my work-in-progress Duravit families.  Stay tuned :-)


Thursday, November 13, 2014


This post is no three of a series on sanitary ware familes.  Last time we modelled a Duravit toilet and bidet.  Here are 2 more of their bidets, which are available as 3d CAD downloads.  Nicely modelled, but as usual they contain seam lines that spoil our 3d shaded views, and of course you can't apply material parameters without resorting to nasty workarounds.  The Puravida also has a missing face.

These two bidets are quite easy to model using the techniques described in the previous post.  The D code is intact, so we could CAD import it into a Revit family.  We would need to separate out the metal fittings so they can pick up a different material for rendering purposes.  (If you are specifying Duravit you probably want to be able to render)  We also need masking regions and symbolic lines in plan & elevation. 

But once we've gone to that much trouble, why not go the extra mile and create native Revit geometry ?  It is possible to assign materials to the CAD layers via Object Styles, assuming the different materials are on different layers.  But really it would be so nice if we could just download well-made Revit families with all the metadata etc all nicely set up.

So here's how I would make the Puravida.  Drop the CAD family into a GMA or massing family.  I find it useful to set Reference Lines to thick red under Object Styles.

Draw the base profile.  You need to change the scale of the views you are working in so the line weights are manageable.  I'm using 1:5.
In a side elevation, create some horizontal reference planes and name them (I just used 1,2,3,4)  Select the base profile and copy multiple.  You have to keep unchecking "constrain" for each new instance.

Now we need to adjust the shape of each profile.  I started by selecting the whole thing (6 segments)  Then I use shift-window to deselect that straight segment at the far left.  Now I can nudge the rest to the right and this will adjust the length without spoiling the smooth tangential curves.

Keep on like this until you have a series of profiles that hug the CAD object quite closely.  Now select them all and "create form".  Looks pretty good.

The void inside the bowl is done in a similar way.  I call this "freehand" work because you are drawing profiles directly on ref planes instead of creating a separate parametric profile family.  I don't have any fixed rules about which method to use, just treat each case on its merits.  This one was definitely much easier with the freehand method.  I don't need the parametrics, just making one fixed shape

Now we can export as SAT and load into Autocad.  Sparing use of the solid fillet command to soften the sharp edges.  You will notice that we have very similar seams to those in the original CAD file, interestingly though most of them disappear later when you explode the geometry back in Revit.

The tap / faucet in the CAD download is quite an interesting shape so I accepted this as a modelling challenge.  The tricky part is in making a transition from a circle to a rectangle with rounded corners.  Ultimately I realised that the key to a smooth transition was having the same number of segments in each profile.  So I just broke the circle into 8 arcs. 

The finished article has 3 parts: extrusion, loft and revolve.  Don't try to make the body all as one loft, the cylindrical portion will never come out quite straight because you are telling Revit to create a continuous curve connecting all the profiles.

I usually use both material parameters and subcategories.  Most of the time the subcategory will control the materials for all the sanitary ware in the project, but just in case one fitting needs to be a different material (gold plated perhaps) ... well you get the idea.

Introducing TIM, my Toilet Information Model.  Nice clean symbolic work in all 3 directions.  The 2d world of orthographic is very important in my view.  By all means let's do away with hard copies, but the conceptual clarity of plans and sections is invaluable.  It helps us to think, to make decisions, to understand problems.  Don't knock 2d.  Be inclusive.  It's a free world.
Oh yes, nearly forgot.  Look how much cleaner my version is than the original CAD download.

Once you have that one made (floor standing) it's relatively simple to backtrack a bit and adapt it to make the wall hung version.  Adjust the profiles, export to SAT again, round the corners, back into Revit, explode ...

After that I went on to make the matching WC.  Same methodology.  Cut across with a sideways void extrusion (like we did in the last post)  Round the edges in Autocad once more.  I don't bother cutting out the bowl for toilets.  Going to show them with the lids down, much simpler.

Turning now to some wash basins.  It turns out that the Happy D basin downloads are in SAT format and can be exploded in Revit.  Whoopee, no need for me to do lots of lofting, just remove the chrome bits and replace them with separate families for easier control.

I decided to use visibility controls to permit swapping of the half pedestal and full pedestal versions.  These are slightly heavyweight families (welterweight ?) so I figured that it was better to combine two in one.

