The Grasshopper User Group Meeting Logo.


On Tuesday 28th November 2023 Simply Rhino held the Grasshopper UK User Group Meeting at AKT II. This free event was kindly hosted by the team at AKT II and delivered to a packed room at their London offices.

Following is a report of the meeting for both those that were not able to attend and those who were but would enjoy a reminder of the presentations. Our thanks to Luca Biselli for his help with the write up of this meeting.

Grasshopper Meetings – Background

Grasshopper (GH) for Rhino3D is a visual programming language and graphical algorithm editor that is seamlessly integrated with Rhino. Grasshopper allows users to create complex parametric designs and algorithms through a visual interface, without the need for traditional programming code.

Grasshopper User Group Meetings are events where users come together to share knowledge, experiences, and insights. During these user meetings, participants typically discuss various aspects of using Grasshopper for design, modelling, and analysis.

The meetings include presentations by experienced users, industry professionals and software developers, showcasing innovative projects, demonstrating advanced techniques, and introducing new features or updates. Participants often have the opportunity to engage in discussions, ask questions, and network with other Grasshopper and Rhino enthusiasts.

These user meetings play a valuable role in building a community around Grasshopper and Rhino3D, fostering collaboration, and providing a platform for users to stay informed about the latest developments in the software. They are an excellent way for users to enhance their skills, stay connected with the community, and gain inspiration for their own design and modelling projects.

Photo shows a man (Paul Cowell from Simply Rhino) with arms raised introducing a subject that is displayed on a screen to a seated audience who we can view from behind.
Paul Cowell from Simply Rhino welcoming all to the meeting

November 2023 Meeting Introduction

The event was opened by Paul Cowell from Simply Rhino, who, after expressing gratitude to the participants, briefly introduced the guests presenters: Inés Brotons Borrell and Selim Helse, from AKT II, Federico Borello, co-founder of Encode, and Yavor Stoikov, from Chaos Group. Paul also mentioned the simultaneous release of Rhino version 8, inviting those interested to direct their questions to Luis Fraguada and Carla Sologuren from McNeel Europe in Barcelona who were also in the room. After his short introduction Paul handed over to Inés to begin the presentations.

First Presenter: Inés Brotons Borrell, from AKT II Engineers.

Inés introduced three case projects from AKT II, highlighting the pivotal role of Grasshopper and Rhino in generating valuable digital information for structural and geotechnical analysis and manufacturing purposes. She emphasised the adaptability of GH across three distinct workflows employed in the Eagle Island project in Canada, in a sculpture by artist Godfrey DeWitt, and in a confidential project, where geotechnical analysis played a crucial role in informing key decisions at the project’s early stages.

Image Credit @ AKT II

Workflow 1: In the Eagle Island project, the primary challenge pertained to the geometric intricacies inherent in the structure. Specifically, the upper shell exhibits a free-form design, necessitating the utilisation of advanced engineering methodologies by AKT to conceptualise and engineer its roof structure. The design approach employed in this context is characterised by a monocoque configuration, reinforced with stiffeners. Undoubtedly, a notable challenge in this endeavour was the analytical assessment of the asymmetrical nature inherent in this free-form structure. Inés provided some key insights into the methodologies employed to address and overcome this challenge:

  • The initial base surfaces, provided by the architects, underwent a remodelling process by AKT II, to serve as input for structural analysis using SAP. This remodelled data was then integrated into Revit, retaining editability to accommodate any design changes introduced by the architects during the development phase.
  • Grasshopper and Rhino played a pivotal role during this transitional phase, facilitating the generation of a series of essential diverse sections.
  • Specific sections, chosen from this array, were utilised in the generation of the monocoque stiffeners.
  • Intersections between sections and additional planes resulted in the formation of a grid of points, which acted as input for the creation of a mesh for structural analysis. Notably, the sections exhibited curvature, while the transverse stiffeners took on a faceted appearance.
  • The subsequent process involved iterative exchanges with SAP, wherein stiffeners were adjusted iteratively, optimising their placement for structural efficiency. This iterative approach was critical not only for structural optimisation, but also for seamlessly accommodating window perforations.
  • Mesh density control was implemented to ensure that the digital representation of the structure accurately captured the intricacies of the design, thereby contributing to a comprehensive analysis of the project’s geometric complexities.
  • Rhino.Inside also played a critical role in interfacing with Revit, ensuring seamless communication between the computational design environment and the broader BIM platform.

