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GraphSCAD – A User Friendly Nodal Editor for OpenSCAD (2018) (graphscad.blogspot.com)
122 points by app4soft 54 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 46 comments

This is a bit of a tangent but I wish I could find a tool for designing houses that was graphical but underneath based on a programming language.

There are several cad and floor planner software that are for designing houses, and modelling software like sketch up that are more general. All seem to be awkward or incomplete.

Sketch up is perhaps the fastest for visualizing the shell, but is painful to sketch something with exact measurements. You end up sketching on paper and then trying to enter it into the computer.

Sweet home 3D is clunky. Homestyler is actually really good, but doesn’t do roofs and lifts.

You can actually do great getting-a-feel sketches in The Sims (honest!) but the grid is all wrong.

And all of them treat walls and things as solid volumes. There’s no snap-to-grid on standard studwork spacings or picking walls based on cavity.

So much could be done in code eg sorting out wiring, plumbing etc.

Building models like openscad does hints at a direction where you lay out the general building and code can auto fit to actually make it buildable and produce working construction drawings etc. Even start computing structural aspects etc.

If anyone knows the killer software for designing houses easily but properly, please let me know! I may have missed something. ;)

Industry has such workflows but they currently revolve around heavy products like Tekla Structures, Grasshopper/Rhino, Revit, Archicad and so on.

I'm not aware of "light" version for "non-professional" residential projects.

The thing about buildability is that when you want an _actually_ buildable model you want vendor components(windows, curtain walls and whatnot), manufacturable details and so on and those come out of the box AFAIK only in a product like Tekla Structures.

Industry is reaching a stage where the house that is to be built on-site can be actually modeled in 3D - the current WOW is mostly that the 3D model is used to output 2d drawings and then manual building ensues as it has for centuries/decades with details that are not exactly right, lots of manual fittings and ad-hoc installations if HVAC and so on.

BIM 3D models are only now becoming detailed enough with enough cross domain support to actually model the whole thing.

Warning: self promotion ahead, but you've asked for it.

I built a company around this [0], but it's not open source, and I haven't exposed the dev platform to the public yet, and might only expose it to licensed partners.

It is a platform to create online 3d configurators for consumers and sales, driven by scripted templates that generate 3d components according to some configuration... Currently I'm leveraging webpack hot reloading, but an online IDE is on the roadmap for next year.

There are a lot of caveats in designing such a system, especially if you want to keep the performance top notch on mobile, and you want to have a modern dev experience.

The biggest value however is in the 3d components itself: simple components that compose well and allow you to build basically anything in a few days if you know what you need...

If I'd need to build it from scratch now (almost a decade later), I could probably build a cleaner, better performing platform in a couple of months in deep crunch mode.

However, if you have never done this before, it might take quite a few mistakes and a lot of refactoring before you get it right. (During the first 2 years I rebuilt the core 5 times because I had yet another use case that didn't fit in the models customers were asking for.)

If you are serious and have lots of houses to design, I might be able to help.

TBH the current website and the configurators on it are old and need some love, but if you want to see a good example of a client leveraging this tool, check this link [1], and click on 3d design.

Upfront: it's not cheap.

[0] https://virtualsaleslab.com

[1] https://brustor.com/en

Multi-domain, complex or wicked problems often have these challenges: in mechanical design, electronic design, software development, as well as traditional architecture. Parametric approaches typically break down when articulating the constraints becomes more tedious than simply solving them out of band if the number of times the problem will repeat is tolerable. Likewise, parametric approaches can excel when articulation is easy or where fitness functions are straightforward to define and generative solutions are feasible. Tool complexity creates training/hiring issues, and being tied to a tool challenges solution longevity. Use the right tool for the job.

As far as houses go, check out https://blenderbim.org/community.html - very capable developers.

TrussFab takes care of the structural aspect: https://hpi.de/baudisch/projects/trussfab.html

It’s not FOSS, and not parametric in the way you’re thinking, but versions of it work in wine: Chief architect. I use an OLD version I have of it, for visualizing renos mostly, but it has all the smarts to properly get you to something buildable to code with all the BOMs. You set your defaults for materials and measurements, which can be changed after the fact to give it a bit of a “parametric light” feel. I wish there was something as powerful and fully featured in the FOSS space.

