Rhino 3D or Rhinoceros CAD software is somewhere in the middle of the parametric engineering intensive and free-form artistic modeling programs available. Its open architecture for 3rd Party Plugins makes it adaptable to many different specialties. Tom and Tracy discuss why it has been Tom’s CAD program of choice for over 14 years. It still comes down to “What” you want to model, just like with 3D printers the right printer for the job comes down to “What” you want to print.
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Rhino CAD Software Review
This Rhinoceros or Rhino CAD software is getting into one of the more comprehensive programs. It is not a free program. It is one of the ones that I am most familiar with since I started using it in 2002, so it has been 14 years. I have been using Rhino CAD software a long time. I started in the 80’s with the AutoCAD software. AutoCAD started as a 2D program to replace drafting on a board for architects and engineers. I learned it in an architectural firm that I worked at part-time during high school. Auto CAD has names of commands with conventions where you create 2D geometry.
When Rhino was created, they followed that same command format. Anybody who was familiar and experienced with AutoCAD was very much at home using Rhinoceros. It has a command line interface where you can type the name of the command. That made it very friendly to AutoCAD users. AutoCAD then became a 3D program, and Autodesk also has lots of 3D programs today. I started working with a furniture manufacturer at that time in upstate New York that was using Rhinoceros in conjunction with Autodesk Viz, this no longer exists, but it was the rendering portion of 3DStudio Max. It then split into a rendering visualization one.
We modeled everything for that furniture client in Rhino CAD software. We rendered it in the Autodesk product. They had a big engineering department. It is fascinating. Nobody talks about it, but you can tell that Rhinoceros has an interface which is familiar and simple. It makes a lot of sense; it has command structures. Most of the ones we have reviewed before are menu based. I don’t think we have got to one that allows you to have a command line to enter a command rather than choose it from the menu. Although some of them have shortcuts. It might be the closest thing. The old engineer version is the command structure.
If you are an engineer or any kind of CAD creator who is familiar with a front top side and perspective view way of viewing things. If you are familiar with old commands, Rhino CAD software is going to be right at home to you. It is going to be easy for you. Aside from the legacy aspect of it, even if you are a new user and you did not use an old CAD, it does not mean that Rhinoceros is not going to be useful for you. It is a comprehensive CAD program with a lot of capabilities. You can learn it in a more mainstream and modern way of using menus instead of line commands. Some programs call the commands slightly different things and the icons look different from program to program. Learning a new CAD program is an involved process, and it takes time to get used to it and where everything is. That is the toughest part.
I want to talk about why as a designer I prefer Rhinoceros. I do use other programs, but Rhino CAD software is my go-to program first because of the free form creation capabilities for geometry. A lot of the programs reviewed as far, the parametric ones like Onshape, or the Tinkercad or 123D, those programs won’t let you create what I would call invalid geometry. They won’t let you create geometry; physical surfaces or solids that you really cannot create in reality. In other words, Rhinoceros lets you make mistakes on purpose. It also lets you make mistakes which may or may not be on purpose for some people who may not have this much experience. It is a hard thing to describe, I call it mistakes, but parametric programs want you to create something based on a cube or some sort of already primitive geometry that exists.
Maybe it is not mistake, instead it is non standard or atypical. You can create a path that goes in and out of itself and all over the place, and also extrude other shapes along that. You also have shapes that are going in and out of each other multiple times. You could say if that were made a solid, you are going to have two solids overlapping each other where they cross with the same points. A 3D printer might interpret that and want to lay plastic down in the same place twice as it prints it. Rhino CAD software will let you do that. Good slicing software won’t really let you do it. It won’t let you create things where two objects cannot really occupy the same space.
Sometimes in Rhino CAD software we do that, where two objects occupy the same space, because the rendering needs to look more textural and realistic. That works really well when you do upholstery. You are essentially in two spaces at the same time, then it is all about just the visual image. You are creating a pretty picture. It does not matter what the geometry is. It lets you do in a free form easy way than it does in another softwares that might reject it. The same thing comes when I am creating a complex piece of geometry even to be 3D printed. I like Rhino CAD software because it allows me to be very artistic and create 3 dimensional paths to extrude shapes along. It has the rigid geometry creation tools of helix and cones and ellipses and ellipsoids as well as spheres.You can build surfaces which are not solids. It allows you to manipulate push and pull surfaces and form them and shape them in ways that are not solid geometry. You can build off each surface and eventually create a surface in the part of the solid. You are not building things from primitives, you are modelling things. You can create more of what is in your mind.
Zbrush is different because it is much more of a subtractive modelling method. You are starting with a block bigger than a model. You are taking parts away and you are shaping it in different tools. It is a pixel based modelling. It is much more visual and it is a lot less CAD accurate in terms of its dimensional things. What I find most interesting with programs like ZBrush is that it adds a surface texture. Rhino CAD software is a program on its own. It can’t do that very well. The free form capabilities of geometry are what I love about it. It is less rigid in terms of parametric commands and constraints.
If you are going to step up and taking this very seriously in design of 3D printed objects, why should they pick Rhinoceros? The answer to that is when you are looking it as a design professional is that you pick it because it is in the middle, it’s the best of all worlds. It gives your artistic free form activity. It is very accurate and can be run parametrically. Rhino CAD software is an open architecture program. The company that made that program and invites companies to write plug-ins. You can expand the capability of that program depending on your particular niche of what you want to do or create. You can get a plug-in that makes it behave like Solidworks where you have all those favorite commands and are putting the constraints in and then saving all the levels of the model backwards. If I end up having to change something, I have to remake that whole model which is a pain in the neck. The plug-ins are really one of the best things. There is a bunch of jewelry plug-ins that have very specific settings and things involved in making jewelry.
