in Architecture, BIM, Design Software

Formit: Autodesk’s Mobile Infiltrator

Today we have a guest post from Elijah Gregory. 

Elijah Gregory is a high school senior who’s interest in architecture software and BIM has lead to him becoming a fount of knowledge in this evolving field.

In this article, we get a brief introduction to Autodesk’s Formit, and how this recent tool eases the transition from a programming/schematic design model into something which Revit can take and immediately begin to work with.

When initially exploring the depths of Autodesk’s fairly new mobile and internet beta app, one may have vivid flashbacks of using the earlier versions of the once-Google and now Trimble product, Sketchup—or at least I did. Much like Sketchup, Formit focuses on mass-diagram design, which places emphasis on the “big picture” of 3D modeling.

Formit offers something no Trimble product does: mobile 3D modeling. In the midst of an increasingly mobile-oriented technological world, anyone could have seen an app like this coming. Autodesk has launched mobile apps before for on-the-go designing such as AutoCAD 360 and SketchBook Pro, but none have offered the geotagged conceptual design capabilities BIM users seek. That has changed with Autodesk’s release of Formit.

The beauty of Formit lies in its simplicity: anyone from any background can download the app and begin to design with minimal instruction. In fact, my twelve year old brother commonly plays with the app on his iPad and has created incredible drawings in little time with almost no prior experience.

However, where Sketchup offers a great platform for general 3D modeling and an incredibly easy-to-use UI, some Formit users may experience difficulty in using the tools on a small screen without some type of tablet pen, as shapes and lines become hard to see, edit, and place in exact locations beneath one’s fingers.

Both the mobile and web-based apps focus on 3D objects such as cubes, cylinders, domes, vaults, and triangular prisms to begin modeling, with 2D lines and shapes supplementing for more detailed design.

And of course, Formit features sketchy, extended, and hidden lines options to give the models some personality and bring some fun to the stale, straight lines BIM operators are accustomed to staring at for hours on end.

To bring the sometimes-vague 3D models to an easier perspective, the app sports three additional modeling features: a location tag, sun and shadows, and a materials editor.

The location tag allows users to bring a snapshot of the model’s projected location into the sketch plane from Google maps. Sun and shadows give the model perspective viewing and allow the user to edit the sun’s location and shadowing using date and time based information. Finally, the materials editor, much like Sketchup’s paint bucket, allows the user to assign snips of a variety of materials to the different faces of the 2D or 3D parts of the model.

Another intriguing aspect of Formit lies within the properties tab, which pulls at the eye of anyone interested in the “I” in BIM.

The properties tab gives the user information of the total volume of a model, the gross square feet of a level, assign the type of building the model represents, and again use the location feature of the app to assign the model a specific location.

That final intriguing Formit feature is importation to Revit, which should, if none of the other features have yet, bring architectural-structural-mechanical design software users to the edge of their seats clawing for a download.

Although users may experience some difficulties importing Formit models into Revit, Autodesk shows clear strides towards a seamless integration of the app into its renowned BIM software lineup.

For now, Formit only benefits users of the Autodesk suite of products. The 3D modeling software does not show capabilities for integration into competitors’ products such as ArchiCAD or Bently, but as no clear standards for universalization of BIM software currently exist, this shouldn’t discredit Formit’s place in the BIM world.

The introduction of Formit to the mobile modeling world will certainly bring about widespread industry acceptance and give designers one more tool to add to their belt as Autodesk continues to dominate the design cycle of the AEC community.