Product Design

BonZai 3D Takes Root at SIGGRAPH

12 Aug, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

A nimbler, easier modeler from form.Z's maker AutoDesSys.

The new technology offshoot from AutoDesSys, shown at the company's booth at SIGGRAPH, is dubbed BonZai 3D. As the name suggests, the software is a lighter, simpler variation of the company's flagship solid and surface modeler, form.Z.

"We're very excited about it," said David Kropp, AutoDesSys cofounder and senior vice-president of development. "A lot of people are telling us they think this is going to address their needs."

In the announcement, AutoDesSys wrote, "You can think of form.Z as the Swiss army knife of 3D modeling and BonZai as a penknife you carry around to depend on for quick solutions to all kinds of immediate needs."

At SIGGRAPH, form.Z's maker, AutoDesSys, previewed BonZai 3D, described as the offspring of form.Z.

Miniature Modeler
The so-called offspring of form.Z (AutoDesSys' words) debuted at AIA 2008 in May (Boston, Massachusetts) before it appeared at SIGGRAPH. The software is expected to feature form.Z's trademark characteristics: solids modeling, NURBS surfaces, Mac and Windows support, Boolean operations, and import/export translators, among others.

"There'll be a public beta version prior to the software's release," Kropp explained. When it's ready, the beta will be made available as a download at "Some people will view it as an entry to form.Z," Kropp observed. "For others, it might be just what they need. To those who don't need all the features of form.Z, BonZai allows us to deliver something at an affordable price, in a fresh interface."

Comparison to SketchUp
Those who've seen BonZai can't help comparing it to another lightweight 3D modeler, Google SketchUp. In fact, some users in the SketchUp Community forum went so far as to refer to it as "a SketchUp clone." At [pushpullbar]2, an architecture and design forum, user Kurdi called it "a new sketch-oriented modeler." Another user greeted it with enthusiasm. "SketchUp with NURBS and solid-modeling? That would be a dream come true!" wrote Dsarch.

According to AutoDesSys' announcement, BonZai supports 3D printing, so users can expect the software to offer features for exporting STL files for rapid-prototyping. SketchUp currently doesn't offer direct support for STL, but user-written SketchUp STL export scripts and utilities are available.

Whereas Google offers a version of SketchUp as a free download, AutoDesSys plans to sell BonZai. "It would be competitively priced," said Kropp. It goes without saying it would be priced lower than form.Z, currently listed as $1,249 by itself or $1,749 with RenderZone (at