Posts Tagged ‘ArchiCAD’

Optimize ArchiCAD 3D BIM Models to View on Mobile Devices

February 29, 2012 3 comments

BIMx is GRAPHISOFT’s solution to explore, present, communicate and share design. BIMx enables architects and their clients to walk through professionally rendered 3D models with an easy-to-use navigation interface.

BIMx files can be exported from the ArchiCAD BIM software as a self-contained executable file for Mac or PC, or as a BIMx file that runs in the BIMx player app on iOS  mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

If you are not familiar with BIMx yet, you can try it now — just download a sample file along with the player environment from the Facebook-integrated BIMx community site.

How Large Can BIMx Models Be?

The maximum size of a model depends on the device where the project will be presented. BIMx uses OpenGL technology, so the video memory is often decisive. Still, due to smart optimization, even mobile devices can run amazingly complex models.

It is important to note that the BIMx file size is not indicative of the model complexity. What really counts is the memory usage of the geometry. When saving a BIMx file, this geometry size is calculated and labeled either Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large.

BIMx file save dialog indicates model complexity.

Figure 1: BIMx file save dialog indicates model complexity.

Small models run on any device. Medium size models will most likely run on mobile devices, but might be slower to navigate; while large models will only run on the latest mobile devices like iPad2 and iPhone4. Extra large models are not suitable for mobile devices, but will work well on desktops and laptops with powerful video cards.

How Can I Optimize Model Size?

By optimizing your model, you can achieve smoother navigation, especially on lower-spec devices. Optimization means lowering the size of memory needed to run your model. You can achieve this in three ways:

  • Lowering the polygon count of the model
  • Reducing the number and size of textures used
  • Exporting model without global illumination.

Lowering Polygon Count

With the help of ArchiCAD’s PolyCount Add-On (which is a goodie tool — see ArchiCAD downloads under ArchiCAD’s Help menu), you can keep track of the overall polygon count of your model.

You can reduce the number of polygons by:

  • Filtering elements — turn off layers of building elements that you don’t necessarily want to show in your model. Use the marquee tool to crop the model if you only want to show parts of it.
  • Reducing the complexity of objects — many library objects have settings for level of detail. Curved elements also have resolution settings. Lower resolution means fewer polygons.
  • Leaving out unnecessary details — plants, car and people objects are often very complex. Look for such objects with low polygon counts. Door knobs, faucets, taps are often very complex even though their model dimensions are small.

Optimizing Textures

The number and size of textures can greatly inflate the model size. Here are some tricks to optimize textures:

  • Use low-res, compressed images (e.g. .JPG files) as images. With an image editor you can reduce the texture map’s size to a size which still looks good enough in 3D, but results in a smaller .JPG file.
  • Use as few textures as possible. Make sure that similar materials use the same texture map file.
  • Don’t apply texture to elements whose model dimensions are small and therefore the texture doesn’t really improve the overall image quality.

Export Without Global Illumination

Global Illumination is an optional setting at model export that adds a more realistic lighting effect to the model, but uses considerable hardware resources. In the BIMx desktop viewer, you can check exactly how much video RAM it requires (see Figure 2). If a model proves to be too heavy with global illumination turned on, re-export the model a second time without this setting.

Exact memory usage and model size data.

Figure 2: Exact memory usage and model size data.

You can find more information about BIMx on If you want to learn more about optimizing your model for BIMx, check out our knowledgebase.

Author: Gergely (Greg) Kmethy, director of customer support at GRAPHISOFT

The CAD World Thanks You, Steve Jobs

October 7, 2011 4 comments

Thank You Steve JobsCADspeed editors would like to pay tribute to Apple cofounder and former CEO Steve Jobs, who passed away on Wednesday. Although PC users outnumber Mac users in our field, often it was technology conceived by Jobs and developed by Apple that influenced and even transformed the CAD world over the years.

Under Jobs, Apple released the first Macintosh 128 in 1984, according to Wikipedia. Just a year later, Diehl Graphsoft was founded and released MiniCAD, which became the best-selling CAD software on the Mac. Alongside MiniCAD, Diehl Graphsoft also released Blueprint, a 2D CAD program for the Mac targeted at architects. Now MiniCAD is known as Vectorworks and Diehl Graphsoft is Nemetschek Vectorworks, still major players in the CAD world.

In those early years, Apple made forays into several technical, architectural, and engineering markets. Over the years, the company lost ground to PCs in some industries, but Apple stood strong among its dedicated users in 2D design and video markets. Some major CAD software developers, including ArchiCAD and Vectorworks, have supported Mac users for decades.

Jobs stood fast in his belief that hardware and software created by the same company was the way to develop the best products. Apple’s rise in the past decade, with the introductions of the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, is a testament to his vision.  “If the hardware is the brain and the sinew of our products, the software is their soul,” was one of the last things he said publicly, at an Apple event on June 6.

