Shop Drawing Automation with Rhino and Grasshopper / by Daniel Giuffre

At if/Lab, digital workflows underpin our daily practice. Our continuing research in the development of digital workflows enables us to expand both in iteration within design processes and file to fabrication opportunities in the construction of architecture. “The inclusive nature of workflows means they can accommodate the personalised design processes of architects as well as integrated engineering strategies and collaborative ideas about building delivery”

We are continually looking to develop our tools which include optimising information from digital design models to speed up traditional shop drawing processes and achieve new levels of efficiency and accuracy in the digital design workflow that support the complexities of construction.

Rhino and grasshopper

Construction drawings are an abstract representation that reflects what is to be built, however, this cannot be the case as there a many parameters that cannot be controlled onsite. This leads to discrepancies that if not accounted for can cause major issues when producing fabrication drawings.

Through a recent engagement on the Forrest Chase Redevelopment project by Denmac, if/LAB has been able to produce new workflows that facilitate the production of fabrication documentation from as-constructed site surveys, reducing the margin of error and creating more accurate outcomes. This process enabled design changes to occur before fabrication, allowing increased accuracy of delivered panels, which in turn reduces onsite complications during installation.

intensive fields lab and denmac collaboration

Each panel element produced was unique to accommodate for slight imperfections of previously installed components on site. Panels were modified to pick up as constructed locations of columns, and in some cases, to accommodate the twists in the structural elements picked up in the point cloud scan.

Traditionally, the panel drawing process involved a designer that would manually adjust lengths and widths of panels, by ‘pushing or pulling’ the 2D panel in CAD, and then copying and pasting annotation from a previous panel to the new panels. This opens up a great opportunity for human error and limits the ability for picking up clashes between components and panels.

With the vast amount of panels required to be drawn in such a short timeframe, our automated process enabled increased construction efficiencies and alleviated bottlenecks that began to show in the design, fabrication and install process.

Forrest Chase Redevelopment

Forrest Chase Redevelopment

The process beings by taking 2d drawings as specified by the engineers and creates 3D geometry to fit with the as constructed site survey where intersections with site geometry are resolved and flanges are added to the model. These panels are then unrolled into drawings where annotations and dimensions are added after which drawings are exported and laser cutting files are produced for the fabrication team.

Diagram: Drawing Automation

Diagram: Drawing Automation

The ability to produce complex 3d modeling enabled for difficult curved and corner sections to be produced quickly and efficiently where traditional methods would have faltered.  The ability to automate the modelling and output of shop-drawings for complex sections from 3D site scans has proven to be cost and time effective in comparison to traditional methods; demonstrating the requirement for innovation and new solutions for design and construction processes. 


1. Richard Garber, Workflows: Expanding Architecture’s Territory in the Design and Delivery of Buildings, John Wiley & Sons (Oxford), 2017, pg. 13