Use of 3-dimensional (3D) Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software has become essential in most design professions, including engineering, architecture, construction and branches that deal with the built world – past, present or future. CAD 3D modeling is also frequently used in medicine, science and technology to explain and visualize physical phenomena. 3D models depict the geometry and various aspects of physical objects and are dynamically visualized with computer graphics. 3D CAD models are very complex and the storage formats are usually proprietary to a specific software product.
In architecture domain, 3D CAD software is popularly becoming the design tool of choice. There are many software vendors catering to the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, especially AutoCAD, Revit and Microstation. 3D CAD models are increasingly used across all phases of building project life cycle management. The modern AEC industry has defined “Building Information Model” as a standard way to model building in 3D. BIM consists of 3D CAD model plus important properties of the model (e.g., attributes and materials) to facilitate better communication between various parties involved in the project and the future owners. From the 3D model many more detailed 2-dimensional (2D) drawings are produced for specific aspects of the building (floor plans, electrical, HVAC, etc).
There are also artistic renderings delivered to clients – photographs, photorealistic images and videos of the construction site – and ample email and document exchange between client, architects, contractors and other parties. While the 3D CAD models are of substantial importance, contextual files are often required to understand them correctly. For example, client presentations help clarify an architect’s design goal as implemented by a model, so researchers looking at the 3D model need the context of the presentation to make sense of it.
2D drawings generated by tools like AutoCAD present many advantages since they are industry standards (DWG, DXF formats) and can be easily converted into other standard 2D formats such as PDF or JPG. For places in which 2D CAD is the best illustration of the object, standard formats and 3D CAD model strategies can reasonably be applied.