Features of the Most Effective APIs for 3D Visualization in Manufacturing

Thu Oct 25, 2018

3D visualization is the process of using 3D visuals to analyze designs or scenarios.

In fact, 3D visualization software is not confined to just static images, but it includes highly complex, data-driven simulations as well.

However, in manufacturing a considerable portion of 3D visualization work is devoted to trying to understand the particulars of a design. This ‘design’ could be a part intended for a larger system -- e.g. a component for an engine -- and, in turn, feature several specific attributes.

For example, aircraft turbofan engines require a significant number of individual parts. Among these parts are the engine’s crystal blades, which must not only rotate at very high speeds but also be resistant to extremely hot temperatures.

With 3D visualization, design and manufacturing teams can view how those components will operate in simulated real-world conditions. Doing so lets these teams test their designs and, if need be, identify and address certain problems before physically producing prototypes.



As you might imagine, this would be a major saving of cost and time. However, one’s ability to properly implement 3D visualization depends on the quality of their software.

This is where expert software developers and highly capable, but proven, software development tools are of importance. In this article, we look at the most effective development tools and APIs you can use for building software that manufacturing companies need.

Learn More About 3D Visualization in Manufacturing:

1. You Need High Quality Graphics

In terms of APIs, the most obvious point -- at least for full-fidelity 3D visualization -- is to procure high-quality 3D graphics. This is the starting point since the purpose of using 3D visualization is to stop inaccurate guesswork and extrapolation using static 2D images.

If your application’s 3D visuals are not up-to-par in terms of quality, then your application will fail at providing the 3D visualization quality needed in the manufacturing industry.

By leveraging software development kits (SDK) that manage the integration with industry-standard APIs, such as OpenGL and DirectX, you will have a solid start in developing the right software. These APIs will let your application leverage hardware-level capabilities, such as GPUs, to generate graphics, and, because they are based on these industry standards, your application will reliably display across operating systems and devices.

You should aim for:

  • Shadows;
  • Textures;
  • Transparency;
  • Gooch rendering;
  • A single SDK for desktop, web and mobile applications
  • And, other elements.

When developing applications for manufacturers, there is more to their needs than just high-end graphics. Yes, it is an essential component, but 3D visualization in this space is also dependent on interoperability with a diverse range of computer-aided design (CAD) file formats.

We discuss this in greater detail in a later section, but you need to keep 3D modeler integration in mind, i.e. in tandem with high-quality 3D graphics.

2. Modular Architecture

It would be wrong to cast the manufacturing industry as a single body; rather, there are many specific focus areas and niches involved. In fact, even at the highest level, manufacturing has split between subtractive (i.e. traditional cutting, milling, grinding, etc) and additive (i.e. 3D printing) domains.

In other words, it’s likely that you will have a specific market in the manufacturing industry in mind when developing software (i.e. one size does not fit all).

Thus, you will need SDKs that allow for highly customized applications. For example, your 3D graphics APIs should leverage open or modular architecture.

To help streamline the development process, you should expect a clear, well-documented API as well as reference applications with source codes. This will help you reduce the time needed to learn the API and to accelerate the development process.

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3. Support for OpenGL and DirectX

We had touched upon OpenGL and DirectX earlier (in the context of high-quality graphics).

Leveraging industry-standard APIs such as these offer several key benefits:

First, OpenGL and DirectX are widely used and adopted. These are trusted APIs and, in turn, have proven their performance and reliability through a multitude of major use-cases.

Second, Not only are these APIs used by the vast majority of software developers, but there’s a comprehensive ecosystem of software, hardware, and expertise in supporting these APIs.

This is an important point. Your application is useless if it fails to run on Windows, Mac OS and Linux, each of which is in use in some form in the manufacturing industry.

Similarly, if your app cannot leverage the power of most GPU models, then it will see limited -- if any adoption -- as companies will prefer software that works with their hardware. Proprietary or uncommon APIs will make continued development and maintenance support costlier.

4. Compatible with 3D Modeler Technology

Finally, having the ability to just generate high-quality 3D graphics is not enough. Manufacturers have specific requirements which generally involve the use of non-native CAD file formats.

In other words, your app(s) must be interoperable with CAD suite, such as Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks, among others.

One method is to rely on 3D visualization SDKs that are integrated with popular 3D modeling libraries, such as CGM Core Modeler, 3D ACIS Modeler, and others.

You can supplement this with the use of a 3D InterOp SDK, which you can use to make your app read and write various CAD file formats, e.g. SLDPRT, SLDASM, and SLDDRW, among others.

To get a head-start in developing 3D visualization software for the manufacturing industry, contact Spatial today to see how 3D InterOp and HOOPS Visualize will help reduce your time-to-market while guaranteeing your applications’ quality and functionality.

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