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Interactive 3D graphics make the leap from entertainment to mission-critical business applications
By Richard Boyd, CEO and President, 3Dsolve Inc
Developers and users of Digital Content Creation (DCC) tools have struggled for years with the problem of incorporating interactive 3D CAD data into business applications. The problem stems from both the complexity of existing CAD data and the lack of universal standards for translating that data into a usable form. DCC users who want to incorporate 3D graphics into applications today are often forced to re-create models from scratch, resulting in increased time and expense on their project (and for their customers). A new international standards effort is underway to finally address this problem and promises to succeed where earlier efforts have failed due to broad industry backing and active CAD vendor participation.
The 3D Industry Forum (3DIF) was formed in 2002 by Intel, Adobe, Boeing, and a group of CAD and DCC companies to create the Universal 3D file format (U3D) to overcome the last barrier to helping businesses take full advantage of today's faster processors and networks to incorporate interactive 3D graphics into a host of applications. Today, there are more than thirty companies involved in 3DIF, the charter of which is to actively ?promote 3D technologies and standards, define conformance testing and compliance, and provide a point of contact for ongoing 3D activities and development.? As this article is being written, the U3D format is moving into committee at Ecma International, the standards body that manages the DVD standard among others, to sponsor the format for ISO certification.
Computer-aided design made the leap from 2D blueprints to detailed 3D models in the 1990s. It is difficult today to find an engineering or architectural department anywhere in the world where 3D CAD models are not required for every newly designed product or structure, resulting in vast stores of valuable data that could be put to great use in other domains. There are well-defined needs for this data in marketing, sales, technical support and training. But two major stumbling blocks have prevented the use of this data outside of engineering: the complexity of the CAD models and the need for engineering departments to protect the intellectual property from their research and development efforts.