CORE studio is developing a new interoperability platform called TTX. Interoperability is at the core of our group’s work, and has long been recognized within Thornton Tomasetti as an imperative goal. In 1990 Charlie Thornton said “We now have to zero in on the key issue, the Achilles heel of [structural] computer programs … compatibility”.
While we have made great progress in this space over the past two decades (and especially in the past three years or so), the gains we’ve made have been more technical than cultural. Although it’s great to be able to translate an analytical model into a fabrication package, that ability doesn’t fundamentally change the way an engineer and a detailer design a project together. The goal of TTX is to provide a platform that enables a new type of collaboration during the design process – one that allows for real time, cross-platform updates of project information.
Currently, we employ a wide range of tools to translate project data from one platform to another. We’ve written about our love for the Geometry Gym SSI toolset before and continue to use the tools very frequently. We’ve also been experimenting with IFC on a few projects, using commercial IFC translators – most notably GeometryGymBIM – with varying levels of success. Additionally, the predecessor to our group – Integrated Modeling Services – developed a suite of custom translators specifically tailored to our internal needs that have been widely used over the past three years. The diagram below describes some of our typical translation routes.
There is one critical bit of functionality missing from all of the translators described above: the ability to update a model. All translation methods are whole-hog imports; models cannot be updated to reflect changes made in another model, they can only be overwritten. This is fine in the earliest stages of the design process, but as more information aggregates in various and disparate BIM, analysis, and fabrication packages, overwriting these data-rich files becomes impractical. For example, if a draftsperson has been tagging and adding annotations to a Revit model and the model needs to be updated via a translation, all of the tagging and element-specific annotations would need to be re-done. Similar issues exist in analysis and fabrication packages.
This is precisely where TTX comes in. By moving all of the critical project data into a central database, and providing read/write/sync capabilities across our typical software stack, TTX allows project team members to focus on their respective specialties in the platform of their choice. Concerns about model synchronization, our long standing ‘compatibility’ issue, are allowed to fade into the background.
So far we have Grasshopper, Revit and Tekla all talking to each other via TTX, and have proved that cross-platform model updates are possible using the platform. Stay tuned for more TTX updates over the coming months. We are very excited about the platform’s potential, and will continue to share our progress here on the ACM blog.