Flux was started in late-2010 at Google[x], Google’s research lab, with the mission to address two global challenges: climate change and affordable housing for the urbanizing population. Flux provides cloud-based collaboration tools for architects, engineers, and contractors to exchange data and streamline complex design workflows. In contrast, most design software today relies on manual file transfer, data conversion, and data-merge, which are tedious and error-prone tasks. Flux therefore frees you from the burden of exchanging and converting data so you can focus on what’s most important to your design.
Flux plugins currently work with Grasshopper, Excel, and Dynamo to automate data transfer to and from Flux.
Flux also has plans to expand this design software it can work with, including: AutoCAD, SketchUp, Revit and 3D max.
Setting up a Flux project
A Flux project is the focal point for data exchange and collaboration. You can invite teammates into your project to share data. Each user and application controls when to synchronize data with the project, allowing users to work in isolation until they are ready to share their changes with the team. Since Flux was developed by Google[x], it will only work with Google Chrome. Here is how to setup your Flux project:
- First, you’ll need to set up and sign into your Flux account.
- Next, create a new blank project.
- Select ‘open project’.
- We then need to create ‘keys’. These are geometry/data that will be transferred to/from Flux. Simply hit the plus button in the data table on the left.
- Add the name and description as required. While these keys can be created in each individual application, it is easier to plan it out first and do it all in one go directly in Flux.
- Once your Flux project is setup, simply modify your Dynamo or Grasshopper definitions so that data is being pushed or pulled to the Flux keys.
- Flux only works on stable releases of Dynamo. If you have a later daily build installed, you may be stuck as several users have reported not being able to uninstalling Dynamo fully.
- Currently, Flux doesn’t support breps so we need to convert the Revit geometry into a mesh. Unfortunately, Dynamo out-of-the-box does not have meshing tools so you’ll need to install the ‘Dynamo Mesh Toolkit‘ package by Autodesk. Next you’ll need to go to Flux labs and sign up for the ‘Dynamo Mesh converter’. Hopefully in the future this will be much more accessible. The reason we need this is that Dynamo meshes have a unique format that will not be recognised by Grasshopper. Therefore, Flux, has developed a converter block that turns a Dynamo mesh into a universal mesh that you can view in Flux and send to Grasshopper. Essentially the difference is as follows. Rhino takes the form of a list of vertices (points with X,Y,Z coordinates) which are stored in an ordered list. In addition, it has a list of faces which are each an ordered list of vertex index points (refer more here).
Grasshopper Mesh definition
Dynamo on the other hand creates a similar list of vertices, but then rather than store the faces as a list of index points, it stores them again as a list of vertices with repeated X,Y,Z coordinates. It is unclear why the Dynamo team have chosen this data structure but obviously it leads to a much larger file size to store the same sized mesh as the X,Y,Z coordinates of each vertex is repeated many times.
- Flux components require login authentication and thus will not work in clustered scripts.
Throughout Parametric Monkey I have written about the interoperability tools available to Revit and Rhino users. Of all the plug-ins available, it would appear that Flux is the most promising. Overall, Flux is pretty unobtrusive and only minimal modifications are required to your existing Grasshopper and Dynamo scripts. Yet the benefits it offers – interoperability, worksharing and cloud computing – are quite powerful. Moreover, it would appear Flux has the resources to become something really special in the AEC industry. While most of the interoperability plug-ins were developed solo during the developer’s spare-time, Flux currently has approximately 27 employees and has just secured US$29M in funding. The question then is, when will Flux be commercialised, and will it still have the same appeal if we have to pay for it?