Last night during the first night of a Computational Design class, we dove strait into using a plugin called Grasshopper for the Rhinoceros 3D modeling software. This plugin incorporates all of the programming essentials into a pretty easy to use graphical interface. Moving parameters around and attaching them to shapes and other variable objects is simple but still allows the programmer at heart to modify the values and overall characters of each parameter.

After learning how to link the functions I made to objects in Rhinoceros 3D, I see endless possibilities of what I could make. The best part is that with very little know how in Rhinoceros 3D, Grasshopper grants me the ability to create complex models at the slide of a number slider, or the turn of a knob. This graphical enhancement of a once strictly text based way of programming functions, now makes it possible for anyone with basic knowledge of the software to create multiple iterations in a fraction of the time. And since a lot of important decisions arise from iteration, I see Grasshopper as an invaluable tool now that I know how to use it (or at least get started using it).

Grasshopper is still very much in development, but I feel like if all I had were the tools that are currently available, this still look really good for this plug in. Which brings me to my next topic.

In a year, after I have more experience using Grasshopper and Rhinoceros 3D, I feel like I could reach a point where Rhino would not be the same with out Grasshopper. Meaning the role that each one plays in my design process will have been reversed. Instead of using Grasshopper as another tool in Rhinoceros 3D, the model will be built in Rhino, but then iterated using Grasshopper. I think this is how the pair is intended to be used and I believe it could have a very important impact on iteration. Because making iterations of your design in this way, on the computer, gives a much more scientific way of testing a designer’s ideas.

When drawing iterations of a chair, table, glass, phone, or whatever you are concerting, there will always be slight variances in the parts that were meant to stay the same. But, using a tool like Grasshopper, there is no re-drawing. There is only modifying certain parts of the design. As dynamic as the modifications could be with the right “programmer” behind the sliders and knobs, this tool allows you to be so precise and maintain constant values on the objects you don’t want to change. Thus, just like in scientific experiments, you can always have a perfectly accurate control model.

I am excited to use the further releases of this software and know that it has become a valuable extension of my modeling repertoire. Allowing me to do the work of many people in a fraction of the time and making it relatively simple to pic up is what separates Grasshopper from other pieces of software I have used recently. It is free to download after purchasing a copy of Rhinoceros 3D 4.0 with Service Release 8 or higher. I have linked the names of the software in the article to their web sites with downloads available.