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Exporting for an External Rendering Engine


Exporting for an External Rendering Engine

I've authored a few articles on the subject of exporting Pro/ENGINEER to be able to render them in an external rendering application like Cinema 4D, Lightwave, Maxwell. The concept remains the same and for myself the technique has changed only slightly due to the formats available.

To bring you up to speed here's a couple of parts of a continuing saga I'm writing for rendering Pro/E models:

Rendering CAD Models (Part 1) and Rendering CAD Models (Part 2)

The magic recipe for me is the use of Okino's NuGraf (or PolyTrans) software, with the Granite plugin. Since I deal with variety I also have the CAD/Pack and DCC/Pack. Depending on your rendering engine the choice of export will vary. For those of you that like using 3DS Max and Maya, there is a plugin connection so you can within those application interfaces do your import without opening the standalone application. The crew at Maxon has also created an 'Engineering Bundle' so that Cinema 4D users can do conversions within the application.

Until recently I was using the old VRML2 export because of the heirarchy and vertex normals being supported. The downside with VRML2 was it would not maintain any naming structure. Now, I use the Collada format. This format should work well with most any modern edition of softwares out there. At this time I haven't concluded the functionality with modo or Maxwell but the Autodesk products and Maxon Cinema 4D product supports it well.

A simplistic breakdown for workflow:

  1. Prepare your Pro/E model. Export only what you need. Depending on your translator prepare an external simplified rep or export a simplified rep as a STEP file. Do not forget to at least exclude all skeleton models. STEP in my opinion is far superior to IGES.
  2. Using NuGraf / PolyTrans, test the import with various resolution settings for the mesh density you find acceptable. You can use the polygon reduction tools but you will get a better quality using the import tesselation.
  3. Tailor and clean up the product structure for rendering. The way we design in Pro/E is not always condusive to our rendering workflow for material and object animation.
  4. Export the file to Collada (.dae) file and import to the application. When exporting be sure to have the heirarchy option on and vertex normal output. I will usually be sure to have camera, material and light exports OFF.

I have been doing Pro/E rendering in external applications now for well near 8 years using various tools from Lightwave to Softimage XSI. My current software line up is Pro/E Wildfire 5, Maxon Cinema 4D R11.5 Studio, and Okino NuGraf. Supporting software I use is Luxology's modo and Adobe's Production Suite CS4. I produce graphics and media currently under my JASE Design brand, which I can be contacted at jason [at] jasedesign [dot] com.

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I have also started using NuGraph. Works well for many file formats and preservers render related characteristics. However, pro e models from wf5 are not imported at all (may be due to older version of NuGraph?). For animation, i use 3dS Max 2010 and render it in Maxwell 2.

Jason 2 questions:

Why you say that IGES doesn`t better than STEP, can be the application better for rendering programs?

What extensions you recomend to use for other parametric CAD like Solidworks?, a extension that give me chance to do modifications or to use planar surfaces to extrude for example.


WF5 imports quite fine into NuGraf. You will need the latest Granite Pack from Okino for it to work.


IGES is an inferior format in my opinion due to it being a loosely  interpreted standard. Far too often you have to deal with unattached  surfaces or simply poorly interpreted models creating many patches which  makes triangulation a mess.

Unless the object is a  heavily ID design with complex surfaces (which I may use IGES), STEP outputs a much cleaner and  concise file for porgrams to interpret. It is a newer standard than  IGES and in my tests has the best cross-application performance and  results.

I am unclear what your question regarding extensions is. Are you asking about making modifications to imported files? If so you can build onto the existing geometry quite fine in either application. If you want a form recognition CAD system to edit the geometry you will have to use something like CoCreate or Spaceclaim where they give you lower level tools to alter geometry more robustly.