Robert McNeel & Associates

Founded in 1980, McNeel is a privately-held, employee-owned company which became well-known by its line of products for industrial design and visualization. The key and most popular of these products is Rhino 3D — a system for advanced but affordable NURBS based 3D-modeling. The company has more than 700 resellers, distributors, OEMs, and training centers around the world.

During 2007-2011, LEDAS implemented a series of projects aiming at (1) develop, verify, and demonstrate the company’s variational direct modeling and simultaneously (2) create on this technological basis a number of applications built as plugins that provide added-value for some popular CAD-related systems. All related information has been finally concentrated at a specialized LEDAS web-site One of the key LEDAS results in this direction was building a number of plugins for Rhino3D. During this work, LEDAS team has a lot of intensive contacts with Robert McNeel & Associates.

The most known LEDAS plugin of the Rhino series is described in a press-release «RhinoWorks from LEDAS Revolutionizes Direct Modeling» of April 14, 2011.

LEDAS, Ltd. today released RhinoWorks, their latest plug-in for Rhinoceros 3D, bringing constraint-based parametric design to the popular freeform modeling tool from Robert McNeel and Associates. Rhino is used extensively by designers of architecture, furniture, consumer goods, yachts, and jewelry. Now all of them can benefit from the new plug-in. Based on the original technology developed by LEDAS and smoothly integrated in the Rhino environment, RhinoWorks allows designers to edit many kinds of solid, surface, and wireframe models parametrically. It gives them full control over design intent through the application of geometric and dimensional constraints, which significantly increases the productivity when designs change. RhinoWorks unifies two previous LEDAS’ plug-ins for Rhino, RhinoAssembly and RhinoDirect, in one product. It is fully compatible with any model created by the two former plug-ins.

Adding constraints with RhinoWorks is like declaring, “these two faces should be parallel” and “the distance between these edges should equal 100mm.” Constraints are added easily to all existing models, including those imported to Rhino from other CAD systems. Once added, constraints are immediately solved, forcing changes to geometric shapes and body positions. Constraints added by designers are solved simultaneously, even in the case of constraint “loops” (such as three distances between three points). Constraints are stored in Rhino’s native .3dm files, and so can be used for further parametric modification of the same model.

For easy navigation through constraints, RhinoWorks includes RhinoWorks Manager, a special user interface that lets users switch constraints on and off individually, and change the value of their parameters. Designers are not forced to add all constraints manually. RhinoWorks recognizes many geometric relationships automatically (such as coincidence, tangency, parallelism, concentricity, and equal radii). This means that designers merely need add a few dimensional constraints to have full control over the design intent for their models; the rest are added automatically. An Options dialog box allows users to specify specific modes in automatic recognition of constraints.

RhinoWorks also works in an “assembly mode” to prevent changes to geometric shapes. In this mode, the plug-in is limited to moving and rotating rigid parts sufficiently to satisfy constraints. Assembly mode is useful for simulating assembly processes and checking the kinematics of mechanisms. The animation function of the RhinoWorks plug-in allows users to produce high-quality videos through the built-in or plug-in renderer. The movies are useful for demonstrating the motions of mechanisms, and for observing the changes of shapes and dimensions in real time. Some other aspects of the LEDAS projects around Rhino are described in the company’s publications:

In October, 2011 the intellectual property rights for the flagship LEDAS products and technologies, including the whole drivingdimentions series, has been acquired by Menhirs NV, the parent company of Bricsys NV. In the framework of this deal, LEDAS became an authorized reseller of its former products and in coordination with Bricsys is ready to provide various services on maintenance, integration as well as related software development.

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