Today, Jobs’ legacy lives on in the recent re-release of AutoCAD for Mac and the growing number of CAD-related apps built on Apple’s iOS platform. Because of Jobs, somewhere right now a CAD designer is sitting on a bench in a park, eating lunch and using an iPad to view and mark up a CAD drawing. One man’s vision changed our world. From all of us, thank you, Steve Jobs.

Find the Optimal Hardware Configuration for ArchiCAD

August 23, 2011 5 comments

One of the most common questions our tech staff gets from customers is “What is the best hardware config for ArchiCAD?” It’s easy to go overboard and buy the most expensive of everything, but many times less expensive components are almost just as good. The “optimal” configuration is almost as fast as the “best” configuration, with a more attractive price tag.

Let’s review the priorities:


The processor is still the most important component of your config. Since ArchiCAD supports multiprocessing, we recommend 4-core processors. 6 and 8 cores are significantly more expensive while providing little benefit, so 4-core is the most optimal choice. Pick something from the middle range — prices rise exponentially with performance.


ArchiCAD supports 64-bit. To see the benefits of this, you need at least 8GB of physical RAM. While most of the times ArchiCAD will use significantly less than this, since RAM is now cheap there is really no reason to economize here. There are times when you will run multiple copies of ArchiCAD or run other applications simultaneously.

Hard Drives

ArchiCAD stores cached data while it operates, so there is a lot of file I/O going on while working in ArchiCAD — not just when saving files. Therefore hard drives are a key — and often overlooked — speed factor. With the price of solid state drives coming down considerably in the past year, they might be a sensible investment. You don’t need a huge SSD. You are better off with a smaller (say 128GB) SSD combined with a large conventional hard drive. You will install the system and ArchiCAD on the SSD, but you will store files on the conventional drive.

Video Cards

ArchiCAD uses hardware acceleration in both 2D and 3D. That said, while the importance of hard drives is often underrated, video cards are often overrated. In general we can say that it is more important to have a recent video card than a particularly high-end video card. It’s not a bad practice to replace the video card at the half of your computer’s lifespan.

When you buy a new card, it’s important to have enough video RAM. We currently recommend 1GB. Drivers are key for optimal performance. If you want to have a peace of mind about drivers, you might consider going with a “professional series” video card — at a much heftier price. You can find a list of recommended cards in our knowledge base.


Screen real estate is a huge productivity factor. Here we have only one recommendation: The bigger the better. You can also hook up two monitors, if your video card supports that.

Author: Gergely (Greg) Kmethy, Team Leader, Technical Support, Graphisoft

Memory Makes A Difference: Performance of ArchiCAD on 64-bit Versus 32-bit Operating Systems

March 15, 2011 2 comments

 When Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD 14 was released last year, a client called us about upgrading. The upgrade was a significant one, as this company was still using ArchiCAD 10. At this point, the company’s drafters were essentially working around problems with their system, which included “Memory Full” errors when updating elevation sheets and other system timeouts.

Yet upgrading had the potential to fix more than just the memory issues.  The lure of building information modeling (BIM) and improved 3D renderings made a lot of sense for this client’s business plan. This medium-sized, privately owned business specializes in custom home design and construction. The ability to improve their collaboration efforts, cut their production time while creating sophisticated 3D modeling could impact everything from their engineering department to their marketing and sales team.

64-bit Versus 32-bit Operating Systems

The company had already invested in upgrading its hardware, buying updated Dell Business Workstations. But they had yet to take the leap to a 64-bit operating system. ArchiCAD 14 was designed to use a 64-bit operating system, unlike ArchiCAD 10.

Often clients ask us about the difference between 64-bit and 32-bit operating systems. The terms refer to the computer’s processor (also called a CPU), which controls how the computer handles information. For example, the 64-bit version of Windows handles large amounts of random access memory (RAM) more effectively than a 32-bit system. A 64-bit operating system can make a huge difference in the ability of workstations to work with high-end CAD applications. 

Our first step for the upgrade was updating the operating system on the client’s current computers to the 64-bit version of Windows. Before we did the OS upgrade, we ran some timed tests so we could compare how the system worked before the upgrade with how it worked after.

Redraw Type ArchiCAD 10 on
Windows 32-bit OS
ArchiCAD 14 on
Windows 64-bit OS
South 2 min 30 sec 58 sec
West 2 min 18 sec 42 sec
Section #1 1 min 8 sec 3 sec
3D Rendering – All 1 min 45 sec 22 sec
Elevation Sheet Update (Stopped after 5+ min and third “Memory Full” warning) 2 min 20 sec

These tests were on the same Dell computer with the same amount of RAM, just different versions of the Windows operating system and ArchiCAD. As you can see, the processor made all the difference in running the advanced features of CAD application, significantly cutting down the time for redraws even while running the more advanced features of the newer version of ArchiCAD.

Authors: Mark Shaw and James Ecklund