It’s as Easy as 1, 2, 3-Sweep! Make Full 3D Models From a Single Photo.

Jared FormalIntroducing guest blogger Jared Drake! Jared designs injection molded parts at Micron Products, and is always on the lookout for awesome new CAD tools. This week he found a great one, and I invited him to write about it here. Say hi to Jared on Facebook, and maybe we’ll see more from him in the future!


Imagine that you have a brand new project to model, but the basic idea has already been designed by someone else and you don’t have the exact dimensions of the part or it is too time consuming to measure every little feature. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a starting point to work off of to minimize the time to a finished CAD model?

This happened to me on numerous occasions at work, as my role is the Mechanical Design Engineer at a plastics injection molding company. I often get parts or poorly dimensioned drawings from customers who need to restart production on an old product. I model every feature of the product to the best of my ability, but this sometimes takes a few days depending on the complexity of the part. For quoting purposes, a rough model is generally good enough for material volume and mold size, but if I’m going to model something completely I’d rather do it correctly once. Because of this, the roughing step doesn’t really fit into my idea of productivity and gets skipped a lot.

Let me introduce 3-Sweep, a brand new concept for 3D modeling. My coworker in the IT department somehow stumbled across this video and shared it with me. It demonstrates an early version of a program that might be able to generate 3D data from a 2D drawing or picture. This would be perfect for the rough modeling step which I so often skip, or for generating a basic model that can be detailed later! Basically, the idea is that you can trace the width and depth of a feature in the picture and then sweep or loft the geometry through the height. Any alterations to the geometry along the sweep path such as flanges or tapers seem to be picked up automatically when sweeping, so you don’t need to model each feature individually. The program seems to allow for easy scaling and addition or moving of components. I was really impressed with the closing part of the video where the development team pointed out the program’s shortcomings, such as parallelism issues due to odd viewing angles and the program picking up a shadow as part of the intended geometry. It proves that nothing is perfect, but the team isn’t trying to hide their flaws either.

This could be the next big step in 3D modeling, useful to experienced and novice modelers alike. With the idea of at-home 3D printing skyrocketing in popularity over the past year, I could see this growing right along with that.

After watching the video, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the product, especially if it would be compatible with CAD programs instead of just graphics modeling. Unfortunately, upon a quick search of the program name I wasn’t able to find any demos or release dates. I can’t try this seemingly simple modeling technique at the moment, but I’ll definitely be watching for this in the future!


Editor’s Note: Personally, my favorite part of this video is that they show how their software can fail. It’s nice to see a little humility and realism in the CAD world. Take a look at the video below, and then pick your jaws up off the floor.

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