Form·Z is a general-purpose software product for computer modeling of three-dimensional surfaces and solids. It has an extensive set of intuitive tools for modeling, sculpting and manipulating form and space, and it is an effective design tool for architects, landscape architects, engineers, industrial and interior designers, animators and illustrators, and all design professionals that focus on the creation and articulation of form. The robust set of tools available in Form·Z allows it to respond to the sophisticated needs of the mature designer, and its intuitive interface allows novices to learn and use it with ease.
Penn State is one of 267 schools, colleges and universities that participate in the Form·Z Joint Study program. This joint study program establishes a partnership between Penn State and auto·des·sys, Inc. (the developers of Form·Z) for the teaching, learning and application of Form·Z. By participating in this program, the Center for Academic Computing is able to provide instruction in and access to Form·Z for all of the open student computer laboratories on the University Park campus. The software cost, normally $5,880 per machine, is waived for joint study members and the University pays just a nominal fee to cover the administration of the program and software security.
Form·Z is used intensively by students in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture to design, model and document studio projects. In addition to the usual repertoire of graphic presentation styles, including animation and photo-realistic rendering, Form·Z provides the capability of exporting geometric models in a variety of formats. Building on this capability, CAC staff have written software that allows Form·Z models to be transferred to the Immersadesk, a three-dimensional immersive virtual environment available at the Computer Building.
Students can develop Form·Z models of buildings, planting designs and landforms, furniture, mechanical assemblies, and so on. Then, by exporting those models to the Immersadesk, students can dynamically and in real-time, view, manipulate, and experience those physical artifacts in a virtual environment.
In fall 2000 semester, a group of freshmen students enrolled in Architecture 131 successfully utilized Form·Z to model and study small American houses (cottages). Once the Form·Z geometric models were sufficiently detailed and correct, students exported those cottages to the CAC's Immersadesk and were able to "walk" through these digital designs in small groups. Finally, based on the virtual experience of walking around and through these cottages, students were able to correct, modify, and add to their original Form·Z models, and then repeat the Immersadesk procedure to experience and evaluate their design developments.
At the completion of this design and review process, these students employed other features of Form·Z to produce standard architectural documentation (plans, elevations, sections, details, perspectives views, perspective sections, etc.) of their proposed designs.
The next step in this immersive approach to
digital design is to interconnect, via Internet-2, Immersadesks at
Penn State with similar facilities at other universities. In this manner
faculty and students at Penn State can meet with their counterparts at
other institutions in these virtual spaces to jointly tour, experience and
evaluate design proposals. This technology, teleimmersive
collaborative architectural design, has been successfully demonstrated
with senior design projects at Penn State and Ohio State, and has
a tremendous potential for communicating student work
and faculty insights within the venue of cyberspace.