> It’s not FOSS

GraphSCAD "probably" is FOSS and is GPL software, as it uses OpenSCAD API, which is covered by GPL License[0]; same way as all Blender add-ons should be under GPL[1] because they use Blender API, which is also GPL.

Also MCAD[2], OpenSCAD Parametric CAD Library, "should" be under GPL too, but its actually under LGPL (and I guess it volates GPL if only MCAD is based on OpenSCAD & not vice versa).

[0] https://github.com/openscad/openscad/blob/master/COPYING

[1] https://twitter.com/tonroosendaal/status/1135229215761195009

[2] https://github.com/openscad/MCAD

FreeCad is a generic parametric CAD software. It is not designed for houses, but it allows to create constraints-based designs and is scriptable through python.

So not a 100% match but it checks several of your items. If you are considering something as remote as openSCAD, I think you should give a try to FreeCAD and look at a few tutorials (its workflow is not the most intuitive thing)

See Arch[0] module for FreeCAD.

[0]: https://wiki.freecadweb.org/Arch_Workbench

> it allows to create constraints-based designs

I've never seen an architect using a constraints-type CAD design workflow.

I always thought constraint-based design is typical mechanical engineering thinking.

Do architects work with constraints as well?

> I've never seen an architect using a constraints-type CAD design workflow.

Take a look on PARAM-O[0], the visual scripting solution for Archicad powered by VisualScriptEngine.[1]

Also, here is VisualScriptCAD[2], based on VisualScriptEngine.

[0] https://graphisoft.com/param-o

[1] https://github.com/kovacsv/VisualScriptEngine

[2] https://github.com/kovacsv/VisualScriptCAD

You could make openscad modules for the various parts of your house sketch and use those. I’m not sure if that would work well or not.

OpenSCAD style thinking is CSG (constructive solid geometry).

It basically thinks of geometry in terms of volumes.

Architects think mostly in term of surfaces.

If you give them volumes, they're unlikely to know what to do with your design other than re-creating the model from scratch in their favorite tool from dimensionned 2D projections of the computed model.

It would also be great if you had some kind of declarative specification language which could generate (parts of) buildings.

Has anyone used this? How does using nodes compare to using text syntax?

One of the big problems I've found with openSCAD is that beyond a certain level of complexity it gets very hard to keep a good mental model of the constituent parts of your 3D model in your head, and so changes become hard. This is generally after things get rotated a few times. Does this make that easier?

openSCAD has a few operators to highlight/isolate the current syntax block. Have you ever used those?

Working on a project using openscad is not that different than using other cad programs: you should split your model into "modules"/functions and use composition effectively.

I generally find nodal interfaces quite inefficient in general and scale very poorly in every context I've seen them.

The biggest problem with openSCAD for me is that there's no way to "measure" in the preview window. As in: just pick two faces and give me the parallel distance and/or vertex-to-vertex distance. I don't care about precision of the preview, let me double-check!

You have no idea how often this comes up when connecting multiple parts. Computing the distance manually, while possible, is such a nuisance. Every respectable CAD program gives you a distance when clicking on things for this reason. Somehow FreeCAD made this quite unnecessarily clunky that I have to rely on addons and openscad is missing it completely :(

> The biggest problem with openSCAD for me is that there's no way to "measure" in the preview window

I agree, except for the fact that I would go one step further.

OpenSCAD would be amazing if it would let you "interrogate" a piece of geometry returned by a module, something along the lines of:

     - get the AABB of the model
     - cast a ray onto the  odel and get a sorted list of intersections
     - intersect two pieces of geometry and get a polyline out of it
and use the result of these "introspections" as parameters for subsequent manipulation/modification of the object.

If OpenSCAD could do this, it'd be simply amazing.

But I suspect it's hard to do in the current way it's implemented: what I am describing kind of breaks the current OpenSCAD paradigm because it would force injection of data coming from the "geometry stream" into the control parameters of downstream processing nodes.

I don't think the engine is designed to handle this well.

You might try exporting objects as STL and then link them in Solvespace. Edge builds do support binary STL files and it will identify edge vertices for building additional geometry.

Yeah, but then you're not in OpenSCAD anymore, and any subsequent building step has to happen in solvespace, which while it is a nice package, does not have the flexibility of openscad.

> it gets very hard to keep a good mental model of the constituent parts of your 3D model in your head

I had that exact problem initially.

Then I realized that the problem was exactly identical to designing large-scale code: however big your brain, you won't be able to keep all the details in your head after some point and therefore you need to design things hierarchically or in some sort of modular fashion, just like when you write code.

