At my work we design, manufacture and sell furniture. My role is industrial design with some elements of marketing, 3D visualization, and some graphic design.

Now we are looking into BIM (Building Information Modeling). From what I have learned there is a lot of work which goes into this. Companies like Herman Miller have revit files of their chairs online.

What I’d like to know is

a) Has anyone on here had any experience with revit or other BIM modelers?

b) Can I use my solidworks models and export into revit and add the “4D” information

c) How bloody hard is revit to learn, and would it be good for my career to learn it?

Here’s the thing you are already using BIM if Solidworks is a software that you use. Architects would like to think they discovered the next best thing but really, engineers and designers have been in this for way longer. Not to make it seem like a Revit isn’t in its own right a competent software, just saying that it’s not like you wouldn’t be able to get information out of Pro/E, Inventor, or Solidworks in the same way. Also software like ArchiCad and Bentley started doing BIM way before Revit was around, plus let’s not forget about Digital Project (Frank Gehry’s version of CATIA built specifically for BIM).

That said, as 3D modeling for furniture goes, and this might subjective depending on what designs you focus on, Solidworks is still a much more robust modeling system. Right tool for the right job… Just like you’d no sooner want to create a construction document level model in Solidworks. If I am understanding correctly when you ask about “4D information” you are referring to the meta data that’s carried in the intelligence of the model. The direct answer to that is no, but as with anything there are work arounds that can be achieved to get the results you’re looking for.

Unless you really plan on going into Architecture down the road, then I think there are far better programs to invest your time in than Revit. It’s just a huge undertaking to do if it’s not your only software that you are using on a daily basis to get your job done.

A lot of what I do is what would be called conceptual design. I use solidworks to do all of my modeling but I am also heavily involved in the 3D visualization side of the business, so I am rendering in modo.

Quite often I get a bad rough sketch or just some elevations and I produce a non-functional model just for visualization. By this I mean, there’s no nut and bolts holding the thing together. Other times I will design a product from start to finish with everything involved (timber, steel, inserts and other hardware, foam, fabric etc…)

I know that with these “functional” models which are used to produce drawings, I’d have info on the mass of materials, but it’s probably not exactly what is required for the “BIM” requirement and it’s not practical to design everything using real materials for example weldments in solidworks with 12mm solid rod. Does this make sense?

Where I currently work we design stadium and arena seating (as well as theaters and lecture rooms), so every day we’re in contact with architects looking for bim files. At first we tried to save out a file from pro/e, then rhino, but nothing was a small enough file size (they wanted 1000 chairs worth of data to take up 1 or 2 mb). Eventually our engineering IT guy picked up enough of revit to begin remodeling super simplified versions of our chairs. From what I understand it was a slow start, but not because of the modeling complexity, just lots of trial and error to get the file size that small (figuring out how much detail you can actually add).

In the end though it’s been worth it for our industry, as more and more people are starting to do layouts in revit and not in autocad.


It sounds like right now you’ve got some of the best tools needed from a visualization stand point, I mean Modo just rocks when it comes to that.

So if along that line if you are possibly starting your model in Solidworks and then importing into Modo then rendering, then you know that it’s possible to bring materials applied in Solidworks and have them render right in Modo. But if you look at the shader tree, with just the default import settings, then the materials names don’t make a whole lot of sense. Think of the information needed from BIM that comes from Solidworks in the same way. Because if you have the Solidworks Kit for Modo then it does a much better job at translating the material names in a way that makes sense. (Now IMO it should do this natively without the kit). Solidworks has BOM’s, tables, etc that give any and all information needed. Measurements, sizes, colors and really, and this is kind of simplifying it, is pretty much what BIM is giving.

If nothing else, it would really just be a matter of lining up apples to apples and then streamlining the workflow. Though I’ve not seen it a whole ton, I have seen a few Architectural firms meld SW/Revit in a very comprehensive way.