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Unfolding Surfaces

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I noticed that Vectorworks 2009 Architect and Designer has the ability to unfold an object into surfaces. This is something I could have used in the past year for a project that involves generating shop drawings for a roof shape made of steel plating.

Did anybody try the Unfolding Surfaces yet? Does it work? And what types of objects does it unfold? I was wondering if it could take an entire building and transform it into a foldable paper model.

This feature reminds me alot of that boat and product designing program, MC Nurbs Creator. It also has that unique ability to unfold 3D objects.

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I have unfolded several surfaces in VW 2009 and it will unfold NURBS and CSG objects that curve in one direction only. 3D polygons seem not to work at this point.

In my opinion, I applaud the movement towards unfolding but there is a ways to go. I would still use Pepakura (http://www.tamasoft.co.jp/pepakura-en/) to unfold developable surfaces for a whole building model. It is a kids program but it is extremely easy to use and creates adjustable tabs and labels the pieces for ease of assembly. As for double curved surfaces I would use Rhino's unroll surface command. There is also Touchcad (http://www.touchcad.com/) that unfolds and takes into account thickness of materials, but it is an investment. The pro to purchasing Touchcad is that it reads native Vectoworks files where as Pepakura you would have to export the file to be readable.

I am anticipating that NNA will continue to develop this tool in future releases and that it will improve in time.

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Thanks for the info - I will have to give Pepakura a try. It looks like the demo does not save or export files, but printing the result would work. [woops, I just found out that Pepakura is Windows only - which leaves me with TouchCad ].

I suspect that Vw2009's Unfolding Surfaces, while a byproduct of the Parasolids engine, is mainly intended for the Machine Design version of Vectorworks. But I have found this to have some useful Architect functions. Like unfolding a pyramidal roof shape for a precise cutting pattern. I guess that converting a multiple extrude into a NURBS object can do this. Roof surfaces use 3D polygons, which you say do not work.

Apple has delayed shipment on the new 17" MacBook Pro for a couple weeks, which puts my 2009 upgrade on hold. So I'll have to stay with VWA2008 on my "old" G4 PowerBook for now. :(

Edited by Bob-H

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I horsed around with the VW2009 Unfold Surfaces command. It is a welcome addition to VW PowerPack Commands, but has some quirks. Here are some observations:

1. The command only works with NURBS and something called CSG solids (search of VW help does not result in def of that acronym). A simple extrude does not respond to the Unfold command. Need to Convert to NURBS and Ungroup.

2. Many solids can be converted to NURBS, but lose their volumetric and cohesion in the process - they become a collection of NURBS surfaces. So work on a dupe!

3. The Unfold command saves the 3d object and creates a group of new 2d polygons on the working plane.

4. The new 2d polys from the command are placed on the drawing in a way which may require some thought and rearrangement.

5. For example, create a 2"x2"x6" extrude and convert to NURBS and apply the Unfolding command. Result is 6 new polys, one for each face, but they are stacked! Select and move the new polys to see what is underneath.

6. Why the new objects are oriented is unclear. Change view and unfold again - different arrangement of 2d polys.

7. Assign edge and fill colors to the orig NURBS, and the corresponding 2d polys will have the same attributes, so you may be able to tell which one goes where.

8. Cut a hole in a 3d face (remember to ungroup), and the Unfolded poly for that face retains the hole. Sometimes. And holes affect how the 2d poly is arranged.

9. VW crashed unfolding an extrude/NURBS with some holes. Needs polish.

Can it take an entire building and transform it into a foldable paper model? Um, maybe. With a lot of work sorting & reorienting the parts and applying elevation info over each face poly.


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