Navisworks Joins the Material Family

May 31st, 2013

Autodesk Navisworks® 2014 has many major enhancements that extend the use of models among Autodesk products.  These features include the use of Ray Trace, the Quantification tool, Measurement tool upgrades, Clash Detective upgrades, and the introduction of ReCap. 

Ray Trace Has Arrived

An important enhancement to the Autodesk line of products is the introduction of Ray Trace to Navisworks.  Completing the cycle, Navisworks will now render the Autodesk library of materials.  This improvement is a remarkable step forward as it furthers collaboration among products.  Any Autodesk materials applied to a model will persist in Navisworks.  The look and feel of the model will be consistent from Autodesk product to Autodesk product.  Using the Ray Trace rendering engine, you can easily produce photorealistic images as though they were created in Autodesk® Revit®.

Figure 1: Revit model rendered in Navisworks with Ray Trace

Furthering the rendering engine is the ability to create and apply Autodesk materials to the Navisworks model.  Navisworks 2014 introduces the Autodesk Rendering palette where you can select any Autodesk material and apply it to the Navisworks model.  Just as in other Autodesk software, you can edit a material and save the modified version.

The palette is broken out into two main panes.  The top pane shows all the materials in the current document while the bottom pane shows all the materials in the selected library.  In figure one below, the Autodesk Library is selected. 

The Autodesk library is broken up in the selection tree by category with multiple materials in each category.  You can quickly navigate the selection tree and find the material you are searching for to modify or apply to your model.

Figure 2: Autodesk Rendering

With Autodesk rendering you can also create and modify lights and environments.  The Lighting and Environment tabs allow access to the tools necessary to customize these settings.  You can add point lights, spot lights, distant lights, and web lights.  This is very beneficial as you can add lighting depth to the project.  The Autodesk light controls are very similar to the Presenter light tools.  Figure 3 shows a spot light configuration.  Any point can be modified by using the gizmo.  The light cone, angle of the light, and location of the light can be modified.  This ensures that the lights are positioned correctly in your model to provide a photorealistic view when rendered.

Another enhancement that Autodesk Rendering brings to Navisworks is the ability to navigate the model with Ray Trace active.  This experience is heavy on the graphics and is only effective if you have the hardware to keep up with the rendering process.

Figure 3: Autodesk Spot Light with Gizmo

When you wish to produce an image or video that is rendered, simply click the Output tab on the ribbon > Rendered Image.  Make sure you have Autodesk Rendering selected for your rendering image, and save the file.

Constructing Quantification Catalogs

A great enhancement to Navisworks is the ability to quantify the model.  The Quantification tool in Navisworks lets you associate model geometry to a catalog. All constructed catalog items are displayed in the Quantification tool selection Tree pane. The workbook selection tree is a construction of two other catalogs: the Item Catalog and the Resource Catalog. 

Figure 4: Quantification tool

The Item Catalog is required to associate any quantities to the selection tree.  These items are used to name the summary level information of calculated quantities.  An example of an item is a 4” concrete slab. 

The Resource catalog is used to create detailed information that can be used to construct assemblies in the Item Catalog.  Examples of common resources for a wall are: wall board, coverings, studs, insulation, and so on.  In our example with concrete, let’s add the resource concrete and the resource 4” Rebar 18” OC.

Once resources are created in the Resource Catalog, you can associate them with an item in the Item Catalog.  To associate the catalogs together, select the Item in the Item Catalog, then select the resources in the Resource Catalog, right-click the resources, and select Add to Selected Item. 

When you take off model objects, all resources will also be taken off.  If you add a resource to an item after you have already associated model objects to the item, these objects will automatically have the additional resource calculated.

Figure 5: Item and Resource Catalogs

Dynamic Function In Catalogs

One of the fundamental aspects to the Quantification tool is the ability to create functions in the catalogs to calculate quantities.  A good example of this is in the calculations of concrete.  If you do a model takeoff on concrete from a model authored in Revit, the calculations are based on cubic feet.  When you perform a model takeoff, regardless of the units you select in the catalog, the values will be calculated in cubic feet.  In order to properly calculate the volume, you can change the formula from “=ModelVolume” to “=ModelVolume/27” 

When modifying a formula, you can modify the formula to effect only one instance of a takeoff, or you can modify the master to modify all instances of the takeoff.  As a best practice, it is suggested you only modify the master for consistency.

