3D modeling describes the use of software tools, such as computer-aided design (CAD) programs, to create 3D digital representations of objects. Professions that use 3D modeling include consumer product development, automotive design, industrial equipment manufacturing, architecture, design, engineering, entertainment and gaming, as well as healthcare.
Although complex mathematical formulas are at the foundation of 3D modeling software, the programs automate computation for users and have tool-based user interfaces. 3D models are an output of 3D modeling and are based on a variety of digital representations. Boundary representation (B-rep) uses mathematically defined surfaces such as cones, spheres and NURBS (non-uniform rational basis spline) which are connected by topology to accurately represent objects as water-tight volumes. B-rep models are the preferred solution for engineering, and many 3D modeling applications for the design, simulation and manufacture of consumer and industrial products are B-rep based. Facet models approximate surfaces using connected planar polygons and are the preferred solution for less precise, high speed, shape representations used in gaming, animation, and digital mock-up.
Virtual 3D models can be turned into physical objects through 3D printing or traditional manufacturing processes. Models can also be converted into a static image through 3D rendering, commonly used to create photo-realistic representation for sales, marketing and eCommerce applications. 3D models can be created by the process of reverse engineering, in which 3D scanning technology is used to create digital replicas of real-world objects, including manufactured parts and assemblies, free-form models designed in clay and human anatomy. Modern applications of 3D modeling create and interact with a “digital twin”, which is used to develop, test, simulate and manufacture its real world counterpart as part of the product lifecycle.
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