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Standardizing file formats for 3D modeling: challenges and solutions?

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Standardizing file formats for 3D modeling: challenges and solutions?

A three-dimensional building modeling project is a truly interdisciplinary team effort. Design offices, architects and engineers may, however, have their own working methods and tools, which will generate discrepancies in data storage and exchange. To ensure harmonious exchange between the various parties involved in the design process of a 3D modeling project, find out more about standardizing file formats and the issues involved.

Why standardize file formats in 3D modeling?

3D modeling is a technique for visualizing and creating three-dimensional objects or scenes. This modeling is done using a 3D mesh system. The 3D mesh model is a set of points, lines, vertices, edges and faces that form a three-dimensional object. 3D mesh files are used in numerous software applications. As a result, there are several different 3D mesh file formats, which can lead to interoperability problems and prevent the various parties involved from collaborating effectively.

In concrete terms, for a real estate construction project, a company may hire a different architectural firm and a different engineering firm to design the building. Since each uses its own CAD software, each party uses different formats, which makesdata exchange between these partiesdifficult. As a result, the architectural model has to be converted so that the engineering office can work on the same model. This can lead to data loss, reduced quality and errors.

Generally speaking, errors of this kind lead to delays and additional costs.

For this reason, the use of standard file formats is highly recommended to promote smooth collaboration and minimize data loss. By adopting common standards, construction professionals can overcome the challenges of incompatibility.

What are the advantages of using standard files?

Adopting standard file formats in 3D modeling therefore offers several advantages:

  • It makes importing and exporting files easy, facilitating the interoperability essential to teamwork;
  • It reduces errors and conflicts through consistent data sharing and information transparency;
  • It eliminates tedious and risky conversions in terms of data loss and accuracy;
  • It simplifies the modeling process with universal file formats ;
  • It eliminates the technical barriers to collaboration between teams;
  • It facilitates communication and decision-making;
  • It simplifies workflows by avoiding disparate working methods caused by different file formats;
  • It makes the choice of modeling software and tools easier.

Standardization of 3D modeling file formats is essential to guarantee interoperability, integrity and compatibility, as well as improved collaboration between the various players in the construction industry.

What are the standard 3D modeling files?

These are computer-aided design (CAD) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) files that can be accepted and processed by several software programs without causing data and information loss during import or export.

Standard CAD files

Each CAD program has its own native file format. These software programs produce so-called proprietary files that can only be read and used by the generating software. This creates interoperability problems. To enable interoperability between several software programs, neutral files are available:

  • The STEP file (Standard for the Exchange of Product Model Data) is a standardized format used for 3D modeling. Supported by many CAD programs, it offers an efficient solution for data exchange;
  • The OBJ format is an open 3D mesh file format that is also supported by several CAD software packages. It is used for sharing 3D models;
  • The DWG (drawing) and DXF (Drawing Exchange Format) formats are virtually universal. They are widely accepted by most visualization and modeling software. They are compatible with many CAD programs such as AutoCAD, ArchiCAD or Microstation.

Standard BIM files

Standard BIM file formats are classified as "open BIM". These files are independent of the generating software, and can be read and edited by any type of software.

Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) is the open BIM file par excellence. It is a neutral format that offers project stakeholders free access to all information and data in a model, using any digital platform. It is an international data exchange standard.

In addition to this standard 3D modeling file, Revit design software offers an interesting solution. It doesn't allow you to create a standard file, but as it's a software with interoperability features, it allows you to import and export files in different formats, such as DWG, DXF or IFC. This makes it an indispensable tool for collaboration between construction professionals.

What about standardizing work tools?

For maximum file compatibility, it is advisable to use design software that supports multiple file types. Software such as Revit, AutoCAD, Microstation or SketchUp guarantee optimum compatibility in file exchange, ensuring minimum data loss. This helps to ensure data consistency and integrity throughout the process.

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