Digital Blue Foam: the Absolute Beginners Guide
New to Digital Blue Foam? In this article, we show you what to expect — and do — when you first sign up for Digital Blue Foam
By the end of this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create your first design project in Digital Blue Foam and leave with a solid understanding of how to develop data-driven building proposals with Digital Blue Foam — by using 3D sketching and generative design in the browser.
There’s a lot of hype around ‘Generative Design’ — from scripting, and visual-programming, to Machine Learning — a wave of compelling technologies to help automate the building design process. But creative play is at the core of every designer. For us at Digital Blue Foam, we believe generative design is not about building a computational black-box. Instead, we are focused on making generative design as a new medium for creative play — and in the process make the world of computational design available to everyone in the building industry.
If you approach Digital Blue Foam with the mindset of designing through play, you’ll be able to learn it quickly. And on top of that, you might end up learning about computational design as well.
Before we explain the technicalities of the platform, lets first talk about who are users are.
What is Digital Blue Foam?
Digital Blue Foam is a web-based design and analysis tool, project resource, workflow connector, and real-time collaboration tool. Each aspect of the platform is represented by a particular product/feature set:
Digital Blue Foam map is a 3D interactive map environment that allows you to search and locate your project site and define your work-space anywhere in the world. In DBF map you can display satellite, map and 3D information of the urban context. Additionally, DBF map offers urban analysis tools of the urban context and predictive analytics for your project. DBF urban insights enriches your project with data allowing you to gain a quick and detailed understanding of your site in terms of land-use, accessibility, walkability, neighborhood quality and descriptive statistics of the urban context.
DBF designer allows you to quickly generate design solutions for your project using AI-powered sketching to augment your creativity. DBF designer offers you a kit of tools to make 3D digital sketching fast, easy, fun and intelligent. All you need to do is set the goals and constraints of your project and iterate through different solutions to explore the potential of your site.
As you generate solutions you can fine-tune and reshape your design with editing tools that give you full control over the final output while getting instant feedback on design metrics as you update your design. This makes working with DBF designer the fastest and easiest tool to generate design proposals.
DBF designer offers powerful sustainability analysis tool that you can use to understand how your design solution respond environmental demands for sunlight, shadows and wind.
DBF Data-Center allows you to extract detailed information of your project and the design solutions that you have created in DBF designer. Here you will find a comparative matrix where you can compare your design solutions according to building key statistics and program breakdown. This is the place where yo can review your project and share information with your collaborators, clients and consultants.
DBF Hub offers real-time connection to BIM software packages. This means you can easily stream your projects from the DBF online platform directly to your BIM software on your desktop. DBF Hub supports the following connections:
- Autodesk Revit
- Graphisoft Archicad
- Rhinoceros3D / Grasshopper
Okay, now that we have the lay of the land, let’s talk about diving in.
Designing your first project
Digital Blue Foam offers a set of tools that help you get started with any project in a matter of minutes.
In order to get started you will need a project site. Once you have defined a site, Digital Blue Foam will help you explore and unlock the potential of your development site by allowing you to generate, test and porotype your design ideas.
Lets get started.
Get your contextual data
Every project starts with a location. Before you start get stuck into designing, it helps to have some information about your site.
Digital Blue Foam makes this easy. Using our map tool, you will hunt and gather information about the project’s urban context. This includes:
- Neighborhood quality
- Environmental data
- Site amenities
- Social media check-ins
- Topography and satellite maps
- Urban regulations
This list goes on. Check out the following video to see how you can get all the information you need in a few seconds.
All you need to do is type your location and mark your site:
After locating your site on the Map, Digital Blue Foam will automatically fetch geo-located data from several sources. This means you can start your project with a solid foundation of contextual information.
We are now ready to start modelling.
Sketch some lines
3D sketching is one of Digital Blue Foam’s super powers. Using our interactive pen tools you can visually mark your ideas and influence generative design in a few strokes.
Using the pen tools you will be able to test different design scenarios, building configurations and divisions for your site.
To do this you can perform the following steps:
- Activate the Polyline by clicking on the polyline button. To draw a polyline:
- Pick once to set the start of a segment.
- Continue picking until the polyline is complete, and double click to finish.
2. Activate the Spline by clicking on the Spline button. To draw a spline:
- Press and hold the right click button and draw the spline path.
- Release click to finish
For more on the pen tool, check out our “Pen Tools” tutorial
Generate a few options
Now that you have marked important site axes, we are ready to explore how we can generative designs with the play button.
To generate a design, there are 3 simple steps:
1 Input Goals and Constraints
- You can start by setting goals and constraints for your project on the right hand-side settings panel. In this panel, you can define the following input parameters: Number of Subplots, Site Coverage, Gross Floor Area and Maximum Height.
2 Set Typologies
- Additionally, you can click on the Typology tab of the settings panel, to further customize your settings. On the top part of the menu you can define what building typologies you would like to use. On the bottom part of the menu you can define other parameters such as, building offset, building cantilever, grid resolution and plot angle(orientation).
These inputs will be used to inform your design exploration and test out possible design solutions for your site.
3 Press Play
- Click on the PLAY button to start generating design solutions for your site. The generate tool will use the settings that you specified in previous steps and present you with possible solutions.
- Click on the PAUSE button to stop the cycling of options at any particular design that you find interesting.
- Use FORWARD and BACKWARD buttons to go back and forth the options that have been generated.
For more on Generative Design, check out our “Generate Design” tutorial
Editing and refining
Once you have generate some designs you like, Digital Blue Foam allows you to continue to refine and edit models — just like any other 3D software.
In order to move, scale and rotate blocks, you can use the gumball commands. The Gumball displays a gumball widget on a selected object facilitating move, scale, and rotate transformations around the gumball origin.
By default when you select a block the gumball mode is set to Move. You can activate the other gumball modes with the keyboard keys [W] move, [E] Rotate and [R] Scale.
You can modify your design blocks by pushing and pulling the block faces. This would allow you to have greater control over your massing study, align building faces, create setbacks, and shape more complex building configurations.
Create Building Setbacks
Combine Split Block modification with Push and Pull edit mode transformations to create setbacks in your design. The image below shows a sequence of operations to create a multi-tier tower with setbacks at different levels.
In the image below you find resulting design after combining block edit and push/pull modifications.
For more on Editing and Modifying a design, check out our “Edit Block” tutorial
Now you know the basic steps to get started with Digital Blue Foam! From this point you can continue to refine your designs, share your project with your team via the DBF Data Center, or download or sync to your favorite software using DBF Hub.