About the concept
When we talk about 3D model viewers, we mean software that can enable interaction between a user and 3D geometry. However, this is a broad definition. Let’s see how we can narrow it down into the many different flavors out there.
Desktop and web-based viewers
Usually, we use 3D viewers in the shape of desktop apps varying in complexity and the level of knowledge required. Users can create, manipulate, and visualize 3D geometry for dozens of use cases and industries ranging from architectural designs, as-built models, fabrication parts, automotive, medical, gaming, and film/animation industries to many others. We consider many companies are working in this space, especially with the rise of AR/VR applications and early developments on topics like the Metaverse and NFTs.
In the AEC Industry, many standard use cases like working with BIM models, editing parametric data, or creating complex geometries, are hard to achieve or require dedicated software and hardware. They don’t offer easy interoperability between different platforms, systems, or data sources, thus resulting in difficulty accessing models and their data, primarily on-site.
In our particular case, we like to help encourage easier usage and interaction for users to view, edit and share their 3D models. Here, web-based viewers come in, where they can do everything aforementioned (and maybe more!) from a desktop or mobile browser without installing anything.
Sounds magical, right? Well, it is all a matter of engineering. We believe the real deal and the more extensive benefits come from making full use of BIM in that environment, which means leveraging accessing the geometry and the data associated with model elements—clicking on a component and seeing its parametric data. Manufacturer, cost, delivery date, weight, thermal efficiency. You name it.
The potential impact
You can imagine having your BIM model data accessible from anywhere has several tangible side effects. Anywhere, because who doesn’t have a smartphone these days?
For example, a direct connection between the field and the design offices, better, more precise models from easier interoperability between different platforms, better communication and collaboration between teams, and others!
Going back to the BIM user case, try this out:
Play a bit with this BIM model.
Click on the objects, and see the parametric data associated by clicking on the Properties button.
Look at the dashboard, which displays data from the model itself.
Imagine the possibilities of having your data fully available, and seamlessly integrated. As you probably know, BIM models are like databases, where every element holds parametric data with standard and custom information depending entirely on the user and their workflows.
This simple model with sample data from BIM360 uses libraries like Forge and Chart.js. As technology moves forward, it’s never been easier and more efficient to experiment with new implementations and create new products. Many exciting platforms and libraries like Unity, IFC.js, three.js, and others exist. Some leverage each other and sometimes implement other lower-level technologies like WebGL. We’ll expand on this in future posts, so stay tuned!
It sounds somewhat complicated to think about the right technologies and know your way around them to implement what you need successfully. And, to be honest, it has its difficulties.
That’s where we come in, assisting in the decisions and developing the best possible solution for your specific use case, building it together with you.
Tons of technologies exist out there which we can combine in different ways, and some cases, new ones to develop. However, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel! For the reasons mentioned, web-based solutions are making BIM data more accessible.
Have you used any 3D viewing technology, whether desktop or web-based? Did it meet your needs?
*Images from https://unsplash.com/
A proactive entrepreneur at heart who constantly seeks new challenges. As an Architect who codes, I have broadened my skill set through a passion for technology and innovation. I believe technology is the future of architecture and the built world. Always learning and leveraging cutting-edge technologies to seek new answers, I bring a holistic approach when facing new challenges.