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Canstruction 2017: CADD Microsystems use of Revit to Create our Entry

Allen LevyDecember 8th, 2017

This year CADD Microsystems participated in a fun and unique charity event called Canstruction. This annual event pits teams of volunteers against each other to design and build wonderful sculptures made of canned goods and other nonperishable food items. We participated in the local event sponsored by the Northern Virginia chapter of the AIA, and the can sculptures were built and displayed for a week at Ronald Reagan National Airport. When the event is over, the cans are donated to local food charities. Our event benefited the Arlington Food Assistance Center in Arlington, Virginia.

First, our team had to come up with a subject for our can sculpture. Several ideas were suggested before we decided to create a bust based on the Star Wars character, Captain Phasma.

Then we had to figure out how to build it, which cans to use, how many cans, and the funds we were going to have to raise to pay for the cans. This sounds like a job for Revit.

The next step was going out and surveying the local grocery stores for possible cans to use for the structure. This is what we came up with:

With the cans selected, we created Revit Families to represent them in a design model.

Now, some sort of framework resembling the helmet and shoulders of Captain Phasma had to be created. An attempt to use the massing tools in Revit to do this proved too difficult, so we cheated.

There are several websites that host free files for 3D printing enthusiasts. Users create and share these files. We found several Star Wars related files created by users and picked a pretty good looking First Order Stormtrooper helmet. But getting that file into Revit was also convoluted. The format of the files from the 3D printing websites is *.stl files (a file format native to the stereolithography CAD software created by 3D Systems). These file formats cannot be imported into Revit.

The file we downloaded could be opened in 3DS Max. From there it was saved in the AutoCAD DWG format.

Then that DWG file was able to be imported into Revit:

Based on the heights of the chosen cans, we added levels to the Revit project:

The rules of the competition state that leveling materials can be used in the form of cardboard, foam-core, and other materials. To create templates to be used to build these leveling plates, floor plan views were generated based on the levels in the Revit project. The floor plan views depicted a “slice” of the AutoCAD import helmet drawing:

These slices and their outlines were used to create Revit Floors, and it was the 1/8” thick floors that were used to create the cardboard leveling plates for the project:

The can families were then arranged about the edges of the floor leveling plates, creating a hollow "shell" in the shape of the bust (the cans inside the structure acted as support columns):

A Generic Models schedule was created to count the cans, and these totals were used to place our order of cans with AFAC:

Sheets were created for each of the leveling plates with their can outlines in place. The size of the sheets matched the sizes of cardboard sheets that we purchased, which were 60"x48" & 72"x48":

We numbered the leveling plates to make sure the structure was easy to assemble.

Using Revit’s Phasing tool, a set of assembly drawings was created to assist in the construction of the sculpture. Each leveling plate represented a Phase. Phase filters were applied to show the cans to be placed (New Construction) and cans that were already placed (Existing). Here are a few examples from the set:

Here is a photo of the team using the assembly drawings. The instructions were modeled after a Lego set instruction book:

And finally, a couple photos of the team building Captain Phasma and the finished product:



Interested in learning more? We'd love to chat!

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