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How to succeed with the Quadri-connector for Rhino with Grasshopper

We’ve had the chance to speak to Anders Haugland Rudfoss at Electronova, an experienced user of Rhinoceros 3D (Rhino) with Grasshopper in connection with  Trimble Quadri and Trimble Connect. He provides us with some best practices and tips on how to succeed with this Quadri-connector.

Anders Haugland Rudfoss has been working with Quadri, Novapoint and Rhino with Grasshopper for 4 years at Electronova. They work with light poles, cable manholes, electrical conduits etc. He was one of the first beta-testers of the Quadri-connector for Rhino, and has gained immense experience whilst also providing valuable feedback to Trimble for improvement along the way. In this article, he elaborates on his experiences and best practices for succeeding with the Quadri-connector for Rhino.

Improving ways of working

Improved deliveries and work processes

Anders is currently working on projects such as E16 Bjørum-Skaret and E10 Hålogalandsvegen. With the Quadri-connector, he is now able to deliver much more accurate models to the contractor. Not only in terms of model accuracy itself, but also in terms of being able to deliver exact chainage position for each object. The models they receive are so accurate that, in many cases, they can be implemented as-is without any thought. This provides comfort, and saves the contractor a lot of time on-site by reducing confusion on where exact placement is intended.

It is also beneficial for a vendor to know exactly what they have delivered. Even if the model is updated, because of the ID numbers, you know exactly what has been ordered.

The process of creating the models has also improved significantly for the designer. As opposed to creating one model, testing it and running the risk of having to model it all over again, you now only have to draw once and then make adjustments - all with an intuitive visualization tool. This saves the designer a significant amount of time for each adjustment that needs to be made. The fact that each object is interconnected is very useful when making adjustments to the lines - everything follows.

Improved cost-efficiency and risk-reductions

Another improvement that he notes, is that the connector provides all the necessary features that you would otherwise require an expensive CAD-license for. Having fewer software also means that the risk of data loss is reduced, since the input data being modeled after is directly linked to Quadri, making it faster to update placements. The likelihood of something being misplaced due to outdated foundation is significantly reduced. In addition the workflow is more streamlined for the designer.

To better serve the contractor, they also try to make objects as uniform as possible, streamlining production, installation and transport. The use of profile numbers has also greatly improved their processes. Instead of placing objects according to coordinates, they now have exact profile numbers that are matched with the model. As an example, this means that object X will be placed in a given profile to the right. Straightforward and accurate to the model.

How to get started with the Quadri-connector

Before you start

First and foremost, Anders notes that you should be somewhat comfortable with coding if you want to get the most out of the Quadri-connector to Rhino; you should also make sure that you take the time to fully understand all aspects. This way, you will get the most benefit from it. The connector itself is pretty straightforward, he says, but reaping the benefits is not.

He recommends that you start with a specific task that you want to solve, and dive into that - it’s easy to get side tracked. Let’s say you want to place a single object along the road, following one line: find that road reference alignment, see how it relates to the road and how the edge line relates to the road reference alignment. Understanding how it’s all connected saves you time that you otherwise might end up using on the wrong parts.

The optimal workflow

The workflow that Anders and his team uses starts with a design task in Quadri for Windows. After that, they connect it to Grasshopper and start pulling out the necessary lines from the road model, and the terrain data. What filters we use is dependent on what we are trying to get out. In the project they are currently working on, they have split the project into zones, with one design task per zone. They do this to avoid having too much data connected to each task. This allows them to work more efficiently, as terrain data can be quite substantial.

Existing terrain data is pulled out and height / line data is used to place objects along the road in the correct height, above or below the ground. At Electronova, they use the connector for everything within point placement of geometry, as much as they can. He says it saves them a lot of time if the road changes, since everything is connected. All you have to do is run the script again, and everything is placed on the update to the new geometry. Their team has a set up that allows them to see when an object was last altered. He has also created own Grasshopper components and C# code to make their work even more efficient, especially in terms of sorting / making sense of all the lines. With C# coding, he can save a lot of the time spent sorting; functions such as placing objects according to the road lines, so he can feed this into his own box as well as the edge of the road. Based on a spreadsheet, it will then know whether it’s on the right- or left side, allowing them to place all objects from source data.

The upsides and the opportunities for growth

One of the upsides of Trimble Quadri is that everything is connected, and this is what Anders and the team try to utilize - in addition to road lines. Previously, they only used this for tunnel work, but now they’ve started using it for open roads as well. There have been some bumps in the road, but they are making it work - the ability to extract a list with all profile numbers, which are also added to the objects makes it a lot easier to keep track and maintain control.

Another upside Anders is pointing out is that the connector allows them to work more directly in Rhino. Thus they can easily place any objects as needed.

The third and perhaps the most prominent upside, according to Anders, is not having to work with heaps of DWG files - you only need the one.

On the flipside, they do see it as an issue that it does not sort lines for you automatically. This is definitely something they’re urging Trimble to improve. Right now they solve it through a script that asks the system based on the naming structure. This is less than ideal.

Looking ahead - the ideal solution

Anders thinks that the Grasshopper connector is a solution for the future, not only because it allows for a more modern workflow, but also because Grasshopper seems to be a more and more used software in Norway.

At Trimble, we will continue to develop this connector, as well as our other connectors. Quadri will continue on its path as being software agnostic - our goal is to connect them all and make sure that workflows within and across disciplines are as efficient as possible.