ShapeDiver & the AEC Industry: 6 Case Studies!

May 28th, 2024 by ShapeDiver

This article explores how ShapeDiver is helping the AEC Industry, highlighting six case studies covering modular construction, 3D printing, 4D models, production automation, and advanced online applications featuring carbon footprint calculation and structural analysis.

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In the last twenty years, the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industries have seen the rise of many new tools and design workflows, among which parametric design has proven to be a small revolution.

Among the tools available, Grasshopper, a graphical algorithm editor part of the CAD software Rhinoceros 3D, stands out for its innovative, explicit way of defining a parametric design space and its vibrant ecosystem of users and developers who constantly broaden its capabilities.

However, Grasshopper's benefits are confined to a technical user interface and the need for a Rhino license, making it challenging for non-technical decision-makers to analyze and explore design iterations.


Furthermore, protecting intellectual property is a common concern when sharing such files, as each Grasshopper file contains the business logic to compute its output. This article explores how ShapeDiver addresses these issues, reshaping how AEC professionals share and manage their parametric designs.

The Rise of Parametric Design in AEC

Parametric design is defined by its ability to adapt results based on user input or external data, allowing for convenient and rapid design iterations. Within the AEC industry, this means that designs are inherently flexible and capable of evolution throughout the project lifecycle.

For instance, a building's massing can adapt to local climate conditions, optimizing energy efficiency and indoor comfort. Similarly, materials that respond to environmental stimuli can ensure structural integrity under varying loads and conditions. The ability to quickly cycle through different design iterations enables architects to explore multiple options at crucial points in a project's lifecycle, finding the best solution based on changing requirements or constraints.


Most importantly, companies can create libraries of reusable Grasshopper tools from previous projects, capture valuable insights, and apply them to future designs. This allows automation of repetitive workflows, freeing up time and mental bandwidth for more creative tasks. By combining these tools to streamline internal workflows, organizations can standardize processes, reduce errors, and ensure consistent output quality across projects.

Furthermore, Grasshopper's vast library of third-party plugins enhances its application in the AEC industry, providing tools for environmental analysis, energy modeling, and structural analysis, such as Karamba 3D. These plugins support a data-driven approach to architectural and structural design, enabling a more informed and efficient design process.


Overall, Grasshopper's role in the AEC industry is increasingly significant as firms push for greater innovation and efficiency in their design workflows, making it a crucial tool in the digital transformation trends within the sector.

Challenges with integrating Grasshopper workflows

Despite its clear advantages and growth in adoption, sharing Grasshopper files within a project team or with clients often involves significant hurdles. The primary challenge is the need for a Rhino license to open and manipulate Grasshopper files. This software requirement can be a barrier for those not regularly using Rhino, such as project managers or clients who may only need to view a model or provide feedback.

Further complicating the integration are the complex networks of data and logic within Grasshopper files, often referred to as a "spaghetti monster" due to their convoluted and intertwined data flows. This complexity can make it extremely difficult for anyone unfamiliar with Grasshopper to understand or even navigate the design logic, leading to communication barriers within teams.


The protection of intellectual property is another critical concern. These scripts often contain the detailed methodology of a design, which can be proprietary and sensitive. The widespread sharing of such files can inadvertently expose a company's unique design approaches to competitors or unauthorized users. This risk makes securing these files and controlling who has access to them an essential consideration for firms that rely on maintaining their competitive edge through innovative practices.

Additionally, the manual process of updating and distributing Grasshopper files presents significant challenges. Without a streamlined way to manage version control, ensuring that every team member is working with the latest file version is difficult. This can lead to inconsistencies and errors in the design process. Furthermore, traditional file-sharing methods are not equipped to handle the frequent updates that parametric designs often require, complicating collaboration and increasing the risk of project delays due to outdated or incorrect data.

ShapeDiver: The Solution for Securely Sharing Access to Grasshopper Workflows Online

ShapeDiver addresses these challenges directly by providing tools that allow AEC professionals to upload, manage, and securely share their Grasshopper-based tools through the cloud. Our platform eliminates the need for each stakeholder to own a Rhino license, enabling viewing and interaction with Grasshopper models directly within a web browser.


Secure and Simplified Sharing on an Online Platform

ShapeDiver includes a comprehensive sharing and permission system designed to protect a user’s intellectual property. This system ensures that sensitive design data is only accessible to authorized users, safeguarding critical IPs from exposure to unintended parties.

"Public" ShapeDiver models can be shared globally through a standard URL generated when a Grasshopper file is uploaded to our system. This allows only an online application to be exposed while ensuring that the original Grasshopper file and its IP are securely hosted on distant servers.

“Private” models can be kept out of anyone’s reach or shared via obfuscated URLs that can be revoked and nullified on demand, allowing external access to the online application for a specified duration.

ShapeDiver also offers the option of sharing models with other individual ShapeDiver users. This feature allows for greater control and enables higher restrictions on what the recipient can view and do with the model compared to simply sharing it as a URL. These restrictions range from simple interaction with the online application to accessing exports, model analytics, or downloading the original Grasshopper file for further modifications.


