A common pitfall in 3D modelling: Avoid the bottleneck of mesh

A common pitfall in 3D modelling: Avoid the bottleneck of mesh

3D models of automation systems need to be detailed enough to accurately emulate the real system, but still be able to render several times per second and run in real time. This is complicated to achieve, and you risk running into the bottleneck of mesh. Here is how to avoid it.

3D modelling for emulation or simulation has become an imperative in the automation industry to provide realistic feedback in place of the real automation system. 3D models of automation systems are essential for among other things emulation testing of the control software or for simulation to demonstrate or stress test the system.

A lot of development goes into creating these accurate 3D models of automation systems. The most fundamental step in the 3D development process is the modelling, which entails creating 3D models of objects. 3D models are modelled out of polygons that are connected at their edges and vertices to define the shape of an object in 3D – such a collection of polygons is called a mesh, and a 3D model is a collection of one or more 3D meshes.

When developing a 3D model of a real automation system for e.g. virtual commissioning in the 3D modelling software platform Experior, the model is most often not just freely drawn for this task. Instead, the model is based on detailed 3D CAD drawings of the machines in question.

These CAD drawings cannot however be directly imported into the 3D modelling software for several reasons. First of all, the CAD drawings are modelled using the constructive solid geometry technique and not using the polygonal meshes necessary for 3D modelling. Thus, the CAD drawings will need to be transformed into polygons for the 3D modelling software to be able to render it properly.

3D model before and after decimation:
From 500,000 to just 13,000 polygons

Secondly, these CAD drawings are originally created as mechanical drawings of the system, and they are detailed enough for a smith to be able to build the actual machine – potentially with renderings of even springs and screw threads. Consequently, the model may take several seconds to render due to the level of complexity, and the 3D modelling software is thus not be able to both render the model and run the system in real time – meaning you will run into the bottleneck of mesh.

However, all these details are not necessary to emulate or simulate the system – only the structure is needed. To avoid the bottleneck of mesh, you will need to decimate the CAD drawing and thus get rid of all the details that are unnecessary to run an emulation test. That means you end up with a 3D model that is able to be rendered the necessary 30-60 times per second in the 3D modelling software. This decimation process can be completed with an external software.

At Xcelgo, we can handle this process in-house and develop 3D models of automation systems based on 3D CAD drawings, making them compatible with our 3D modelling platform Experior. In Experior, you can use the 3D model to perform emulation tests of the control software or to simulate the automation system.