Iterative Take-Offs

Because the nature of construction documents is iterative, Navisworks allows for your takeoff data to be updated along with the model geometry.  When a model is updated, the geometry in Navisworks is automatically updated in the nwcs that comprise the nwf.  The quantification tool allows you to view the changes from one iteration of the model to another through the use of the Change Analysis tool.  This tool displays multiple different icons to warn you about changes to the model.

When model geometry is updated, you are able to view what quantities in the item changed.  For example, if the thickness of a slab changes, the area and perimeter would be the same, but the volume would be changed.  You will be able to hover your mouse over the affected cell and view the changes between the old and new versions.  You then have the option to accept or reject the changes.

Figure 6: Updating quantities

Updated Measuring Tools

The measuring tools in Navisworks have changed dramatically, allowing you to more accurately measure objects.  You now have the ability to lock the measuring tools to any xyz plane or surface.  This is important because you can ensure you are measuring on the correct plane.

With these measuring tools you can accurately perform takeoffs on objects that are not modeled.  For example, if you know there is a storm drain missing, you can draw it in with the measuring tools and perform a takeoff on a non-modeled object.  When takeoffs are performed on non-modeled objects, the values will not update with model iterations.  

Leveraging Catalogs

When you have developed an extensive catalog, you can export it to be used in future projects.  Following the example of other tools in Navisworks, this allows you to create a workflow that leverages all your work on one project to another project.

Clash Detective Changes

The Clash Detective clash algorithm was updated to allow for quicker identification of constructability issues.  When multiple clashes are found between the same pair of composite objects, they will be treated as a single clash. Clashes between two parts of the same composite object will not be reported.

Clash item highlight colors have also been updated, allowing you to set the highlight color of clashing items when viewing your clashes.

A new column in the Clash Detective displays the status on the Clash viewpoint.  Clash viewpoints can be automatically updated by using the Auto-Update Viewpoint setting, or manually updated by right-clicking on the camera icon, then clicking Save Viewpoint.

Another new column, Comments, has been added to the Clash Detective that displays the number of comments associated with a clash.

The Filter tool has been upgraded to allow you to determine how you wish to filter the selected objects.  You can select none, exclusive, or inclusive.  Exclusive will show clash results where both of the clashing items are included in your current item selection. Inclusive will show clash results where one or both or the clashing items are included in your current item selection.  You can even choose to create reports only on selected items.  This feature is in the Include Clashes group on the Reports tab.

The toggle between Dim Other and Hide Other has been restored to the interface in Navisworks 2014.  This will significantly improve the workflow allowing you to more quickly toggle your view controls.

The reporting features of the Clash Detective were also upgraded.  The new features allow you to preserve you dim setting in the nwd.  This means that users with only Navisworks Freedom will have the ability to view your model with the Dim setting that previously could only be seen in Navisworks Manage with Dim Other selected.

Other Upgrades

The Section tool received an upgrade in this release allowing you to fit a section box to a selection.  This allows you to select a collection of objects and select the Fit To Selection tool to encapsulate the selected objects in a Section Box. This tool can be used in coordination meetings to quickly isolate the area for conflict resolution.
The update to Timeliner allows you to export Timeliner tasks and save them as a selection set. This means you can manage and perform actions on groups of objects, rather than individual schedule items.  Timeliner now also supports Primavera P6 v8.2 data sources.

Autodesk ReCap

Autodesk ReCap is supported in Navisworks to allow for point clouds to be aggregated quickly and accurately.  ReCap has a Windows 8 style with tiles to allow you to navigate all its tools.  It is useful software that enables you to import a large variety of point clouds and edit them within ReCap.

One of the key benefits of ReCap is the ability to combine multiple point clouds together, then parse out the combined point cloud into sections that better fit your project.  For example, suppose that your laser scanner is set up in multiple points and it requires five scans to view the completed building on a campus.  Rather than export the whole campus, in ReCap you can combine the five point cloud files together, then create sections to isolate each building.  You can then export just the sectioned building for use in other products such as Autodesk Revit.

This new point cloud software allows you to simplify the way you work with point clouds.  Navisworks 2014 will natively read ReCap files, allowing a good workflow between ReCap and Navisworks.

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About the Authors

Michael Smith

Michael Smith

Michael N. Smith is a BIM Manager for C.W. Driver, a large general contractor in Southern California. The firm is highly regarded throughout the design and construction industry for implementation of BIM innovations on each project and for creating customized software plug-ins to increase the efficiency of the latest software releases.  Michael is also a guest author and technical editor of Mastering Navisworks 2012.  He can be reached at


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