If you frequent ANY CAD or 3D related web sites these days you can’t help but have run across 3dvia somewhere. I’m sure many of you have been wondering like I have what its all about. I’ll take you along with me as I begin to find out for myself just what exactly 3Dvia is. Over the next couple of weeks I will post my findings as I explore the different areas of the site.
OK…you still with me? Good. Let’s get started with the answer to the question raised in the title of this post. What is it? Straight from the FAQ page on the 3dvia site, it is defined as “The newest of the 6 Dassault Systèmes brands. Its mission is democratizing the usage of 3D so that everybody can use it in its everyday life, either at work or at home, through the web. Our objective is to give you the power of 3D“. There are many other interesting tidbits on the FAQ page that I’ll leave for you to check out. This is certainly a bold and aggressive statement. Once you start to peel away the layers and view the many areas of the site, I becomes pretty obvious that that is exactly what Dassault is trying to do.
I have MANY questions about the site and as I explore more parts of it some of those questions are beginning to be quickly answered. Rather than list all the questions up front, I’ll try to address them as I go along in checking out each area of the site.
I figured if I was going to really give the site a go, I should register. So what exactly am I registering for? First and foremost, registration is FREE. Registering will allow you to upload models to the site along with providing a place for you to create a profile that can be viewed by other users. This brings in account the Community aspect of the site which I will get into more a little later.
One of the first things you will probably notice when you go to the 3dvia homepage is that you can download and upload 3D models to the site. You can also view the Top Users and a log showing Recent Activity. Lets dive into the 3D models area first. You can access the Model area by clicking on the “Top Models” header or click on the “Search” tab across the top of the page.
At first glance you will notice that most of the file formats that these models are available in are .3ds and .3dxml formats. These formats are mesh based models which leads me to my first question that is beginning to be answered. Who is the 3D model library for and what types of files can be uploaded? A quick look at the FAQ page answers this question (Click on the figure to the left for a larger view). One of the questions I immediately had was how this site compares to 3D ContentCentral? It seems pretty obvious once you get into it that the 3dvia Model Gallery is more along the lines of Google’s 3D Warehouse. (It looks like Google SketchUp can write out .dae files which is supported and appears often in the 3dvia gallery.) 3D ContentCentral is still going to be the best place where you want to look for useable models that can be opened directly into SolidWorks.
Unfortunately your options for opening some of the cool models posted on 3dvia into SolidWorks are going to be limited. Especially if you don’t have ScanTo3D which allows you to open .3ds files. That is not exactly what I was after in looking at this but the addition of the .3dxml format to ScanTo3D would be nice for SolidWorks 2009 (Anyone from SolidWorks catch that?)
You can switch between two different players to view the models in the gallery. One is the 3DXML Player which is a free download and the other is a 3D Life player from Virtools. Both seem to work just fine on my machine. It seems to be a comparable experience for you SolidWorks users who are used to working with E-Drawings. Since I had registered, I couldn’t resist temptation to upload a model of my own to the site. I selected a model of the cartoon character Patrick Star that I have had for almost 5 years now as the test file. (It is available in SolidWorks format on 3D Content Central) I saved the model as a .3DXML file out of SolidWorks. (I should also note that HOOPS, IGES, STEP, & STL files could be written out of SolidWorks for upload as well but out of concern for keeping the model colors correct and the abundance of support, I chose 3DXML.) This was the first time I had ever attempted this so I downloaded the 3DXML player to see what the model looked like. Everything looked good aside from it orienting the model a bit differently compared to my native ISO view. The upload was smooth and Patrick is now posted in the Model Gallery. I must say that Patrick looks much smoother when you view him on the 3dvia site vs the 3D preview on 3D Content Central.
I’ve only scratched the surface of this site and there is much more to cover. Next time we will explore the Community aspects of the site and venture into some of the MANY 3dvia software packages. There are some software packages that have deeper roots into SolidWorks.
Stay tuned…..more to come!