Hey @EzVidz - we’re working on dedicated documentation capabilities. There is a long thread covering the progress here.
Interestingly enough, before starting on the BlenderBIM Add-on, I actually started hacking on FreeCAD’s BIM, Arch, and Draft capabilities. It was actually a conscious decision to stop hacking on FreeCAD and build the BlenderBIM Add-on instead. There are a number of what I hope to be well considered reasons for this.
- Two geometric paradigms are better than one.
Blender and FreeCAD focus on different geometric paradigms. We need both in the AEC industry. They are suited to different situations. IFC also supports both geometric paradigms, so having editors that are well suited to both is desirable. Similarly, with two applications, it makes it far better to test out round-tripping, without having to rely on proprietary BIM applications where it’s usually impractical due to numerous bugs that take years to fix.
- We take a completely different approach to FreeCAD in BIM support
FreeCAD uses a FreeCAD specific BIM data structure, and to interoperate with other non-FreeCAD tools requires import or export. In the BlenderBIM Add-on, we actually only use Blender as an interface. Under the hood, we don’t use a Blender specific BIM data structure: instead, we use IFC natively. It might look like you’re pushing Blender meshes and vertices, but in actual fact, you could be moving parametric IFC solids. As a result, in FreeCAD, the .fcstd means everything. In the BlenderBIM Add-on, the .blend file is meaningless - you can delete it and you won’t lose any data.
Because we don’t import or export, and treat IFC natively, it means that the BlenderBIM Add-on has zero data loss in IFC, and supports 100% of the BIM specification … a feat that is unique in the industry. For example, in under a year, last year, we rebuilt the BlenderBIM Add-on from scratch, and also included 4D and 5D support - a much faster pace of development because IFC was used natively. In exchange for this approach, simple things like drawing walls became much slower to develop. In the long run, I believe this approach is more advantageous. This native IFC support means we also support partial BIM editing - so we can scale to 100,000s of objects on large BIM projects, or in theory an infinite number of objects so long as we load portions of it at a time. Because FreeCAD currently relies on atomic translation, this is not (yet) possible in FreeCAD.
In the future, I suspect that FreeCAD may adopt portions of this strategy too. When that time comes, we will actually be able to reuse a huge amount of development directly in FreeCAD … see the next point.
- We actually work together a lot with FreeCAD already
The FreeCAD devs are in close contact with us, and vice versa. We collaborate through OSArch.org . In fact, both FreeCAD and the BlenderBIM Add-on share the underlying IFC engine: IfcOpenShell. The way the BlenderBIM Add-on is designed is that everything is built agnostic of Blender… Blender is purely a user interface (a complex one, to be sure, but it is a UI nonetheless). So every single feature we build in the BlenderBIM Add-on … actually can be re-used for free in FreeCAD (or via command line, or any other app)! For example, BIMTester has been reused in FreeCAD. Many of the performance improvements, or new utility functions have helped improve things in FreeCAD’s BIM capabilities. We’ve designed the code to be sharable.
- We use a different paradigm for drawings
We treat drawings as integral to the BIM model. Drawings are direct from IFC(s). Not Blender. This means that you can have 5 consultants using 5 different BIM tools (Revit, ArchiCAD, Tekla, ProStructures, etc) all working through IFC, and generating drawings from BIM datasets that are easily 1gb or more.
The FreeCAD approach is to import all data into FreeCAD, and then drawings are just generated in FreeCAD, not in IFC. So in the BlenderBIM Add-on, you can delete all your Blender stuff, and your full documentation pack - all schedules, drawings, sheets, etc, are still linked to your IFC model - this is a conscious design choice that we believe drawings are just as important as the rest of the BIM model and should not be separated. In FreeCAD, the drawings are currently part of FreeCAD.
I have a huge respect for FreeCAD and their developers. They have helped significantly in the development of the BlenderBIM Add-on, and I hope we have returned the favour too. We are stronger as two projects, sharing core code, rather than one project. More than happy to hear what @yorik has to say