970 213-1828 info@cranedigital.com

How We Do Our

3D Product Rendering From CAD Files

3D Product rendering turns your .STEP files exported from CAD into marketing assets using advanced product rendering and lighting techniques.

Turn Engineering CAD files into Marketing Masterpieces

3d technical illustration of HACH DR2500 spectrometer by CraneDigital.

Today’s digital marketing requires the ability to convert your engineering CAD data sets into marketing assets. Often times in-house engineering renderings are adequate for internal use, but when it comes time to really put the shine on your product for marketing there is no substitute for high-quality, 3D Product Rendering.

CraneDigital has been doing this for nearly 30 years. We are not engineers, but graphic artists working with marketing directors and video producers to craft the perfect image. We understand how your engineers work and think, and are great at communicating with them so you don’t need to understand their language.

The process is relatively straight forward, typically beginning with a NDA provided by client. After all, you’re releasing

sensitive CAD data from your secure engineering environment. .STEP files aren’t truly CAD data any longer. Think of them as .JPG’s of the original Photoshop file. They are a accurate representation of your product, but no longer contain the engineering data required to actually be used as CAD.

Everything is done in house, with no off-shoring, so your IP is secure.

There is a difference between CAD solids models and surface models required for animation, but no need to worry about that–we’ll take care of it.

Once the CAD solids model is exported as .STEP by engineering, we’ll import into our 3D graphics and animation environment and begin work. A brief summary of steps follows below.

3d rendering of mammogram machine by CraneDigital.

Materials, sometimes called "Skinning"

In nearly all cases, surfaces (colors, materials, textures, shadows, specular highlights, etc.) need to be re-established. It helps to have photographic reference when we begin. Knowing correct material colors, surfaces, etc. is essential. Reflections, refractions, shadows, etc. are all optimized allowing your product to appear its best version of itself.

Once the product is surfaced (skinned, textured… all the same thing), lighting is designed using a combination of High Dynamic Range Imagery and virtual studio lighting techniques.

We then choose a camera angle based on your layout. It helps to know where and how the image will be used in a layout so we can help plan the camera angle and focal range. There are no limitations in 3D. Having products hover above ground, turn sideways, or the ability to easily drop out the background allowing it to be placed in any photographed environment is easily achieved.

We then render your final image to any resolution required, and deliver it digitally to your computer’s doorstep. 3D Product Rendering is a modern way to present your products to limitless eyes, 24/7 on the web.

3D illustration from CAD files: Created for Universal Motion Control, this image showcases two premiere products for marketing purposes.
3d technical illustration cutaway of electric motor by CraneDigital.
3d product rendering from engineering .STP files

Once your product is fully surfaced and lit, zooming into any feature or detail of your product is easy. A limitless number of cameras may be positioned around the product to show – or conceal – any feature required.

Additional images and views are fast and cost-effective because all the heavy lifting is done. It’s simply a matter of pointing the new camera, adjusting lighting if necessary, then rendering a new image. Quite literally anything is possible in the world of 3D product rendering (photography).

Real-world photography techniques are employed; for example, depth of field blur. Ironically, much time and energy is spent in real-world photography making sure everything is in focus. In 3D, one of the contributing factors to realism is adding slight depth of field blur.

It all depends on the goal of the final image. We have many years of traditional photography technique and experience, as well as many years of 3D rendering and animation experience when we approach your project.

Cut-away style illustration reveals what's beneath the surface.
3d technical illustration of hustler turf super z riding mower.
BioCycle-D from Enviromix: Optimized Aerobic Digestion for waste water technology explained

The image above combines CAD data with 3D models created at CraneDigital. Often times CAD data is needlessly complex, leading to many times more points and polygons required to define an object. Such was the case here. After the initial CAD file translation, the resulting 3D model was over 1 gb – far too large to effectively work with. After optimization, many objects were more efficiently re-created for animation, reducing the model to a much more manageable size.

The simpler the object, the less time it takes and the less it costs. The more complicated and detailed the object – the opposite is true. Simple – or no backgrounds – are least expensive. More elaborate images requiring complex, detailed environments, or the item interacting with the environment, are more expensive. It depends on the time and assets required. Cost rises with complexity.

For example, if your 3D object needs to interact with another real-world object (think of an EV automobile charger plugging into a vehicle), we’ll need to secure appropriate background imagery or 3D asset, or construct the supporting elements to craft the image specific to your requirements. Sometimes generic items may be used, other times environments need to be constructed specifically for your project.

3d product photography turns your engineering .STEP files into marketing assets.

3D Product Rendering turns your engineering .STEP files into marketing assets. The image above shows the Viking cold plunge, provided as .STEP file, in upper right corner of image, positioned in a home-gym environment. The home gym was built as a 3D environment model allowing placement of cold plunge anywhere desired.

HDRI (High Dynamic Range Imagery) lighting was used to establish the outdoor scene, and provide accurate lighting through glass doors and windows as well as reflections in mirrors, metals and other reflective surfaces. Quite literally anything is possible combining 3D Product Rendering with photographic imagery.

Product Animation and Illustration using your CAD data.
3D graphics specialist, Fort Collins, Colorado