There’s hardly an industry around that hasn’t been impacted in some way by 3D CAD modeling. From the entertainment industry to the manufacturing industry, 3D models abound. Even the Smithsonian Institution has gotten in on the act by creating the first-ever 3D Presidential Portrait, using a combination of 3D scanning, 3D modeling software, and other 21st century technologies. See details at the Smithsonian Digitization Program Office.
For most of us, though our 3D model needs are a bit more prosaic. Let’s look at some of the areas where 3D modeling is making its impact felt:
One of the best-known uses of 3D models is in the area of gaming. As video games have become more and more realistic, the need for 3D software and 3D assets has become nearly insatiable. We’ve come a long way since the original Mario. Today, no matter if you’re destroying aliens or driving animated automobiles, the scenes, the props and even the people look real enough to pop out of the game and sit down to play beside you. Even universities and colleges now offer courses in 3D modeling for video gaming.
If you’ve seen any of the current rashes of “action thrillers” at the Cinema, then you’ve seen scores of 3D models. Whether it’s the superhero scaling a building or the Batmobile soaring down a mountainside, 3D models, interspersed with live action make for special effects that make the original King Kong look like a children’s puppet show. The fact is that there’s hardly a big film (or many of the popular television shows) that comes out of Hollywood without extensive use of 3D modeling. Even in shows that aren’t full of special effects, it’s relatively common to have 3D images added to shots to improve the texture and design of the scene.
No longer is a water-color architectural rendering the de riguer method for displaying the “artist’s rendering” of the completed project. In today’s AEC world, these “renderings” are done on the computer, and you can add motion and depth, so clients can see a “fly-by” that illustrates all angles of vision (including a birds-eye or ground perspective view). Additionally, the clients can take a virtual tour of the inside the structure, too. This way, clients know exactly what they’re in for on their project.
Whether it’s reverse engineering or conceptualization of an entirely new product, 3D modeling in all of its forms is regularly used to improve the design, re-fabricate parts, and rush products to market. Moreover, in manufacturing, 3D modeling has the opportunity to go beyond the creation of virtual models. With the advent of reliable, multi-media 3D Printing technologies, it is not far-fetched to envision an entire floor of 3D Printers in place of a traditional manufacturing and assembly line. As far back as January of 2014, Forbes Magazine was speculating on this very scenario.
Mostly when we think of publishing we still think of paper or digital e-readers. This is one of the less intuitive areas where 3D modeling is coming into play. Publishers of textbooks and other illustrated books are turning to 3D modeling to create and show pictures of difficult to access terrain, flora and fauna or areas that are politically inaccessible. Or, like artist’s renderings, sometimes, the 3D illustrations may be fantastical, in order to depict something that mankind has never seen, like pre-historic events or visions of the future.
Advertising and Marketing
3D modeling enables companies to display their products in an ideal state, and at considerable savings over an “on-location” shoot. Whether the product is a new car or a newly designed package, oft-times a 3D model can be made to look more real and more appealing than the product itself, due to lighting issues, or color rendering or any one of a myriad of reasons why the real product just doesn’t “play” well. Moreover, using a 3D rendering to market a product prior to production means that the company can promote and drive demand before they ever invest in production. Remember this, the next time your kids demand the latest “must-have” toy for Christmas. Those ads that started in July were probably 3D models of the actual toy.
Geology and Science
Geologists and scientists use 3D modeling to create models that simulate earthquakes and landforms, such as ocean trenches, that let them see the effects of stresses. Additionally, they can simulate motion, like flight patterns, including various factors that affect them.
From prosthetics for amputated limbs to crowns for your teeth, arch supports and parts to repair damaged organs, 3D scanning, modeling and printing can all come into play. My dentist
can generate a usable permanent crown in his office by simply taking an x-ray of the damaged tooth, feeding it into a 3D CAD dental program and 3D printing the crown. 3D modeling makes what used to be a process that took several trips to the dentist and two to three weeks waiting time for something that can be done in a one-hour appointment.
The Future of 3D Modeling
We know it’s here to stay and we expect to see more uses for 3D scanning, 3D modeling and 3D printing going forward.