July 22, 2020
Guide To 3D Model Formats For Architects
3D modeling is used in a myriad of mediums, ranging from video games, engineering, architectural illustrations, and advertising - just to name a few. The technique is also used on the web, where rendering comprises 3D modeling and web development. There are several formats available for 3D models, including isolated options only used in specialized labs and popular formats available in most digital devices. Below is a brief overview of formats that you will encounter when designing and rendering 3D models.
3D Rendering For Web Applications
Typically, 3D rendering comprises both 3D and web-development. It is the process that creates 2D images from a 3D model, using specific data that specifies the color, texture and material in the object. 3D rendering was first accomplished in 1960 when William Fetter simulated the space needed in a cockpit by depicting a pilot using 3-dimensional images. Sketchpad, known as the first 3D modeling program, arrived in 1963 and since then, the world of 3D modeling and rendering has evolved tremendously.
Over the years, graphic designers have developed various techniques for 3D rendering. Some of the popular methods include rasterization, ray-casting, ray tracing, and rendering equations. Each technique has unique advantages and shortcomings. Some common 3D rendering formats for web applications include:
- Autodesk 3d Studio Max (MAX)
- Autodesk Exchange File (FBX)
- Wavefront (OBJ)
- Rhino 3D (3dm)
- Grasshopper 3D (GH)
- Revit (.rvt)
- SketchUp (.skp)
- There are numerous other formats available for computer and web application 3D rendering.
3D Model Formats For Real-Time Rendering
There is a mind-blowing number of 3D formats available for real-time viewers. These formats are easily shareable across different mediums and can also be used with various 3D modeling tools available to designers. Some of the most popular formats used for real-time 3D asset delivery include USDZ and glTF. USDZ formats are fairly new in the market and are designed for iOS users. The format displays 3D combined with AR information and is only usable on iOS platforms.
Android users have their unique option in glTF. The formats are read-only, which means you cannot edit them without using 3D modeling software. To edit a USDZ file, you must extract them separately, just like you would any other zip file. glTF is a royalty-free specification for rendering real-time 3D scenes. It minimizes the runtime process required to unpack and utilize assets, making it a compelling choice for real-time 3D rendering.
3D Model Formats For Architectural Visualizations
Numerous DCC tools have recently emerged in the film and gaming industry. In recent times, 3D rendering inside DCC applications has crossed over to the architectural industry, where formats, such as MAX, FBX, and 3DS are a mainstay. The formats are simple to edit and interoperable across multiple workstations. DCC tools are packaged as native operation systems and require professional-skills to maneuver. They feature complicated interfaces but are also widely used for 3D modeling and rendering.
Choosing the right 3D modeling software is another important step. One of the most popular building information modeling (BIM) software choices among 3D architects and engineers are Autodesk Revit and SketchUp.
Revit is considered as one of the most advanced architectural programs there is, its native formats include RVT, RFA, RTE, RFT.
SketchUp offers multiple plugins, making it easy for the 3D designers to adapt the software for many different purposes. SketchUp file formats include VRML, IGES, JT and STEP.
There are hundreds of 3D modeling formats, so it is essential to choose one that suits your needs. Some formats are unique to the modeling tool, limiting interoperability if you want to share projects with designers using different software. However, you can find neutral formats, such as FBX, OBJ, STL, 3DS, COLLADA, and IGES, among others. These formats can be used across a wide variety of tools and suit almost any workflow. It is best to understand the pros and cons of each format before you start rendering 3D models. As an architect, you can start with MAX and FBX formats and grow into other options as you sharpen your skills.