You have 5 minutes – make me a 3D expert

The term 3D (three dimensional) is all around, and you’re probably bored of hearing it. Blame Hollywood. For some reason they thought that a concept which bombed in the ‘80s could be resurrected. Swing and a miss…

So forget that nonsense, we’re talking about 3D technology which is actually worth something. You should not be unfamiliar with 3D things. Everything around you is 3D, you are 3D; you have a length (1st D), plus a width (2nd D), plus a height (3rd D). 2D is a mathematical concept, nothing more, and so we’ll talk no more about it.

More often than not, the interesting 3D technologies refer to a recording of 3D data into some sort of digital form, which can be interpreted, used, measured, manufactured… The list goes on, and will increase as we find new ways of using this data to our benefit.

There are several ways of recording 3D data, and nowadays we can quite easily convert between them so we will discuss meshes, which are becoming the most common in certain industries.

So how does it work? The below pyramid is made up of 5 junctions, (or ‘verticies’). Four making up the square bottom, and the fifth at the pointy end.

3D data can be recorded for where these points exist in our virtual 3D space. Simple.Now we also record the fact that some of the junctions are connected together by edges;

When three or more edges make a loop, we can add a face;

In a more realistic view, it looks like any other simple pyramid;

Pyramids though, do not a new industry make. Precisely the same method however, is used to create infinitely complex meshes as well. There’s just more data.

So… the mesh fairy brings them? Not quite. We get meshes, (and broader 3D data in general) from;

A bespoke design – you can make your own design or ask someone to make it for you. Just tell them what you want. If they’re unable, find a better provider. ?

Scanning of real life objects – whether from photogrammetry or laser scanning, point clouds can be converted as desired. Perhaps to show the scanned item in 3D, or perhaps to permit an interfacing part to be design around it. Scan a building. Scan and old spare part. Scan yourself. Scanning is easy and it’s quick. Sometimes it’s even both..!

Existing CAD data – whatever the format, it can most likely be translated. Those 20 year old CAD files are NOT redundant.

Now we know where this information comes from, but what can we do with it?

We can use it to make scenes and images, as photo-realistic as is needed. The below image (by artist ‘Major4z’) deservedly won an online competition for photo-realism;

Cool, but how does it help? Well, we don’t have to find a scene with the required elements in order to take a photograph. We don’t have to make things that are sensible. If you want a banana-kiwi-strawberry then you can have one. The design below is another competition entry, this time by ‘Dominik’. Computer generated though they are, make no mistake; images such as these rest on talent and can be a labour intensive process.

In ways comparable to the transition from still images to film, animations and even full feature-films are simply a matter of time, effort and mind-spinning amounts of data and computer processing power. The first fully CGI rendered film was Toy Story. Nowadays, very few movies are entirely without 3D based graphic animation, whether it be full space battle or simply adding steam to a coffee cup which went cold during filming.

So that’s nice, but not everyone likes nice. Some people to prefer make their lives and professional efforts more cost effective and efficient.

3D scanning is capturing structures and placing them into an architects chosen 3D platform.

3D scanning is allowing FEA analysis of old or partly corroded structures. (The image below shows the arranged 3D point could based on photographs).

Commodity industries are able to use simple drone footage to accurately calculate stockpiles.

The import of a real life 3D object into the virtual 3D world is common place and continues to broaden industry reach.

The process of prototyping has been revolutionised and the time-to-market durations are a fraction of what they were, not to mention the cost.

The below image is of a prototype camera housing for the medical industry, designed, created, finished and delivered 2 weeks after customer request.

Companies of all shapes and sizes are able to deploy 3D objects, images and animations to promote and advertise cost-effectively. The below image shows a subsea structure as completed by Form 3D.

There are a myriad of ways to create, obtain and deploy 3D data. Likely you’ve already thought of ways to link inputs with outputs in your own environment.

A reliable partner in 3D data will add value to almost any company. We can enjoy it, benefit from it, save time with it; and no-one is going to ask you to wear an funny pair of glasses while you’re trying to eat your popcorn…

Thanks for reading

Richard Drennan