Fractal Explorer

by chaos nuggets in Scripts and Addons

What does it do?

The Fractal Explorer allows you to easily make 3D fractals using any base-object. 

How does it do it?

Fractal explorer makes a nested tree-like structure of copies. The copies are parented to previous copies, and constrained to inherit the transforms. The first 'generation' of the tree is free to manipulate. Any change in the location/rotation/scale of the first-generation copies affects the whole tree. So the shape is not set by the plugin. You decide what the structure looks like using blender's normal rotate, translate, and scale tools. Check out the Documentation for a more detailed explanation.

What is it good for?

If you like playing around with fractal geometry, this is an excellent tool. No math is required, and the range of fractal forms you can express is huge. This is a good tool for modeling natural forms that are fractal-like: trees, corals, veins, clouds. You can also animate the fractals!

Fractal Explorer vs. Array Modifier

Blender's array modifier can easily make spiral fractals. Simply apply an array modifier and input an empty in the Object Offset field. This is a wonderful tool for making spiral-fractals, but it cannot express branching or more complex fractals. This is because the array modifier can only create a chain of copies. Fractal Explorer creates a branching tree of copies. Using this tool you can specify the depth of the tree, the geometry (using bender's native transformation tools), and how many branches per copy.

What are the limitations?

This is not a modifier! This means that there are some quirks, and also some advantages.

Modifiers can be used, but you have to be careful

The main one is that if you apply a modifier to the base object after the tree has been generated, it will NOT apply to all the copies! However, I use this tool too, so I found a workflow to get the desired behavior. See the Documentation for details. 

No End Cap Geometry

The array modifier has a Start Cap and End Cap field, which lets you apply geometry to the first and final copy in the array. This sort of functionality does not exist for this plugin. Luckily Blender's 'F' command is quite intelligent and can close up holes. This can be used to effectively create caps on the ends of a fractal structure.

Don't go to deep!

Blender/Computers can handle only so much data. So if you make a fractal with, say, 5 branches, and 10 levels, thats 1 + 5^0 + 5^1 +...+ 5^10 = 12,207,031 (geometric series). That's alot of copies and constraints to keep track of, so Blender is going to get slow :(  That is why I have a "grow tree" and a "prune tree" button. You can get the shape you like with a few levels, and then crank it up for the final render or export.