Thursday, September 16, 2010

ShapeShot at Tech Crawl East

Are you intrigued by the idea of seeing a virtual 3D copy of yourself? If so, then you should definitely stop by Tech Crawl East in Baltimore tonight. The event is being held this evening from 5-9 pm on the first floor of the new Morgan Stanley Building in Fells Point.

Direct Dimensions will be presenting our ShapeShot concept in the 60 second pitch format, as well as taking ShapeShots (a 3D snapshot) of the attendees. Make sure to stop by our booth and say hello.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Vote for Direct Dimensions as The Hottest Tech in Town

GBTC (The Greater Baltimore Technology Council) is holding a "Hottest Tech in Town" competition as part of their 21st annual TechNite event. Direct Dimensions, showcasing our ShapeShotTM service, is one of the finalists and we would appreciate it if you took the time to vote for us!

Click here to read more about ShapeShot!

Click here to vote for Direct Dimensions as the Hottest Tech in Baltimore!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know . . . Model Formats

Chapter 7: Digital Model Formats - The Many Flavors of 3D CAD

We’re going to take a little pause in our Everything You Always Wanted to Know About 3D discussion. We’ve talked about the many things you can do with a CAD model but that can lead to some questions. How can I use an OBJ file and how is it different from an STL? Can an IGES and a STEP file essentially be used for the same thing?

These are what we call the “Flavors” of CAD and we’re here to provide you with a short list to help clear up some details.

The Various CAD Flavors:

* ASCII (or ASC) – an X,Y,Z point cloud file in ascii text format.
* DWG - This is a native AutoCad drawing file
* DXF – “Drawing Interchange File” - a neutral version of a DWG file
* IGES – “Initial Graphics Exchange Specification” - a neutral format for exchanging CAD data between many different software programs
* OBJ – an open data format that represents the vertices of polygons
* PRT – a native CAD format for Pro/ENGINEER and NX (Unigraphics)
* SLDPRT – a native CAD format for SolidWorks
* STEP – "Standard for the Exchange of Product model data," (ISO 10303) an advanced neutral format for exchanging CAD data between many different software programs.
* STL – “Standard Tessellation Language” - a polygonal model format similar to OBJ and several others
* WRL (VRML) – “Virtual Reality Modeling Language,” a polygonal file similar to OBJ, STL and several others and can include color
* X_T - a semi-neutral CAD format

Wikipedia also maintains an extensive list of CAD file formats that might be of further interest.

Neutral Formats:

From the list above you’ll notice that some CAD formats are considered neutral, specifically IGES and STEP formats. These two formats were specifically created to neutrally exchange 3D CAD data across different CAD packages.

IGES was created in 1979 by a group of users (including Boeing and GE) with support from the Department of Defense (DoD) and NIST to exchange data more easily. Since the late 80’s the DoD has required that all Digital Project Manufacturing Data (PMI) be deliverable in IGES format.

STEP is an ISO standard released in 1994 to be the “successor” to IGES. While widely used it has never totally replaced the IGES format.

Extra Flavors:

While the above examples are standard across CAD packages, many industries, such as Architecture and 3D modeling for computer graphics have their own packages and files types. We like to think of these as extra flavors, like CAD dessert.

3D Graphics – 3D graphics formats are generally proprietary according to package. Some popular graphics programs are, 3D Studio Max, Maya and Lightwave. Popular gaming companies such as Blizzard Entertainment and other film studios often develop their own in-house formats. However, many consumer 3D graphics packages can import OBJ files.

3D Modeling for Architecture – A new style of modeling for facilities, such as buildings and processing plants, is developing rapidly. This new CAD software contains a relational database component to store metadata for the design entities, such as the style and make of windows or doors, or the schedule of the I-beams and piping. This new class of software is termed BIM for Building Information Modeling and is working to combine facilities management into the database concept as well.

The above list is just a small taste when it comes to the variations of CAD, but they are the most common files used. If you have any questions you should just ask your 3D service provider and they will be happy to help. You can always ask us questions at

The next post in this on-going series will feature a more in-depth discussion and examples of using 3D data for various types of visualization. Stay tuned!


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Case Study: The Awakening

3D Laser Scanning and Digital Modeling Allow Precise Repositioning

“The Awakening” is a 70-foot tall sculpture by J. Seward Johnson, which depicts a man struggling to free himself from the Earth. The installation, which had been a landmark for nearly three decades in DC’s Hains Point, is comprised of five aluminum body parts: a right foot, a left knee, a right arm, a left hand, and a bearded face. It was originally installed in 1980 and became a well recognized attraction next to the Potomac. It had been on loan to the U.S. Park Service by the artist.

But by 2007, the piece was sold to a developer and it became necessary for the sculpture to be moved.

Moving the sculpture and re-installing it in its intended orientation proved to be a true logistical and spatial challenge. Jon Lash, CEO of Digital Atelier, called upon Direct Dimensions to find an affordable and accurate solution to document “The Awakening” in its exact current state and provide him with a 3D plot showing the intersections of the mating surface of the sculpture with the ground. The plots would then be used to prepare the new site to receive the sculpture in its original configuration.

In November, 2007, 52 scans of the sculpture were taken on-site in Hains Point, both with the Konica Minolta Vivid 9i camera, and with the Trimble FX scanner. A spherical scanner like the Trimble FX captures everything in its line of sight, radiating outward from the scanner’s origin.

In the scanning process, the sculpture was approached as five individual pieces, with the scanner capturing each individual piece in its entirety, as well as some of the surrounding pieces. This setup allowed the Direct Dimensions team to reassemble all the pieces together in a single coordinated model, using PolyWorks software. Each scan was scrubbed to pinpoint only the data set required, then properly aligned and polygonized into an integral model.

The final deliverables to Digital Atelier were complete 2D and 3D plots, which showed the entire sculpture aligned into a single coordinate system. These plots allowed the project’s engineers to prepare the new site for the sculpture’s relocation, which occurred on February 19th, 2008.

“The Awakening” now rests in its intended orientation at National Harbor, on the Eastern Bank of the Potomac River.