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Grasshopper for generative design

The famous “Bird’s Nest Stadium” in Beijing, the honeycomb-like wall cladding of the auditorium of the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall in Hamburg or the Louvre Abu Dhabi – without the use of digital tools, the design, and, above all, the construction of these spectacular buildings would be nigh on impossible.

However, the use of algorithms – in architecture as well as in (product) design or construction – has meant that what was once inconceivable is today increasingly feasible. Today we – and naturally also csi entwicklungstechnik – work with parametric design tools, such as the Grasshopper 3D platform, to design unique, often organic-looking shapes and complex structures and – crucially – combine them to form real "functioning" units, that is end products. This graphical programming language, used in conjunction with the Rhinoceros environment, has elevated computer-aided design to a new level.

Programming beats studying

In this approach, known as generative design, everything depends on everything else. Specifically,  this means that every change to the parametric model leads to changes to other parts of the design. So you can have fun playing around with different versions, but you always get a fairly accurate picture of what the final product might look like or what it might feel like to walk through a space with an architectural project.  Grasshopper can do a lot when used as a standard tool for design, construction and architectural applications. However, there is, or was, still room for improvement in terms of surfaces or surface design. 
Here at csi, we addressed this issue, as we either already have or will find a solution for everything. In this specific case it was Tuyen, more precisely Xuan Tuyen Nguyen. Our secret weapon, a (former) design student, has a real sense for shapes, but – something you don’t often find – they are also a really good programmer. His final year dissertation, completed this year at Dresden Technical University, dealt with the components that were missing on the Grasshopper platform. In specific terms, he programmed and then optimised plug-ins for specific surface requirements and tolerances. As a result, we are now capable of developing exceptional solutions and products even faster, especially in terms of A-class issues, that is surface issues in interior and exterior design. 
This was used, among other things, in the design of the surface lighting elements on our “Vision T.” innovation project – as can be seen in the photos.

Sometimes words actually say more than pictures

Grasshopper does not actually require any programming or scripting knowledge. There is also an extensive library of plug-ins and extensions that you can draw on, which were developed by the very active Grasshopper community. That delivers myriad options. However, if you are also using text-based programming languages – as we did – you can take “Grasshopper” even further and really creatively think outside of the box. We now have the option of creating scripts, saving functions and using them for other projects or workflows, or creating interfaces to other design or analysis tools. So now we can complete the entire design and planning process even more quickly and more efficiently, from initial visualisation of the concept to delivery of the finished 3D data set. 

Using Tuyen's new plug-ins, we can now design switches or buttons even more easily that function properly but would also look great enlarged to XXL format as a stadium (as you can sse a few examples). The shapes can thus be translated to different surfaces – regardless of their size. So if you have a project in mind that we can model for you – bring it on, regardless of whether it involves buildings, vehicles/parts or something completely different. We have the right tools and programs. If not, we'll create them.

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csi entwicklungstechnik | Zwickau

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