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Entering a New Dimension: How Apryse WebViewer Supports AEC’s Shift from 2D to 3D

By Nikki Manthey | 2024 Apr 12

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Summary: Advancements in AEC technology are fueling growth and accelerating the digital transformation across the industry. Learn how Apryse WebViewer supports AEC’s 3D shift and fosters fast, detailed, and effective collaboration for global teams.

The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) sector is at a critical juncture of its digital transformation. Globally, the industry is expected to increase in value to US$24 billion by 2032. Despite a historically complex relationship with digitization, some of this massive growth can be attributed to advancements in AEC technology, which helps improve efficiency and collaboration.

One notable technological development is the shift from 2D design files to 3D modeling. This new dimension of design enables a wealth of building information to be conveyed in an intuitive way. This helps make critical information easily accessible, which improves collaboration and communication, and keeps projects on track.

In an earlier blog post, we covered how document digitization helps overcome challenges unique to AEC. Here, we’ll dive into how Apryse WebViewer supports the industry’s shift to 3D.

Read on to learn how Apryse WebViewer fosters fast, detailed, and effective collaboration in a 3D world.

The Foundation: History and Benefits of 2D Design

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Pre-1960s, design files and blueprints were created by hand using paper, pencil, a ruler, and a lot of skill. Though some truly impressive pieces of architecture were built with this method, it was also time-consuming, inefficient, and prone to error. This often resulted in rework, as well as multiple document versions that were difficult to share and collaborate on. (Unless everyone happened to be in the same room, of course.)

Computer-aided design (CAD) software fundamentally altered the way documents like floorplans and blueprints were created. It’s important to note that hand-drafted documents were already in 2D – CAD was still 2D design, but faster and more accurate.

CAD software is used to create electronic files for print, manufacturing, and other construction purposes. The first “true” CAD software was developed in the early 1960s. Since then, it’s remained a fundamental part of AEC workflows, enabling professionals to craft exceptionally precise designs, easily edit and optimize them, and calculate how multiple materials relate and perform in the real world.

This results in many benefits like time and resource savings, a higher degree of accuracy, intuitive editing and review, and easier collaboration between project stakeholders.

However, the problem with 2D design files is that they model 3D structures. It can be difficult to fully capture the complexities of 3D objects in 2D drawings, so physical prototypes are sometimes required to provide the correct perspective. Understandably, physical prototypes are quite hard to revise in real-time. So any essential changes or updates can add considerable delays to already-tight schedules.

Enter 3D modeling and the age of BIM (building information modeling).

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A New Dimension: The Rise of 3D Modeling

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Before we dive in, it’s important to note that although the terms BIM and 3D are sometimes used interchangeably, it’s not as simple as: CAD is for 2D and BIM is for 3D. CAD technology is capable of 3D rendering, and BIM files often contain much more info than can be encapsulated in three dimensions.

3D CAD enables the creation of more realistic building models. This makes it easier to visualize the finished project and determine requirements without the need for physical prototypes. Though this is a vast improvement efficiency-wise, 3D CAD isn’t quite a holistic digital representation of a project.

More than simply specs and software, BIM is a collaborative process that enables architects, engineers, contractors, and other professionals to plan, design, and construct a structure, all in one 3D model. BIM covers the entire lifecycle of a project and contains a wealth of detailed data on every aspect of the built asset.

There are various BIM levels, ranging from zero to six:

  • Levels 0–1: Mainly 2D drawings, some 3D modeling, and limited collaboration
  • Level 2: Team members work with separate 3D models and share information about these models through a common file format
  • Level 3: All team members collaborate using a single, shared 3D model in a central environment that everyone can access and modify
  • Level 4: Adds time-based data elements like scheduling and sequencing to the 3D model
  • Level 5: Includes data like budget tracking, analysis, and cost estimates
  • Level 6: Calculates the predicted energy consumption of a building, ensuring structures are sustainable and energy efficient

Challenges of Working with 3D BIM Files

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File Size and Complexity

BIM files can be large, sometimes reaching up to 10 GB. Which makes sense, given the amount of information they convey. But when it comes to rendering and sharing, their size can sometimes lead to lag and loss of detail.

Rendering Speed and Fidelity

It’s important to get everyone on the same page quickly for 3D file review. Slow, low-fidelity rendering can make the review process more difficult and introduce avoidable timeline delays.

Cross-Device Compatibility

It’s usually easy to view large 3D files using a PC equipped with the right software, in an office with great internet. But folks in the field and on remote sites may run into rendering issues.

Learn how Apryse solutions help solve even more AEC industry challenges. Read the e-book.

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How Apryse WebViewer Supports the 3D Shift

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High-Fidelity Rendering for Complex Files

To ensure projects stay on track, it’s important for everyone to have easy access to critical building information. Apryse WebViewer provides industry-leading document loading, rendering speed, and display accuracy for large 3D files. So your team can make sure every aspect is correct from every angle, down to the last detail.

Faster Design Issue Resolution

When reviewing a 3D design file, incorporating different perspectives is key. But what happens if feedback is hidden behind objects in a dynamic 3D space? Or if team members can’t visualize the same angle or viewpoint? To solve these challenges, WebViewer BIM enables issue tracking.

Issues are a way to track and save a specific viewpoint. They include a title, associated screenshot, and key view information like zoom level, camera orientation, and more. Team members can then mark up and comment on an issue just like they would a drawing. Plus, you can also assign approval statuses to issues. All of this helps speed up design review processes and avoid unnecessary back and forth.

Easy Access to Important Building Info

One of the many advantages of 3D design files is the ability to combine geometry with additional metadata like an object’s material or dimensions. WebViewer makes it easy to access key building information via a customizable object properties panel. This panel keep critical data at the forefront, without the need to search through additional references or archives.

Top-Tier Security Built Right In

3D files can contain proprietary data, so it’s important to have viewing and collaboration tools that keep it safe. WebViewer BIM includes two components to ensure data security and privacy – a flexible JavaScript-based, client-side viewer, as well as a server-side conversion and streaming component.

Explore even more WebViewer functionality in this video:

Add WebViewer to Your AEC Project Toolkit

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If you’d like to try out WebViewer’s high-fidelity rendering and collaboration features yourself, head over to our showcase. For more information and to learn more about our SDK solutions for AEC, feel free to check out our website or get in touch with our team anytime.

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Nikki Manthey

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