Rhino works

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Rhino Works

Constraint animation

Rhinoworks is a Rhino plugin. It enables you to simulate kinetic structures and complex moving mechanisms. The plugin is based on a technique called constraint animation. This means that objects of the mechanism are linked together in such a way that movement of one object influences the movement of another object by defining their connection. This strategy of setting up an animation is quite similar to the actual design of a moving mechanism. Although the constraints are limited the effectiveness of the combination of the constraints makes it possible to define complex moving mechanisms.

Supported geometry

RhinoWorks can use different types of geometry. Points, curves, surfaces and polysurfaces. Each constraint is able to work with one or more of these geometry types. This differs for each constraint. When you encounter an error message regarding the assignment of a constraint, make sure that the geometry is selected that is supported by this constraint.

RhinoWorks constraints and dimensions can be created for the following types of geometric elements:

  • Vertices of polysurfaces.
  • Basic edges of polysurfaces: straight edges and circular arcs.
  • Basic faces of polysurfaces: faces of planar, cylindrical, spherical, toroidal and conical geometry, including trimmed faces.
  • Isolated objects: single points, straight segments, and circular arcs (not including those that are parts of polylines).

Non circular or planar objects can be problematic to effectively constrain.

Getting started

Loading RhinoWorks

If RhinoWorks is not yet installed as a plugin in Rhino then please go to C:\Program Files\Rhinoceros 4.0\Plug-ins\RhinoWorks - select the RhinoWorks.RHP file and drag it into Rhino. To activate the toolbar go to C:\Program Files\Rhinoceros 4.0\Plug-ins\RhinoWorks\English and select the RhinoWorks.tb file and also drag it into Rhino. The toolbar with the RhinoWorks icons pops up. When the plugin is installed and the toolbar is available with the RhinoWorks commands we can start.



RhinoWorks enables you to generate constraints between different objects and objects them self. With these options you can construct movable structures and animate them. Rhinoworks is a plugin, the functions can be accessed by the Rhino works toolbar . The toolbar contains several groups of functions.

Loading RhinoWorks Update

  • The update function. This enables you to update the constrained geometry when new constraints are added.This can be done manually by using the icon and automatically by using the option of automatic updating in the RhinoWorks manager.

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  • The constraints. There are 6 different constraints which link surfaces of objects together. These constraints enable you to define relationships between objects which are crucial for animating a mechanism.

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  • The constraints/actuators. In effect they are constraints as they define a relation with other objects or surfaces like the angle constraint but they are also constraints within an object where the distance of opposing surfaces are defined or the radius of a cylinder or sphere is defined. Another difference is that these constraint values can be changed and animated. Due to the change in values of the constraint (angle of two surfaces, distance between two surfaces and the radius of an object) these constraints work as actuators in your mechanism, driving the movement.

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  • Add Ridgid set. This option locks objects together and will therefore behave as one object.

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  • The animate model option. If you selected a constraint/actuator in the RhinoWorks manager and activate the animate model option the animation window appears. This menu gives you access to the animation options in RhinoWorks.

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  • The RhinoWorks options menu enables you to define additional options for creating your geometry.

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  • The RhinoWorks manager


Add Fixation

When you have created a set of parts of your mechanism you can start assigning the correct constraints to the various parts. The RhinoWorks toolbar gives you access to the constraints. There are a total of 6 constraints available which can support most of the complex connections and interactions of your part of the mechanism you designed.

  • The first constraint is the Add Fixation. This enables you to fix an object into place. This object won't move during the simulation of your kinetic mechanism.

Add Cocentricity
  • The next constraint is the Add Concentricity. The constraint works on Points, Circles, Cylinders, Spheres, Toruses and Cones. It moves and locks the centre points of two objects together. For example a ball joint with a ball socket. Besides the coincidence of the centre points it can also align the axis of two cylinders. In this case the object are only moved to align the axis and not to coincide. Once the constraint is established the object can be rotated.

Add Coincidence
  • In previous example the axis of the cylinder on the arm was was aligned with the axis of the hole in the l shaped object. The constraint is established even though they don't intersect. To move the arm with the cilinder into the hole of the L shaped object we can use the Coincidence option. The objects align their surfaces and stay constraint.

Add Parallelism
  • With the Add Parallelism it is possible to make sure that two different objects remain parallel during the movement of the mechanism. When the sides are selected of the two components which have to become parallel the components switch into a parallel orientation.

Add Perpendicularity
  • The option of Perpendicularity is similar to the option of Parallelism. The only difference is that the surfaces of the selected objects remain perpendicular to each other when the mechanism is moving. This option will not always work. It depends on the additional, like Concentric constraints, between both of the objects.

Add Tangency
  • The final constraint is the Tangency constraint. This option makes it possible to link a arced/spherical object to another arced/spherical object or a flat surface. This makes it possible to create complex movements with the help of an arced or spherical surfaces


Add Distance
Change Distance

The actuators are a kind of constraint which can be animated, so changed over time. These constraints are used to drive the mechanism. When you are building the mechanism with all its constraints it is useful to test your mechanism every time you add a constraint by animating the actuator. This enables you to find any conflicts or unwanted movements of the components with the newly added constraint. There are three actuators with each there own specific capability to apply a movement/force within your mechanism.

  • Linear movement/force
  • Rotation
  • Radial movement/force

Add Distance

The Add Distance tool enables you to change the distance between two parallel surfaces of one or multiple objects. This also means that you can change the distance value over time , thereby simulating movement. A good analogy is the workings of a hydraulic piston. It supports a linear displacement. The settings of the distance can be changed and animated by selecting the Add Distance constraint in the RhinoWorks manager.

Add Radius
Change Radius

Add Radius

If you want to use a radial force in your mechanism then this option works well. The add Radius option constraints the radius of a sphere or cylinder. By changing the radius the the object expands. The settings of the radius can be changed and animated by selecting the Add Radius constraint in the RhinoWorks manager.

Add Angle
Change Angle

Add Angle

If you want to use a rotational motion in your mechanism then this option can support this. The add Angle option constraints two planes of two objects. By changing the angle the planes change their angle to each other. The object rotates if one of the objects also has a cocentricity constraint. The settings of the angle can be changed and animated by selecting the Add Angle constraint in the RhinoWorks manager.


Constraint Properties menu

There are two ways to access the animation menu. The first option is to use the Animation Icon on the toolbar , the second option is the use of the animate button in the Constraint Properties menu.

Constraint Property Menu

  • Open the RhinoWorks Manager and double click the actuator constraint to access the Constraint Properties Menu. In this menu you have Animate option. This animation option is only available for the actuator constraints not the regular constraint. The regular constraints have a limited amount of settings available in the Constraint Properties Menu.

Constraint Properties menu

Animation Menu

  • The animation menu contains the setting for the animation and the possibility to run the animation automatically or by using a slider. There is an option for rendering the animation as a sequence of frames for later playback. The options are quite straight forward.

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