Visualization can be key in helping your users understand what they are configuring and what your customers will be ordering. And while 3D is a great way to provide an unambiguous representation of a product that may not even exist yet, generating 3D content can require a lot of overhead and time. But that’s where the DriveWorks 3D Preview technology comes in.

Recent versions of 3D Preview have made the images more realistic and the functionality more interactive. But the bottom line is that this is not a full 3D geometry engine. That’s right, 3D Preview does not take a long time to load. 3D Preview does not require a high-end graphics card. 3D Preview does not require a CAD license for every user. 3D Preview requires no CAD jockey skills. But at the same time, it provides enough basic functionality for you to be able to create the visualizations that your users need to understand what they are configuring.

So let’s take a look at the basic functionality of 3D Preview, and how you can use that to build a more effective, more robust configurator.

About 3D Preview

There are a few basic ways that you can utilize a 3D Preview control on a form. The most basic is to provide the file name of a Drive3D file for the user to explore. This rule can be dynamic so that you can display a prebuilt Drive3D file from a library. The second method is to use a DriveWorks Autopilot to build a SOLIDWORKS model and save it as Drive3D to present in the control. Despite all of our boasting above, this does require SOLIDWORKS. As a result, this is generally considered slow. This is subject to traffic on your Autopilot. This is often associated with waiting. But, in its defense, it does bring the full power of SOLIDWORKS to the party. Still, this is not our preferred method.

The third option is the DriveWorks 3D Preview File. This output document allows you to build a node structure (predefined or with specification tasks) where each node can control a Drive3D model. For each of these models, the document can have rules for Replacement File Path (path to the Drive3D model), Is Suppressed (is the model visible), appearance (color, texture, etc.), Texture Mapping Mode (source, box, sphere or cylinder), Position (X, Y, Z), Scale (X, Y, Z), and Rotation (X, Y, Z). These preview documents also support cameras, lights, macros to be called when individual nodes are clicked, and even Orientation which will allow your 3D Preview to react to the accelerometer in your mobile device.

With just these basic tools, we can take parts and assemblies and model them as a series of Drive3D models to create a complete and dynamic representation of your product. The biggest hurdle generally lies in how your model will react to change. While SOLIDWORKS can solve geometry parametrically, 3D Preview has to reply on scaling, positioning, and rotation. This can be a significant hurdle, but a bit of creativity and a reminder that we’re just talking about a visualization, not production-quality drawings, can go a long way.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Provide buttons to allow the user to quickly return to the default zoom/orientation. It’s very easy for people to lose their model while scrolling, panning, or zooming.
  • Exploded views are a great visualizer and generally easily achieved by adding a checkbox and a factor in the position rules to add a value when the exploded option is selected.
  • Allow people to remove outer components in an assembly with a checkbox tied to the model’s Is Suppressed rule and/or provide a cutaway version of the model using the Replacement File Path rule.
  • Interferences can appear a bit psychedelic when they happen. So, avoid interferences or use appearances that will minimize their impact.
  • Macros can be used to quickly reset/preset sizes, distances or other model settings. Use Click Macro in your 3D document to allow the users to click on the model and simulate opening/closing or basic operations of your product.
  • Remember that 3D Preview is targeted at providing visualization and not production documentation. Reduce or remove details for performance, simplicity, and to avoid complicated interactions. Your users will understand (add a label, if you must) that fully accurate models and/or drawings will be provided when they finish the process.
  • DriveWorks projects can be created to bulk-generate SOLIDWORKS models, which DriveWorks can save as Drive3D files to prepopulate a library of parts.
  • To make your complex designs modifiable in 3D Preview, a single part will often be modeled as multiple Drive3D parts for flexibility. Try reducing your design into primitives that can be resized by being rescaled in one or more directions independently.

Learn More about DriveWorks:

Better, Faster, Stronger: DriveWorks Performance Tips

Automating the Automation: Making DriveWorks Run Itself