Workflow 2. Inés focused on the realisation of a sculpture crafted by artist DeWitt Godfrey, presenting a distinctive and intricate artistic challenge. Grasshopper played a pivotal role in facilitating the generation of complex shapes that precisely aligned with the artist’s vision. The parametric controls provided meticulous control over both form and structure, seamlessly transitioning between the artistic design and the structural analysis phases. The integration of Grasshopper in this workflow aimed to achieve a harmonious balance between aesthetic considerations and engineering requirements. Even in this case study, Inés provided some key insights into the methodologies employed to address and overcome this challenge:

  • The artist actively participated in the fabrication process, leveraging the information provided to support manufacturing endeavours. In the initial iteration of his projects, the sculptures featured overlapping closed hoops, subsequently evolving into open ribbon-like forms, like in this case study project.
  • The artist directly provided the geometry for these sculptures in Rhino.
  • Rhino and Grasshopper were employed to construct the geometry, involving an iterative collaboration process with the artist to refine the design.
  • The geometry underwent a meticulous remodelling process, mainly in Rhino, incorporating considerations for the site’s boundary conditions, machinery constraints, material considerations and structural connections.
  • Site constraints involved planar anchorages situated at the base. Material considerations involved the implementation of a two-layered steel structure. Additionally, machinery constraints necessitated the structural division and interconnection of ribbon components. To ensure structural stability, all ribbons had to be interconnected.
  • This iteration was followed by automation in Grasshopper in term of manufacturing information, playing a crucial role in managing the ribbon’s thickness, naming and identification of all the components and various other parameters.
  • The entire process was automated, generating comprehensive lists of components and streamlining the overall production workflow. This automation contributed to a more efficient and systematic approach to the project’s execution.
Selim Helse from AKT II – Photo Credit @ AKT II

Second Presenter: Selim Helse, from AKT II Engineers.

Workflow 3. Selim focused on a Geotechnical Analysis application of Rhino and Grasshopper. Due to confidentiality constraints, only broad and non-specific information about the project could be shared. The geometric data for this site analysis was derived from an extensive master plan, and Grasshopper played a crucial role in the early stages to allow the Client to make strategic decisions on positioning foundations, conducting excavations, all with a primary emphasis on minimising blasting activities and containing costs. Selim provided some key insights into the methodologies aimed at overcoming this challenge:

  • The initial survey data, presented in 25 Excel sheets, encompassed both spatial and non-spatial information, such as comprehensive dataset based on Shear Wave Velocity techniques (a technique measuring the speed at which shear waves travel through subsurface materials, providing valuable information about soil or rock properties).
  • This data was processed in Rhino, Grasshopper and C# to finally generate a stratigraphic 3D model. The key objective was to identify soil types via about 460,000 pieces of clean data, generating 22 sections strategically spaced every 50 meters. To address missing data between the sections, horizontal and vertical interpolations were applied, generating additional resolution.
  • The Delaunay component in Grasshopper was used to generate the next iteration, consisting of mesh planes, serving as the foundational data for the creation of three-dimensional meshes and stratigraphy.
  • Finally, a Point Cloud and 3D surfaces were generated for the purpose of presentations, calculation of volumes, using colour differentiation on iso-surfaces to distinguish types of materials (sand, sandstone etc).
  • This output facilitated a quantitative analysis of the composition of the site, assessing the proportions of sand, sandstone, and other soil constituents.
  • Grasshopper was also utilised to exclude data exceeding site constraints, ensuring a thorough evaluation of soil conditions for excavation, based on the ease of material management.

The overarching goal of this geotechnical analysis was to minimise the need for extensive excavations and fill, reduce reliance on blasting, search for optimal pile location and ultimately contain overall project costs. The advanced use of Grasshopper in this workflow contributed to a systematic approach to geotechnical planning and decision-making, aligning with the project’s financial and environmental objectives.

Selim Helse from AKT II – Photo Credit @ AKT II

Conclusions

The exploration of these three distinct workflows underlines the remarkable versatility and adaptability of Grasshopper in seamlessly integrating with diverse project requirements.

Whether addressing geometric complexities, translating artistic expressions into tangible structures, or delving into the intricacies of geotechnical analyses, Grasshopper has demonstrated its capacity to navigate a spectrum of challenges with precision and efficacy. The tool’s ability to flexibly accommodate varying project demands affirms its standing as a robust tool capable of enhancing creativity, collaboration, and efficiency across multifaceted design and engineering endeavours.

Third Presenter: Federico Borello, co-founder of ENCODE.

The first part of Federico’s presentation focused on the concept of Construction-Aware design, emphasising Encode’s commitment to bridging the gaps between design, architecture, and construction through technological transfer. The second part delved into a specific project, with Federico leveraging his extensive experience at Zaha Hadid, particularly in design, with Massimiliano contributing to the delivery side of the project.

Presentation of ENCODE

Federico introduced Encode’s motivation to facilitate a seamless flow of technology across diverse design sectors, drawing inspiration from industries such as aerospace and automotive and combining the field of Research, Design, Computation and Construction to deliver a Product, which can be physical or digital. Encode’s collaborative approach was also highlighted, comparing the Traditional Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) project delivery approach method to the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) model, in which all the stakeholders share the information since the early stages, with a particular emphasis on shifting early project stages to anticipate changes that could have significant impacts in terms of costing and timeline (Effort vs Effect diagram).

