3D Patterns on Compound Surfaces/Solids

I am interested in a plug-in solution that could work side-by-side with Solidworks or Rhino 3D that would allow creating unique 3D patterns and apply them over a compounded surface. I am not interested in rendering at this point, I need to create real geometry that can be 3D printed.

I’ve heard about Zbrush but I am more interested in Plug-ins for Solidworks or Rhino.
I’ve attached a few images to describe what I am looking for.

Thanks for your help!

I think this is the type of stuff you can do with Grasshopper.

Grasshopper can be used, there have been some other discussions on this in the past as well if you search the software section:


Depending on your intent depends on how complex things become. The top square mesh pattern is probably fairly easy to achieve using a combination of wrapping features/projected curves and a good bit of manual labor. The second more random fractal is quite a bit more complex in a typical CAD tool. The picture shown looks like it’s from a Sub D modeling tool, but I could be wrong. That level of surface complexity, especially if you try to wrap it around a surface would be very intensive. You may be better looking at an in mold texturing process at that point rather than pure CAD.

Looks like both of these could be made fairly simply using Grasshopper. The first is a regular grid while I think you could make the base for the second one using a Vironoi mesh.

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You can use Zsurf for getting a textured surface based on image input. However Grasshopper is the best tool for this type of geometry and embeds a Voronoi function. I will be happy to work with you on this if you want.

Thank you all for the replies.
I will look into Grasshopper for now as it seems will come standard on Rhino 6.
I am surprised that SolidWorks does not have a plug-in (as far as I know) that could be based on grasshopper principles.
Maybe a matter of time.

Thanks again!

@love2draw: Grasshopper is absolutely the LONG way to go about doing this. Though it can be done it’s just way more work than needs to be done.

This is 100% perfect for something like zBrush. I’ve long said that the CAD world is severely lacking behind some of these VFX application when it comes to applying textures like this on geometry. Take a look a this vid just to see how this works. Keep in mind this can be 2D or 3D displaced geometry and still go to manufacturing.

The Flow Along Surface command in Rhino works okay, too. You build the pattern over a flattened approximation of the 3d surface you want to map it to (the flatten and/or smash commands are helpful there) and through a few steps translate that flat pattern onto the 3d target surface. It’s finicky and not always precise, but works within the normal Rhino workflow whereas Grasshopper is its own crazy beast, very different from your typical modeling workflow.

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@Keno: you could take it even a step further and use the image to mask with and then use the extract command…:slight_smile:

Anyone who thinks that grasshopper for this kind of thing would be quicker is definitely smoking some serious doobies!!!

:laughing: out of curiosity, I tried it in grasshopper and got it done in about 1.5 hour - it’s also my first time really using Grassopper in a surfacing/meshing capacity. I typically use it for stuff more closely related to architecture. It’s certainly doable but I wouldn’t call it trivial. It’s probably way faster to do it with some kind of 2D mapped displacement method. You could always use Grasshopper to make the 2D asset… :unamused:

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Using the image method assumes you already have the image ready and to a proper quality. If you have to make that yourself it is likely as fast to use Grasshopper. Though admittedly the ability to do as such in Grasshopper is a rare skill in Product Design.

You can also try the ApplyDisplacement command in rhino. It’s basically a bump map that gets the height values from a grayscale bitmap. It’s pretty memory intensive, and the output will be mesh, but it might be a valuable shortcut for some projects.

@Louis…even the best GH person wouldn’t be able to set this up faster than doing this as a displacement map. More than anything else right tool for the right job…In this instance there’s no comparison. The only reason why I’d shy away from Rhino’s native displacement is that the UV mapping capability is “ok” at best. Also the possibility that you may need to crank up the settings in the displacement options can, at times, slow down a lot because of how Rhino handles mesh. Especially when this is compared to zBrush.

@Keno: not sure what you mean by step up, zBrush is only $800. So if anything I do believe that you’d only have to pay the difference in price in order to upgrade. BUT this could be done in zBrush Core.

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@Keno: Understood… I guess my only question would be…why would you need it for both Mac and PC? Do you alternate that much between both? If not just upgrade with what you have. Though I do agree that there shouldn’t be an additional price difference just to get the software to operate on both platforms.

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Then just use Boot Camp on a Mac and call it a day if laying out the $$ for an upgrade isn’t in your budget.