I have a plug-in called Rhino Emboss. I bought it for the great way to deal with text, like following text along curves. You can imagine any different specialty within engineering or design, there is likely a plug-in to make Rhino more exactly what you want it to do. Rhino CAD software is in the middle of all the artistic ones and the engineering ones. As an industrial designer, that is what it is like.
The learning curve for Rhino is similar to the level of program, one that is higher end. It is a much larger learning curve than SketchUp or 123D. This is in the similar learning curve level to SolidWorks, OnShape, and Autodesk Inventor, but different capabilities for different reasons. This is a mistake that I think you and I find out as we interview candidates all along for various intern positions or junior designers. They standardize on whatever it is their school has, and they have not gone out to expand their experiences and learning of other CAD programs out there. We find itt is very limiting and difficult. Having experience in the other ones is extremely good in making you more professionally viable as a candidate for employment. In my experience with candidates a long time ago as potentially interviewing for positions myself, the companies did not always care which CAD program I had used as long as I had an extensive CAD experience. When you know one program you can pick up another fairly quickly.
When we look at someone that we want to dive little deeper, we need to see that they understand the geometry. There are lots of people who are really capable. I want to know that they really have an underlying understanding of the geometry and the things that go into it. I want to make sure that that capability is there because if it is there, then that is a much better candidate for making quality products at the end of the day.
You got to have a good fundamental understanding of geometry. If you are a younger person, this can help you to learn those fundamental geometric principles. That is one of the more wonderful things of the entry level programs. They do a great thing and I respect them. When you get in, you get a better understanding you have in geometry. Rhinoceros has some of the standard snap reference kind of points where it detects end points and mid points, tangents and quadrants. It is a helper to help you create geometry quickly. It is as accurate as you want it to be. OnShape has a way that you can create actual construction lines that are not part of geometry, you could turn them off and on. That was a nice feature.
Rhinoceros does not have that and so I created a ton of geometry. You can color them in different layers and do things to them. There are other rendering programs that they sell in conjunction with, and you can buy. It is really a modelling tool. I also want to touch on the cost of it briefly.
For a single user license, it is $995 for Windows users. It came out in December for Mac. It is cheaper as it costs $495 for a full Rhino 5. Back in 2009, I was a Rhino Windows user. I have always had a PC just for using Rhino because it is that a good program and I prefer it. In 2009, they came up with a beta offer because they were starting to develop Rhino for Mac, it was Rhino Release 3 at the time. It took all those years about six and a half years before they released this final Mac version of Rhino and started selling it. We were able to buy it $100 when it came out, as a beta user. I remember lots of crashing along the way.
Rhino is very friendly to schools and students. A licensed a full single user for a student or faculty for Windows, it is $195. For Mac, it was $95. They have different kinds of bundles like a 30 user lab for $1000 for schools. A 30 user lab for $1000 is very efficient. There are other bundles and things that they have. They have good school pricing.
It is hard in a quick post to capture all the real benefits of it. When we have brought some of the models that we created for 3D printing in Rhino, it was one of our angels. When we showed it to some of these guys who are using parametric programs, and they said that they would not know how to create it. Someone else looked at it and said that it was like thousands of hours worth of work to create it. You have to have shapes individually and cut it away. You have to do it like that piece by piece. All of your shapes do not have the same size.
We consider our designing to be very self similar and very fractically based on how we design. It has an organic nature to it. It has the same type of shapes but they might be different sizes within it. They might rhyme but it does not repeat. You have to recreate each one separately. This is where a program like OnShape and SolidWorks that have constraints to put on it, it would drive someone crazy who is trying to copy a design of ours like that. It drives people nuts as it takes thousands of hours.
Rhinoceros has pros and cons. It does not have parametric ability to change certain dimensions and have it automatically scale it as a certain way. You have the ability to create something more artistically than in an engineering sense. I think that is the big difference. Even though Rhino is a program you can do engineering properly. To figure out the algorithm by which you make it, it would take you forever to do it that way as well. There is that sense of it when you look at the item and you know that there is a mathematical balance on it.
Step by Step Upgrading
If I was creating straight engineering subjects that are mechanical devices or covers and shrouds, I would go on OnShape or SolidWorks type of program. It got to be better for you and easier to make changes. But if it is anything like jewelry or a tie or some wearable, you have a very significant issue in what form is it going on. We actually need to have a conversation with someone who approached us who created jewelry on the side of your head. These are the things that mean much more complexity in how you design. You need the most flexibility possible.
Final Thoughts on Rhino CAD Software
This is a hard concept to explain. I hope you all understand it. This is not just your typical engineering program. You can do engineering in it. I do like engineering. You can do heavy engineering in Rhinoceros. You can have a plug-in to make it parametric. As a basecamp program it is much more flexible in how you use it for your different applications. Give yourself the most flexibility possible if you are a student out there trying to become a designer. If you have difficulties in some areas, start at a simpler place first with the idea that you would up into something like Rhino.
It depends. I guess if I was a college student or an upper level high school student and I knew the types of things that I wanted to create that are more artistic, I would start with Rhino. But I also may start with another program in learning the fundamentals of geometry. There are a lot of YouTube videos out there, I’ve created a few via screen capture when people have asked me for help with it. CAD is always tough. There are different structures. It is very similar to 3D printers. It is not a weather one program. It is what is the right one to fit the types of things that you want to create, and your skill level and where you aspire to be.
- Rhino CAD Software
- Rhino Emboss Plug-In Tutorials
- Tom guiding listener Eduardo Martini in creating solid geometry on Rhino
- Top 10 Plug-ins for Rhino
- All Plug-ins for Rhino
- Previous CAD Software Reviews
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