Collaboration: Model Checking and Viewing

Collaboration has evolved significantly since the days of the floppy disc with a DWG file on it. Despite the fact that 3D models are larger, the cloud and mobile technology are bringing a new way of working.

The DWG file, Autodesk’s proprietary file format, has become the chosen format in the AEC industry to send and receive 2D drawings, making it the common language across the Industry.

As far as 3D models are concerned, design systems became much more database-centric. File sizes increased dramatically, creating two issues:

  1. Difficulty moving large, cumbersome files around for sharing or collaboration.
  2. Lack of ability to extract only the information needed to show customers or to share with other firms.

A variety of formats were therefore developed to enable dissemination of the model information, and free and commercial applications flooded the viewing market. These enabled completely new ways to share rich 3D design information.

Collaboration and Viewing

In addition to the IFC (Industry Foundation Classes), the industry’s standard open file format specification, there are many proprietary 3D file formats, such as Autodesk DWF and Adobe’s PDF. With these formats, BIM data can be ‘thinned out’ to make it accessible anywhere – on mobile devices, thin clients or internals networks with corresponding applications.

Whether simply sharing a model by email or in real-time in a global meeting, collaboration can mean many things to many people. And all this is possible with current tools and technology. Centrally stored files can be shared with anyone, anywhere on the cloud. Furthermore, cloud management systems and fast 4G data mean that 3D model data is increasingly being accessed on constructions sites via tablet devices and iPads.

GRAPHISOFT offers BIMx, an interactive communication tool allowing ARCHICAD models to be shared on iOS and Android devices, as well as Windows and Mac workstations. The designer can choose what model information, data and level of detail is exported, for immediate model navigation and interrogation. For users of ARCHICAD, BIMcloud can be used to connect teams anywhere in the world, which leverages the BIMx technology. Load BIM models from web sites, Google Drive, Dropbox, email attachments, or from iTunes.

Collaboration on 3D modelling

Collaboration and Checking

There are many low cost or even free applications for examining the IFC format.

One of the best rule-based checking and auditing tools for BIM data, is Solibri Model Checker. It provides model federation, viewing and clash detection, as well as code checking, model comparison and information take-off. Checking data coming in to and going out of design offices has become more prevalent among BIM practitioners.

Its free version, Solibri Model Viewer, can open IFC files, as well as projects previously federated and/or checked in the Solibri Model Checker version. It will also display any reports and presentations that have previously been created in that project.

Any issues highlighted by model checking software are reported back to the authoring tools using BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) files. Any required changes are flagged up to the appropriate design teams and the affected elements are highlighted.

Collaboration on 3D modelling

Conclusion

2D drawings clearly play an important role in the industry, but it is generally accepted by those collaborating on projects, that 3D models provide higher value because they are explicit.  The move to 3D has seen a vast increase in the different ways models can be shared. There are so many now that the IFC format has become the common platform for exchange between applications.

Cloud-based services provide anytime, anywhere accessibility to current model-based information and ease of sharing between designers, suppliers, contractors and clients alike.