According to PC Magazine Encyclopedia, Surface Modeling is “A mathematical technique for representing solid-appearing objects. Surface modeling is a more complex method for representing objects than wireframe modeling, but not as sophisticated as solid modeling. Surface modeling is widely used in CAD (computer-aided design) for illustrations and architectural renderings.”
Surface modeling gets tricky, because the process often requires conversions between different 3D modeling types. Let’s start with the basics:
Three Types of Surface Modeling
- Wireframe – The term originated in the days before CAD when designers actually bent metal wire to represent a three-dimensional shape. Today, using 3D CAD, it is created by specifying each edge of the physical object where two mathematically continuous smooth surfaces meet, or by connecting an object’s constituent vertices using straight lines or curves. The object is projected into screen space by drawing lines at the location of each edge. Obviously, the 3D CAD wire frame technique provides a more accurate representation than the bent metal wire of pre-computer days. The wire-frame model enables visualization of the underlying design structure of a 3D model, an important part of the design process.
- Solid — Solid modeling relies on a consistent set of principles for mathematical and computer modeling of three-dimensional solids. A central requirement is the ability to effectively represent and manipulate three-dimensional geometry in a fashion that is consistent with the physical behavior of real objects. Widely used in manufacturing applications, it is also relevant in sheet metal manufacturing, injection molding, welding, pipe routing, rapid prototyping, digital data archival and reverse engineering. Surface modeling applies to anything that is machined or man-made and has a readily defined, mathematical shape.
- Organic – While organic modeling is often used as part of graphic arts to model trees, animal, or other “natural” objects, it also has a place in machine-produced objects. When you think of a solid surface, you think of objects with sharp edges and an angular shape. However, furniture, some parts of automobiles and airplanes, buildings and other man-made devices, may, in fact, be organic in design. Anything that is constructed with flowing topology and no hard edges cannot be subjected to the mathematic rigors of solid modeling.
The Design Process
When it comes to generating the final 3D model that represents reality, whether the object is a consumer product like a sofa, a manufacturing product like a tool or die, or a futuristic auto design, at some point it will likely have gone through many, if not all, of the stages of surface modeling described above.
The advantages of surface modeling in the design process are:
- The design becomes less ambiguous
- Complex surfaces and design problems are easily identified and corrected
- The final model adds realism.
Surface modeling is not, however, without disadvantages:
- The model can be difficult to construct
- It can be difficult to calculate the mass
- Design manipulation can be time intensive
It’s those disadvantages that are the reasons why we provide surface modeling. Just this past year we helped numerous companies to maximize their 3D capabilities by generating accurate 3D Models that were used for everything from reverse engineering and simulation to sheet metal design and visualization. The companies that we’ve worked with tell us that they saved both time and money by using our CATIA 3D services.
If 3D Modeling is something you’re challenged with too, contact us for more information about ways that we can help you.