Anyway that was a fun weekend, some time about a year ago I think.  It's embarassing how long it takes to convert some of my work into a presentable format for sharing with the world.  But I do have a day job.  That being so, why am I spending my precious time fiddling with toilet families that should be available for download ?

The short answer is that ... they aren't.  The slightly longer answer ?  I enjoy making good quality content and somewhere deep inside I am kind of hoping that I might eventually motivate others to contribute.  Who knows, Duravit themselves might eventually come tho the party.

I'm going to put some of these families up for download.  I am appealing to the many experienced users out there who follow my blog to test them out and give feedback.  What improvements can you suggest ?  By all means make some changes and send them back.  And please lobby your contacts in the supply chain to make more BIM content available.  In the end it's up to us.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


My last post took a look at some manufacturer BIM content and suggested that it could be improved considerably with a little extra effort: probably much less effort than it took to create the content in the first place.  One of my readers pointed out that there is some well-modelled content on the BIM Object website. It's certainly worth a look.  Probably over-modelled for some people's taste, and if you are going to aim for that level of accuracy you should consider using symbolic work in elevation views as well as plans.  But that's nit-picking.  Keep up the good work guys, we love you.

It was interesting to review the American Standard families, but I doubt that we will get to use thme here at GAJ.  Duravit is a different case.  They are quite popular in the Dubai market and when we use them there is probably an ID component in our scope, so it's worth having decent families.

 Over the years I have made several families based on downloads from their website.  They have very good 3d & 2d symbols, but no BIM content.  Sadly the 3d geometry often loses a face or 2 when loaded into Revit.  I'm not sure why.

Also there is often extra detail that we don't really want.  We don't section plumbing fixtures in Revit so we don't want to model hidden detail in 3d.  It creates an unnecessary load on the processor, especially on large projects.

Now that we can explode CAD geometry, there is a workflow that could be used to create smooth flowing forms in plumbing fixtures.  Model it in conceptual massing.  Export to .sat.  Bring into a standard plumbing template.  Explode

So I decided to try this out on the Starck WC & Bidet that I had previously worked up using CAD imports from the Duravit web site.  It helps to have 3d CAD geometry as a guide when making these forms in conceptual massing. 

Set up a series of profiles.  Create form.  That's the basic bowl done.  Now for the rim.

Create form from one profile, gives an extrusion.  Make another extrusion crossing this horizontally. Change to void.  Voila.  But we are left with sharp edges and it's not so easy to round these off in Revit.  Where plane surfaces meet at right angles you can use a void sweep, but curved surfaces are tricky, especially when they curve in 2 directions.

Fortunately we are going to export to CAD anyway, and AutoCAD has solid modelling tools that eat this kind of task for breakfast.  Fillet edge, click on a set of edges, type in a radius, enter, enter ... done.

I went through a couple of iterations on this, going back into Revit and adding the recesses for the fixing bolts and cutting out a bowl for the bidet. 

This is the original Revit geometry, so I will have to round off all the edges again.  Export to SAT, open in Autocad, find the solid editing tools, Fillet Edge.  I used a soft curve to remove the edges on the underside also.  Probably you would never notice these, but it's easy to soften them out, so why not?   Softening the sharp corners does make a huge difference to rendered images.

Actually I discovered later on that those fillets bump up the file size fairly quickly, so don't get too carried away.

Bring the SAT back into Revit and explode.  No problem.  Apply materials and subcategories.  I modelled the seat directly in Revit using a void sweep to round off the edges.  Added a tap for the bidet (based on the CAD import from the original Duravit download)  Set up visibility controls to swap between WC & Bidet (one family, 2 types).

I already had the symbolic representation for plans & elevations from my previous efforts.  So that was that.  Half a day's work, divided by 1000 architects world wide ... has to be worth it.  Please, please Mr Duravit, give us some BIM content.

The image above shows my current collection of Duravit families.  I started by dropping all the cad downloads into one family.  That way I can copy paste them into individual families whenever I get time.  So far I've only converted a handful of these. I probably need 3 or 4 weekends to do the rest. Just imagine if all this was available as nicely crafted native Revit families.  It's an impressive range, and you have to admit their styling is really cool.

There's another post to come yet in this series.  After that I will try to bundle some of the best / most useful families up and make them available.  Maybe I can even persuade some of you to chip in and convert a couple.  Many hands make light work.