And this is where OpenSCAD really shines: if you apply the same kind of engineering discipline to your 3D models that you would to a large-scale and complex piece of code, you can make things that are way more complex than you would with a WYSIWYG type environment and have them fully parametric to boot.

The one thing that I find lacking is self-introspection capabilities, i.e if I am in a caller piece of OpenSCAD code, calling to an OpenSCAD module that returns a piece of geometry, I would love to be able to "probe" the returned geometry from the caller in order to use it in the bigger piece I'm building.

As a simple example of what I mean: it'd be great to have the AABB of the model returned by a module, or be able throw an arbitrary ray at it and get the first intersection so as to properly design the piece next to it.

I've used it to create some parametric stuff (an alternative layout piano keyboard), it's super powerful.

Here is an example:

    module slice(r = 10, deg = 30) {

        degn = (deg % 360 > 0) ? deg % 360 : deg % 360 + 360;

        difference() {

            circle(r, $fn=100);

            if (degn > 180) intersection_for(a = [0, 180 - degn]) rotate(a) translate([-r, 0, 0]) square(r * 2);

            else union() for(a = [0, 180 - degn]) rotate(a) translate([-r, 0, 0]) square(r * 2);



    module 3d_slice(height, r, deg) {
        linear_extrude(height = height) slice(r, deg);

    module key(c, n, l, padlength, a) {
        padangle = 6;
        // support

        color("brown") render() rotate([90,0,0]) translate ([0,0,13 * n]) difference() {   3d_slice(12, l, a); 3d_slice(12,l-(padlength-3),a+0.1); };

        // keypad
        color(c) render() rotate([90,0,0]) translate ([0,0,-6 + 13 * n]) difference() { 3d_slice(24, l, a+padangle); 3d_slice(24,l-(padlength-3),a+padangle+0.1); 3d_slice(24, l, a);};


    module note(n) {
        colors = ["red", "black", "white", "black", "white",     "white", "black", "white", "black", "white", "black", "white"];  
          tone   = n % 12;
          // angles just below the keypad  
          aa = 3.5;
          ab = 6; // this one is important, too small and you won't be able to press the key all the way down
          ac = 8.25;
          ad = 10;
          hingeoffset = 6;
          keypad = 30;
          length = 225;
          width = 12;
          height = 12;
          space = 1;
          xlat = (width + space) * n;

          if ((n % 2) == 1) {

          l = length - keypad + hingeoffset;

          color("brown") render() rotate([90,0,0]) translate ([-6,-hingeoffset,xlat]) cube([l,width,height]);
          key(colors[tone], n, length-3*keypad, keypad, ad);
          key(colors[tone], n, length-keypad, keypad, ab);      
      else {
          // long keys
          l = length + hingeoffset;

          // base
          color("brown") render() rotate([90,0,0]) translate ([-6,-hingeoffset,xlat]) cube([l,width,height]);
          // inner key
          key(colors[tone], n, length-2*keypad, keypad, ac);
          // outer key
          key(colors[tone], n, length, keypad, aa);      

    for (i=[0:60]) {

I've noticed the same. Partly, the need to maintain a complete mental model is obviated by the fast-iterating IDE (ie. a try-it-and-see approach) and comments. Haven't tried this frontend yet but it seems a good match to the structure of abstraction.

a lot of software use node based UI

most movie grade CGI (houdini, maya) or compositors were made this way

since most tasks don't require an abnormally large network it's ok (when it's not they try to implement submodules of some kind, it's pretty ad-hoc but it's not supposed to be the average use case)

one value of these is that it's obviously (and visually) lazy reactive. You can do the same with text but it's harder to see input/outputs on text IMO.

> a lot of software use node based UI

Yes, and as pointed out in another comment, it does not scale well.

It's nice for the "tweak" phase of - say - finalizing a shot in a CGI movie, but when you start to get more than a few thousand nodes in a setup, it's very hard to do anything.

There are mitigation solutions, such as grouping and collapsing of nodes, but that only goes so far.

Another annoying thing with node-based systems:

     - collaborative work is hard
     - version control is hard

People made full blown characters rigging and scenes with a blend of node and direct interaction. It's not just for trivial tasks only.

