The 3D Revolution: CAD Access for All
The manufacturing industry has invested vast amounts of resources in the deployment and use of solid modeling technology. Although expensive to generate and potentially very valuable in many product related activities, 3D models have rarely been exploited to support product management, documentation, collaborative review, and promotion, because they were only accessible to trained designers equipped with expensive graphics workstations. Intranet access, popular 3D exchange formats, and affordable 3D graphics chips permit to download and view 3D models using a personal computer. Although these basic capabilities are revolutionizing the entertainment and marketing industry and have reduced the cost of a design station, they are of little help to non-designers in the manufacturing industry. The author articulates a vision where 3D data is available and exploited at all phases of a product life cycle. The paper investigates the shortcomings of the current technology, identifies the fundamental research issues, and reviews recent advances in 3D data compression, in the automatic generation of levels-of-detail for interactive rendering, and in the innovative exploitation of 3D input devices for an intuitive and effective navigation.