Autodesk Labs recently announced the Project Spark technology preview. Based on a Revit Technology Platform Spark previews a simpler leaner Revit aimed at new entrants to the world of Building Information Modelling.
Some might say, in a Jeremy Clarkson voice, this is a Limited Technology Revit with features aimed at a user wanting to move from a CAD LT to BIM LT workflow.
So what is Spark?
Project Spark is based on the Revit Architecture code base, but does not support conceptual design, analysis, rendering, advanced collaboration tools, or expose an API.
So it is Revit, but not quite Revit?
I imagine much debate went into which Revit features were omitted. For the most park I think the balance is reasonable but would argue some of these limitations should be reconsidered. The full list is:
While the emphasis of Spark is element modelling I think it is regrettable the Massing to Built Element workflow is not supported. It is a significant advantage of the Revit BIM toolset allowing a design to flex as the project develops. Maybe this is because the Project Vasari preview is exploring massing although it targets conceptual design analysis, rather than the mass>element flow.
I think work-sharing is pretty irrelevant for the intended Spark user. If you are doing simple projects the complication of work sharing, worksets is often just an overhead. The term “Lonely BIM” nicely captures what Spark will allow, although there is linking for leveraging other models as a reference.
Simplified phasing isn’t a problem as as built, demo, new is about all you need. The emphasis in Spark is direct modelling (Walls, doors,windows etc.) so the lack of parts/assemblies and adaptive components is forgivable. While no Trusses might annoy its a limitation Revit Architecture users faced until fairly recently. I know some BIM Managers who would like the Spark limitation “No In-place families” to be a full Revit option!
The omission which most troubles me is Design Options. Even for “Lonely BIM’ers” they are a powerful tool to evaluate alternative schemes in a single model. While it could be considered “complicated” I would rather see Spark being used develop a simplified Design Option process. Imagine set creation, element allocation and view isolation being more coordinated with a “Create an option” tool. I’d like to see the sun path toolset offered but wonder if this is tied to the removal of render?
Looks like Revit, feels like Revit
The UI will be very familiar to Revit users with the same “Love the ribbon” layout and many of the same functions. The Home Tab features Building Elements, Model Text & Lines, Ramp, Stair, Railing, Openings, Grids/Levels, Room & Area tools. The Work Plane viewer which arrived in Revit 2012 is also present.
Insert Tab — Revit, CAD, DWF Mark up and Image linking and Family Loading (from disk) and Search using Autodesk Seek service.
Annotate Tab — Very Revit including Detailing, Tagging and Keynotes
Structure Tab — Allows basic structural items to be modelled but no trusses or analytics.
Site Tab — All the usual Revit tools including parking, pads & surface tools (with the same features & limitations as Revit!)
View Tab looks very Revit!
Manage Tab — The appearance of Materials may seem odd when Spark can’t render. It allows Materials to be added & controlled for viewing in the “Realistic” view and the model to be prepared for FBX export to other render applications.
Modify Tab — Typical Revit
Family Editor Home Tab — Spark offers the familiar Revit Family Editor (content creator) with some templates and functions removed (adaptive & massing)
In & Out of Spark
Spark can not open Revit 2012 .rvt files but can link them for contextual reference. The result is more like an “intelligent BIM block” than an editable model. You can see, snap to, crop & control visibility (element or category) of the linked file but not alter it in any way.
These links are upgraded during insert the same way a new version of Revit does to older format linked files (hint).
Spark can Publish (to Buzzsaw), Share (with Autodesk Seek) and Print like Revit does.
It also offers the CAD, DWF, FBX and image export formats but does not Render.
Some limitations of Spark for existing Revit 2012 Users
Revit 2012 can not open Spark.rvt files as they are seen as coming from “a later version” (hint, hint).
Revit 2012 created Families can be used in Spark. However, families made in Spark can not be used in Revit 2012. The “later version” file format prevents them being opened.
New to BIM, let Spark be your guide
Spark has tutorials & videos in the Getting Started Guide to introduce the concept of BIM, application and modelling process.
The preview is free, although a 3GB download*, and will operate until July 7, 2012. Distribution is (currently) limited to: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States. For full conditions review the FAQ web page & pre-install license agreement.
A Technology Preview, seeking your feedback, have your say!
* One thing I learnt from Spark is Windows 7 doesn’t regard a download as “activity”. I have my home PC on a fairly aggressive power saving setting & it went to sleep about 1GB into the 3GB download and didn’t recover when awakened. For the second attempt I set the “Always On” power scheme!