Computer Graphics World

Edition 2 2018

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THE USE OF CAD MODELS FOR FUN AND PROFIT REVEALS THE ONGOING PROBLEM OF DATA CONVERSION BY KATHLEEN MAHER he rise in the use of game engines to create content and applications has emphasized a longtime challenge of putting CAD data to work: how to port heavy CAD data for use in other mediums such as an- imation, interior design, analysis, and now VR app development. As the technology du jour, VR is helping push innovation in data exchange methodologies for heavy content, but so is interest in making ren- dered walkthroughs, product animations, and so forth. Certainly, VR has an appeal for con- sumers and a use case for entertainment content creation, though the most promis- ing markets for VR is in engineering, design, and AEC. While it may seem that VR has inspired new applications, there is a long history of development behind profes- sional visualization that is being enriched by real-time rendering technology and game development tools. VR is another enhancement for the display, replacing CAVEs or flat PC screens. Putting CAD models to work in digital environments can be labor-intensive and has fallen to specialists who have figured out their own ways to condition models – reduce them to the visible essential data needed and export them into the desired soware for further work, such as anima- tion, rendering, content authoring, and so on. The renewed fascination around inter- active 3D, thanks to the game industry and VR, has created new users and developers. And over the last 10 years or so, a younger generation has grabbed the tools of the game industry to create content. And in 2017, the industry has seen the arrival of new tools to link the world of CAD with the tools of content creation. Working Around Epic, maker of the Unreal Engine, an- nounced its acquisition of Datasmith at SIGGRAPH 2017. The tool was originally introduced at SIGGRAPH 2016 as MUS (Motiva Unreal Scene). Datasmith enables structured transfers of necessary data from CAD models to game engines, where the data can be used in content creation. It supports 20 CAD and digital content creation sources, as well as modeling and animation tools such as Autodesk 3ds Max. As an interesting side note, the Datasmith effort is being led by former Autodesk director Ken Pimentel, who has a good deal of experience in professional visualization and animation. Last summer, Epic announced plans to offer the Datasmith toolbox through a private beta program. Epic has been saying that the ability to work in real time with rendering is the game changer for game engines, but without good ways to get and manage con- tent, the game never really gets started. At Autodesk University late last year – where the Unreal team pitched its engine for use with CAD data in manufacturing, AEC, and content creation – Marc Petit, general manager of Unreal Engine Enter- prise at Epic Games, told the audience that Unreal customers want real time in every aspect of content creation. "They don't just want [Chaos Group's] V-Ray in real time, they want everything: the phys- ics, the materials … everything." And, that means dealing with lots of data – but only the necessary data. Petit added they have also found that customers don't want to pay for services to get the data into Unreal Engine. "That's why we bought Datasmith," he said. Unreal has also been able to incorporate Alembic into its pipeline to deal with assets from 3D animation. Datasmith helps users import models with all the necessary components – includ- ing assembly components, surfaces, mate- rials, physics, and animations – into Unreal Engine, with assets organized in a way the application understands and users can see and understand. Bye-bye Stingray The dirty little secret about transferring CAD models for use in other applications is that it's difficult. How difficult depends on the t V I R T U A L R E A L I T Y SOURCE DATA

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