> most movie grade CGI (houdini, maya) or compositors were made this way

Yeah. Upcoming Olive Video Editor `0.2.x` would be fully on nodes.[0,1]

[0] https://olivevideoeditor.org/020.php

[1] https://github.com/olive-editor/olive

heh, the late 90s are back

Use less nesting and more modules.

GitHub repo: https://github.com/graphscad/graphscad

Dimitri Kolovitz's profile on Thingiverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/kolovitz/designs

The Git repo does not seem to contain the actual application.

And the actual application doesn't seem to be opensource. Welp.

Oh. Oof.

Here is a GraphSCAD thread on OpenSCAD form.[0]

Also here is Node Graph Interace to OpenSCAD in Java.[1]

FTR, I may recommend take a look on VisualScriptCAD[2] and DynFreeCAD[3].

[0] https://forum.openscad.org/Graphscad-A-New-Nodal-editor-for-...

[1] https://github.com/studiotc/NodeGraphInterface

[2] https://github.com/kovacsv/VisualScriptCAD

[3] https://github.com/infeeeee/DynFreeCAD

This type of tool will only reach its full potential when it can really go both ways, i.e going back and forth from nodal representation to actual code seamlessly.

And by seamlessly, I mean not losing your loops and recursive calls after doing minor editing to the nodal representation.

This is - of course - not easy (and no surprise, this tools does not pull it off), but it's a goal worth pursuing.

Yes, it seems like there are very few efforts that work towards seamless visual<->text code editing.

Even for things like React apps where you have pretty clear composable building blocks in the form of components, I only know of Utopia[0] as an ongoing project.

I've worked towards having a React-based interface for OpenJSCAD with Landau[1], where one of the goals was having an editor like Utopia to make most of the editing capabilites available in a standard 3D editor interface that edits the variables in the code.

[0]: https://utopia.app/

[1]: https://github.com/landaujs/landau

Wow! Just … wow! Super cool! But how far has this gotten?

Landau has gotten "good enough" to replace OpenSCAD/OpenJSCAD for my personal 3d printing use-cases, where the main benefit I was looking for as a first step is better reusability via npm packages and a familiar interface via React. E.g. in a non-public project of mine that contains a Raspberry PI case, I can just import a 3D model of the RPI[0] to visually ensure that it correctly fits the case, and easily keep them in sync.

As I don't really have time to maintain it, development usually moves forward when I find time for my 3d printing hobby, so I wouldn't advise anyone to rely on it.

Since the space of alternative React renderers has been explored more and more in the last years (e.g. Remotion[1] for producing videos), I assumed that a "proper version" of Landau would exist by now, but AFAIK there isn't one.

[0]: https://github.com/hobofan/landau-rpi

[1]: https://www.remotion.dev/

The "problem" with this is insisting on a free-text-editable version of "the code", which makes everything much harder than it needs to be.

A better approach is to go the other way, i.e. maintain the AST and project it in an editable fashion, whether that be in a graphical sense, textually, etc.

This lets you constrain the edit gestures to things that are valid in the context of the AST, and avoids the problem where the user has typed a bunch of gibberish and you can no longer "back convert" to some other representation.

A really good (but sadly largely abandoned) example of this is https://mbeddr.com

I don't disagree with you ... I am simply noting that this is a problem area that seems generic enough to apply to a lot of situations, but there surprisingly seems to be very little research going on to solve the problem properly and in a general manner.

Honest question: are such nodal editors easier for you than the indented text?

If so, how do you navigate the charts? How do you organize stuff in nice planar graphs? How do you manage to see enough with such a low information density, compared to text? What are the key advantages you see?

(Disclaimer: yes, I did use OpenSCAD to describe moderately complex geometry.)

It makes it somewhat clearer what flows where.

I'm trying to compile for FreeBSD, but main file graphscad.py is missing in the repository on Github. Please update.

Can't wait to try!

Is the text code and node graph node interchangeable? I.e. can i edit code and see the changes in the graph?

Yeah but no but...


This is the code generated for a single cuboid.

EDIT - looking a bit closer, it might not be that bad. That seems to be mostly library functions. The actual user code is fairly concise:

    function node_cube_matrix(i=0,j=0,k=0,l=0,m=0,n=0) = translate([0,0,0]);
    module node_cube(i=0,j=0,k=0,l=0,m=0,n=0)


Is this actually abandoned? It doesn't look like there's been any activity at all since 2018.

I feel exceedingly stupid for never having thought about something so simple.

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