There are many great attributes to ArchiCAD’s modeling environment. The building information modeling package allows one to create very detailed models that can be explored and presented in 3d to clients. However, when it comes to adding in realistically modeled products to the model, the 3d library that ships with ArchiCAD is underwhelming to say the least. Most of the objects are boxy and crude and look painfully basic in 3d and 2d views.
Recently, Graphisoft has made some improvements in this area. For example, .SKP files can be imported into the model. And to a lesser degree of success, there is a .3DS “Goodie” that covers some very basic import of .3DS files. However, there are more ubiquitous formats that are overlooked, those being Alias .OBJ and Autodesk FBX. Together, these two formats alone cover a vast number of parts that can be found online and Graphisoft has not provided import options for these formats.
Enter ModelPort. A new Add-on for ArchiCAD.
With many thousands of highly-detailed objects on the internet it is now easier than ever to bring them into ArchiCAD as 3d GDL objects. The ModelPort Add-on opens the door for users to import OBJ, FBX as well as 3DS and DAE (Collada) formats. ModelPort’s conversion includes a detailed, projected 2d symbol and creates ArchiCAD materials with the original texture maps in place. There are scaling and rotation tools to help you dial in the correct size of the objects and there are handy file management tools to allow you to easily save your imported objects into custom Library folders for future use.
I have been using the plug-in to place higher-end appliances in my residential projects. Products like Subzero and Wolf Appliances exist in abundance in OBJ and FBX formats. They look much better than the Refrigerator object provided by Graphisoft. I also have improved the furniture representations in my 3d views by downloading more realistic looking sofas and chairs. I also have found some more interesting lighting fixtures to add to my models. You still need to add some light sources to make those objects work in renderings though.
While I found that most objects came in superbly, some objects were much larger in file size that others due to the original resolution of the model. Be careful to check the GDL file size before continuing on with your project as it may bloat ArchiCAD’s memory footprint. You can see at import how many polygons are being created in the model. And keep an eye on your project file size as you start using the tool. Several hi poly objects, like trees, for example, can send your typical BIM Model into the stratosphere. You could be clever though by using a Module as a container for ModelPort objects. That way, you could attach/detach the Module as a means of reducing the BIM file size. Such a case could be made for a firm that does higher quality renderings at certain stages in the project development.
Installation and licensing are straight-forward and once the Add-on is installed into the Add-ons folder, The New ModelPort menu tab appears. From there, you can import objects that you find online. I am a fan of DesignConnected. They have all kinds of top-notch objects with wonderful textures. Their website is a dream to navigate and you can find some free objects there to try out with ModelPort.
You can purchase ModelPort OBJ if you only want the older formats, OBJ and 3DS or ModelPort FBX if you want the more contemporary formats, FBX and DAE. I personally went for the ModelPort Bundle as I wanted all of the formats to broaden my net of compatibility when sourcing objects online.