Design Visualization

ONU’s Conversion Platform Speeds Models from CAD to Virtual Reality

22 Dec, 2017 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

The newly launched ONU 3DLite converts CAD models to lightweight polygonal meshes for use in virtual and augmented reality experiences, as well as online and mobile applications.

The burgeoning popularity of virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) is shining a new light on a problem familiar to many manufacturers. “They have all this good CAD data,” said Sam Sesti, CEO of ONU, “but they’re struggling with how to make it available beyond [the department that created it].” Whether they’re looking to create an AR training program for service personnel, a VR experience for customers in a showroom, or simply some glossy graphics for a brochure, companies frequently run into snags when attempting to reuse CAD data throughout the organization.

“If you give a CAD file to a marketer, there’s little chance they’ll know what to do with it,” Sesti observed. Common problems are that the file won’t convert to a format the marketing department can use, or that it will be too dense — too information-rich — for their purposes.

With a goal of overcoming this “huge bottleneck in content creation,” as Sesti calls it, ONU made its new product commercially available this month. Billed as “the first and only cloud-based 3D visual platform designed to seamlessly convert and optimize CAD files,” ONU 3DLite is intended for use by design professionals and all kinds of digital content creators — including those with little experience carrying out such operations. “3DLite will be a kind of bridge between design and engineering and further up the enterprise,” Sesti explained.

The Rules of Speed

Currently, many of these digital content creators are using CAD files as a kind of template: tracing them in applications such as Autodesk 3ds Max or Maya, then recreating the model with less information than the original. Creators perform this retopologizing process to make a 3D mesh lightweight enough for interactive, real-time rendering and other purposes — but it requires many hands-on hours. “This is taking companies days,” Sesti complained.

ONU’s technology offers an alternative to this manual approach: 3DLite can “automatically take the model density down by 10 to 100 times, without losing the quality,” said Sesti. Proprietary algorithms tessellate the CAD files during conversion, the company says. The resulting low-polygon FBX files can be used in applications and engines such as Blender, Maya, 3ds Max, Modo, ZBrush, KeyShot, Unity, and Unreal.

Reverie, a maker of reconfigurable beds, reports that the software has reduced its average content creation period by hours, and sometimes even days. The company’s goal is to more easily develop assets, such as customer-facing graphics, from CAD models. For Reverie’s purposes, ONU 3DLite reduces the number of polygons in its CAD files — which can be one million or more — to “a couple of hundred thousand,” said Sesti, in what the company describes as a “drag-and-drop” process.

These screen shots illustrate selected stages of a Creo file conversion process in ONU 3DLite. Above, a Reverie STEP file with approximately 817,000 faces has been uploaded to 3DLite; after automated optimization, it comprises nearly 180,000 polygons.

The internals detection function helps users identify which parts are inside the model (indicated in green), and therefore can be excluded from view with the Hide Parts tool.

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