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Bonzai3D review

Verdict:

Although dimensioning is missing in this first release, bonzai3D is a very slick and capable debut.

Review Date: 14 Jul 2009

Price when reviewed: (£369 ex VAT)

Reviewed By: Tim Danaher

Our Rating 4 stars out of 5

Bonzai3D from AutoDesSys, makers of the heavyweight modeller Form•Z, is a new application that's been designed to provide rapid conceptual 3D modelling - just like SketchUp.

Since it was first announced, Bonzai3D has drawn inevitable comparisons with Google's offering. The two are, however, rather different in their approach and the breadth of their toolsets.

Bonzai3D's interface has been designed from the ground up, but look closely and you'll see that it shares many tools with Form•Z. All of the arc, vector line and spline drawing tools are here, as are different methods for extruding lines and surfaces once they are drawn: 2D surface, 2D wall, 3D extrusion, 3D convergence, 3D wall and insert opening.

All of Form•Z's robust nurbs and Boolean tools are included, too, but they have been supplemented by Bonzai3D's real-time OpenGL interface, which makes them much more usable. As in SketchUp, any surface in the model can act as a drawing plane, and Bonzai3D continually moves the reference grid to indicate the current working plane. You can also set up explicit working planes through any three points in the model. Another much appreciated feature of the interface is the ability to customise its shortcuts, and the program even lets you duplicate those of SketchUp.

Bonzai3D also features tools that let you reshape and offset faces or segments. The former is comparable to SketchUp's push-pull tool, although it's more capable: any hole pushed through to the other side of a model will automatically cut a Boolean opening. Offset will offset the segments of face either inwards or outwards, while offset segment does the same thing for single segments. As you can see, Bonzai3D has a lot of specific tools, whereas SketchUp tends to stick to a few general ones.

Bonzai3D can produce many parametric objects such as spheres, tori and cubes. These display one of the slickest features of the modelling interface: on-screen controls. After it's created, a parametric object can have any of its parameters altered. A torus, for example, can have both its major and minor diameters altered, and even its angle of sweep (it's 'completeness', if you like) can be changed.

The really nice thing about the on-screen controls, however, is that they're not limited to the parametric objects - nurbs surfaces can also be manipulated in real-time, as can some of the special objects such as the straight and spiral staircases. Watching a spiral staircase extend seamlessly over multiple floors, while keeping in, for example, the correct baluster spacing just by clicking and dragging on a few controls, is pretty amazing. Even derived objects, like lofts and sweeps remain fully editable.

Texturing models in Bonzai3D is done in real-time, and texture maps can be moved, scaled and rotated as desired. The application ships with a good library of predefined textures and surface finishes. One nice aspect of texturing is that Bonzai3D automatically determines which type of mapping is needed, reducing headaches in this area. It also supports the more sophisticated parametric and UV mapping protocols, which makes applying textures to undulating, organic surfaces a breeze.

Another library that ships with Bonzai3D is the content library. This is where you'll find ready-made items such as furniture and fittings, windows and doors. These can be dragged out of their palettes and into the workspace. One pleasing feature when placing content is that items such as windows and doors cut holes through walls of any thickness, and also adapt their dimensions to any wall thickness. This is because Bonzai3D is able to generate true solid modelling, alongside surface modelling. This also means its Boolean operations are extremely robust, offering union, intersection, difference, split with volume and split with surface.

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