A critical focal point of the discussion pertained to the integration of Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) with Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) within Encode’s workflow. This framework predominantly relies on the utilisation of Rhino and Grasshopper, complemented by interfacing with other pertinent software platforms or developing in-house code as necessary. The presentation highlighted the paramount importance of transitioning from a traditional Drawing-Based approach to a Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) approach, embracing a Design for Manufacture and Assembly model-based strategy (DfMA). This shift involves constructing a “zero tolerance” model, serving as a comprehensive information repository, accessible for specific queries by different stakeholders. The comparison of viewing a building in a manner analogous to a car was introduced, emphasising the importance of design for manufacturing and assembly principles within the construction sector.

Encode adheres to a Level of Development/Design/Detail paradigm (LOD) ranging from stage 1 to 4, where the model is tailored to each stage, offering varying levels of information. This spans from LOD 100, which involves topological representation, up to LOD 400, signifying a digital representation suitable for manufacturing.

Presentation of Tumbalong Green Stage, Sydney

The second part of the presentation focused on a notable project situated in Sydney, encompassing the development of a timber canopy that extends over a stage, spanning across various levels of design (LOD). Federico provided some key insights into the methodologies aimed at overcoming this challenge:

  • The workflow adopted for this project prioritised effective communication and collaboration within the team, showcasing and sharing progress with all relevant stakeholders. The entire project, from conception to completion, spanned a period of 9 months and was designed by the renowned architectural firm Hassel in Sydney. The structural components, integrating timber and steel elements, were designed by TTW engineers.
  • A remarkable aspect of the project was the construction of the 50-metre span gridshell (on its length), featuring impressive 25-metre cantilevers. Encode joined the project at the very early stage, favourable to allow a proactive approach to identify potential challenges, with a particular focus on the intricacies of unique connections (+240) within the structure.
  • The significance of maintaining awareness among all parties involved was underlined, particularly concerning the complexities associated with unique connections and the related costing implications.
  • Manufacturing took place entirely in Europe, with the final components shipped in containers to Australia. Encode also contributed to the optimization challenge of standard shipping containers usage to fit the stacked timber beams.
  • Throughout the process, a substantial number of drawings were generated, translating all project information into a comprehensive 3D model.
  • A noteworthy departure from traditional practices was highlighted, where the contractor validated the 3D model, as opposed to relying solely on 2D drawings.
  • The subsequent stages involved pre-assembly activities and the transportation of components to the construction site, with detailed installation sequences and iteration strategies.
  • The importance of data exchange was emphasised, leading to the adoption of Speckle towards the project’s conclusion. Speckle facilitated visualising the model and querying data through a web-based platform, proving invaluable for collaborative efforts.
  • Encode also developed a BTL/BTLx (one of the file standards in timber construction) Grasshopper plugin to send Rhino 3D data to machine files to manufacture the timber components.
  • In the final moments of the project, last-minute changes were introduced, prompting the automation of a significant number of drawings—approximately 500-600—including assembly drawings and bills of quantities and materials.
  • Finally, Encode was also involved in the as-built phase, supporting the contractor checking what was built and what was digitally planned, correcting unexpected tolerance on the fly, on a day to day basis.

All ENCODE presentation images courtesy of ENCODE.

Yavor Stoikov from Chaos Group was also present at the meeting and updated the group on the latest developments on V-Ray for Rhino, Enscape, & Chaos Vantage.

Yavor Stoikov from Chaos

Takeaways/learning from Grasshopper UK User Group Meeting | November 2023

  • Grasshopper is progressively establishing itself as an indispensable and powerful tool, adequate at managing intricately complex designs, right from the initial phases of the design process.
  • By considering fabrication requirements in the early stages, one can make informed and methodical decisions, preventing critical factors from being determined in the advanced stages of the design process, where they could have significant implications for delivery timelines and costs.
  • Collaboration among diverse professionals is of paramount importance, to ensure comprehensive awareness and understanding among all team members.
  • These presentations highlight the crucial significance of involving all design stakeholders right from the project’s inception. Finally, sharing workflows with other professionals is crucial for their adaptability to various projects across the industry.

The next Grasshopper UK meeting will take place in early 2024, to be among the first to hear about our upcoming events make sure you’re signed-up to our newsletter and to the Simply Rhino social channels including LinkedIn and Instagram.

Grasshopper UK User Group meetings are organised by Simply Rhino. If you’re interested in participating in a future meeting by way of presenting, or perhaps you’d like to host a meeting at your offices, then please get in touch with Paul or Stephanie at Simply Rhino, we’d love to hear from you.