Embedding Models into External Websites

Beyond our online platform, ShapeDiver supports three main methods of embedding models into external websites:

The first method is iframe embedding, a straightforward copy/paste process requiring no web development knowledge. This method is easy and powerful, offering several customization options and built-in Augmented Reality.

For users with advanced web and software development skills, ShapeDiver offers various APIs and SDKs that enable the creation of sophisticated online applications. These tools support enhanced user experiences by allowing for interactive elements such as clickable and draggable components within the viewer and multi-layered, custom user interfaces that guide users through a step-by-step navigation process. Furthermore, these APIs facilitate integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, ensuring seamless data flow and enhancing overall operational efficiency.

Lastly, there’s App Builder. This third embedding methodology aims to democratize many of our API features by making them available and programmable via Grasshopper. This means that computational designers can define dynamic and advanced UIs for their online applications by using specific Grasshopper components without needing web development knowledge (or very minimal).

Robust & Modern Infrastructure

Since releasing the first version of our product in 2016, we’ve been relentlessly refining our technology stack, allowing AEC professionals to concentrate on the unique aspects of their projects while we handle the complexities of maintaining a reliable, secure, and high-performing server system built on Rhinoceros 3D. Some key features include:

- Resilient Grasshopper Servers: Our servers are designed to automatically respawn in the event of a failure. This redundancy ensures zero downtime for updates, supporting continuous deployment and providing a seamless experience for users.

- Efficient Dispatching Algorithms: To optimize performance and user experience, our dispatch algorithms manage quick response times and balanced workload distribution across the server system. This means faster processing and reduced waiting times for complex computational tasks. It also creates economies of scale as a single Rhino instance can simultaneously serve many users.

- Advanced Caching System: Our caching system enhances efficiency by storing geometric results, preventing the need for recomputation. This speeds up the process and significantly reduces the load on our servers during high-demand periods.

- Scalable System Architecture: Our systems' auto-scaling capabilities ensure they adapt based on user demand, maintaining optimal performance and availability during peak usage times.

These technological enhancements form the backbone of ShapeDiver, making it not just a platform for sharing and viewing parametric designs but a dependable partner in the AEC sector's ongoing digital transformation.

Real-World Success Stories Using ShapeDiver

The practical benefits of ShapeDiver are best illustrated through the following client case studies, covering modular construction, 3D printing, 4D models, production automation, and advanced online applications featuring carbon footprint calculation and structural analysis. Explore some of the top use cases from which current ShapeDiver clients in the AEC industry benefit.

Type Five | USA

Type Five uses Grasshopper to develop an innovative site-built modular construction approach, creating efficient, client-tailored building designs. Through ShapeDiver, they offer an online configurator that makes this powerful design system accessible and user-friendly, enabling clients to participate directly in the home design process. This has significantly streamlined the design-to-construction cycle, reducing time and cost. You can read more about them here.


WASP | Italy

WASP integrates Grasshopper and ShapeDiver to create enhanced 3D printing experiences through online configurators. This integration is pivotal in the construction sector where WASP's architectural 3D printers, such as the Crane WASP, are used. This setup allows users to design and print with advanced customization, boosting productivity and making 3D printing accessible to those without deep technical knowledge. You can read more about them here.


Interstice | USA

Interstice relies on Grasshopper to manipulate data and create detailed 4D models that enhance planning and decision-making. With ShapeDiver, these models are turned into interactive web apps, improving client engagement and streamlining project delivery by making complex data accessible to all stakeholders. You can read more about them here.


Dampere | France

Dampere uses Grasshopper and ShapeDiver to transform their design and production process for perforated metal sheets, shifting from manual to automated workflows. This integration enhances customer interaction through real-time visualizations and customizations, significantly improving the efficiency of both sales and manufacturing processes. You can read more about them here.


Webb Yates Engineers | United Kingdom

At Webb Yates Engineers, Grasshopper's parametric capabilities are essential for managing complex geometries and tasks, facilitated by ShapeDiver's web environment, which democratizes access to computational design tools. Their 'Cactus' tool, an online tool used to calculate the embodied carbon of any structure, exemplifies how ShapeDiver enhances design and engineering processes by enabling rapid prototyping and analysis. You can read more about them here.


Construsoft | Spain

Construsoft's Optinave, powered by Grasshopper and hosted on ShapeDiver, is a sophisticated online tool for designing and optimizing industrial metal structures. This platform allows for intricate structural calculations and visualizations, accessible directly through the web, enhancing both design accuracy and efficiency. You can read more about them here.



The integration of Grasshopper in the AEC industry represents a significant shift towards powerful, data-driven processes and more efficient design iterations among teams and collaborators. However, the challenges of leveraging complex parametric files and exchanging data between Grasshopper and other design contexts are non-trivial.

ShapeDiver emerges as a powerful solution that simplifies the sharing of Grasshopper-based online tools and enhances collaboration, efficiency, and accessibility across diverse AEC projects. Through real-world applications, it's clear that ShapeDiver is not just solving technical problems; it's reshaping how the AEC industry operates, bringing forth a new standard in design and collaboration.

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