3D Format Wars! COLLADA (.dae)

By Cliff

WARNING: Geek-talk Alert! This article contains serious geek-talk. If you start feeling dizzy from this post, please consult your closest 3D artist/designer/engineer professional for an explanation. Be prepared for a lengthy response.

This may be some serious geek-talk, but it’s serious business for so many. With today’s computing power, Internet speed, and Web collaboration tools, the need for a standard 3D exchange format is serious business. Professionals need information quickly, and if that information comes to slow, you can lose money. In our world (of 3D), we cannot accept phrases like “we cannot export format XX, we only use YY”.

The Engineering industry has finally nailed down a good standard (STEP) for exchanging 3D geometry and project data (I know, IGES is still useful, but STEP is better in most cases–see my video on IES vs. STEP here). However, the Digital Content Creation (DCC) industry has yet to pronounce a clear winner. Also, there is a clear need for a standard from Engineering 3D models to DCC applications: What format is best here? The reuse of engineering data for marketing (renderings, animations, video, print) is a very common (and often problematic) function within our industry.

I believe there has recently been a front runner here: COLLADA’s .dae format. Yes, I know there are many other useful exchange formats, and if they work for you, use them, but I since I have been using COLLADA (.dae) as my exchange format, I have had no issues…seriously.

I believe that COLLADA is inching ahead, and will be the “STEP” for DCC. I’m sure I will receive a lot of rebuttals on this, but that’s good, we welcome the discussion. Why do I think .dae is the clear standard? Two reasons: 1) Most common 3D DCC applications can already import/export .dae, and 2) The format is not owned by a corporation, but a consortium – the Kronos Group, who handles COLLADA (.dae format) who will continue to expand the format for future uses (more on that here).

Let me give more detail: Photoshop users can import .dae files as 3D layers, Google’s .kmz format is really a compressed .dae file, and all the major 3D DCC applications for gaming and movies/video, can all import .dae. And recently, 3DVIA (so odd that I would mention 3DVIA, huh?) now allows download of any 3D model as a COLLADA .dae. This is BIG, because 3DVIA imports almost all 3D formats (click here for list), so 3DVIA can work as an online conversion tool.

Why is the 3DVIA download functionality important? Say you are a graphic artist, web designer working internally or externally for an engineering firm developing a Product-X. You were given the 3D model of Product-X from the engineer who built the model with an engineering application (i.e. SolidWorks, CATIA). You can ask the engineer to send you the 3D model (which will NOT open in your DCC application). You could ask for a .dae file OR you could upload the native engineering file to 3DVIA.com, where you could then download a .dae file to use.

Okay, that’s enough geek-talk from me, but I know there are plenty of you who have more to add on this topic. Maybe you have new information? I encourage you to add a comment, as it is quite possible I forgot to mention something…just maybe. ;^)

Also, check out my Cliff’s Clips video, which details more about the uses for .dae.


All a-Twitter for DSCC 2009

By David C.

So we’re just under a month away from the inaugural Dassault Systemes Customer Conference in Orlando, Florida and, given the dynamic global economy, it’s shaping up to be an interesting event.

Encapsulated by the theme of “Emerge with Advantage” attendees will have access to a variety of presentations and workshops exploring how our customers (including Honda, Procter & Gamble and Texas Instruments) and partners (IBM and Microsoft) are using 3D and PLM to position their businesses for future opportunities and growth. In addition, there will be a guest appearance by Bernard Charles who will be presenting on the DS vision around the power of Sustainable Innovation.

Building on the concept of exploring new opportunities, the DSCC 2009 team will also leverage a variety of social media tools to facilitate exchanges with customers/attendees and real-time communication before, during and after the event.

Traditionally we’ve communicated with the majority of our customers in a very linear, asymmetrical way; often looking at communication as a way for us to diseminate information. However, the feedback mechanism has always been a little trickier and certainly a lot slower. The possibility to engage with customers in real-time and in a completely non-linear way is very exciting and compelling for any company.

In addition to tying in with traditional promotions like direct mail and e-mail, the DSCC09 event team will be posting regular updates prior and during the event via the DSCC09 Twitter account and relevant multimedia content on the DSCC 2009 YouTube channel .

We’re also looking forward to this event being “Twitter-enabled”. What does this mean? In addition to the traditional means of communication Everyone, from the event organizers to attendees, will be encouraged to stay tuned to the DSCustomerLive Twitter account to find out the latest logistical updates, as well as tweet themselves to provide thoughts on particular presentations , feedback on the overall event so far, etc.

Stay tuned as we’re also planning some ways for the DS execs to leverage social media during their presentations to solicit near instantaneous feedback.

You can already get started tweeting about DSCC09, and if you do, please include the event hashtag: #DSCC09.

It’s an exciting time and we look forward to your feedback and exchanging with you!

And to get you in the mood for DSCC, here’s a 1 minute video for you.

YouTube Preview Image



David Coates works in corporate communications for Dassault Systèmes Americas.

Green Oil? A View from Offshore Europe 2009

By Tom
BP Stand at OE2009

BP Stand at OE2009

We all consume energy every day with almost everything we do. And like energy companies, we need to ask ourselves – can we be more efficient?

This week, our SIMUILA UK team has been exhibiting at Offshore Europe in Aberdeen, the second biggest oil and gas trade show in the world.  There are several hundred exhibitors and over 30,000 visitors at the week-long conference.



While protecting the environment is on everyone’s mind, the slump in oil prices means it’s more critical than ever for energy companies to tap into energy resources more cost effectively.

BP and BG announced massive new oil field projects prior to the conference. But while they must contain exploration and production costs, they can’t cut corners on safety, especially when extracting oil from greater ocean depths.

How do these companies and others know their equipment will work reliably in harsh offshore conditions without overspending and causing delays by relying solely on physical tests? 

By innovating with Realisitc Simulation. 

SIMULIA is helping Oil and Gas companies like Weatherford improve the design their Expandable Sand Screens and Prospect to virtually test their latest products before making a prototype. Abaqus FEA is used to analyze realistic performance of many critical parts and systems for energy exploration including filters, pipelines, foundations, pressure seals, and more. By trying out their designs virtually, they are able to evaluate structural integrity without wasting time, cost, and energy on multiple physical prototypes.

These savings can have a big influence in the price you pay at the pump when filling up your vehicle.

Iceberg gouging analysis. Courtesy J P Kenny

Iceberg gouging analysis. Courtesy J P Kenny

A topic crucial for our environment is moving oil through pipelines while preventing leaks or spills.  

JP Kenny has used Abaqus on many projects including evaluating the best way to lay underwater pipelines in the Arctic while preventing them from being damaged by iceberg gouging. You can check out their case study at Offshore Magazine’s website.

It’s also worth remembering that Offshore Energy is not all about oil – with E.On launching Scotland’s first offshore wind farm this week – it seems all energy, even oil, can be green as well as black. 

What do you think? 



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Beyond PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), Dassault Systèmes, the 3D Experience Company, provides business and people with virtual universes to imagine sustainable innovations. 3DSWYM, 3D VIA, CATIA, DELMIA, ENOVIA, EXALEAD, NETVIBES, SIMULIA and SOLIDWORKS are registered trademarks of Dassault Systèmes or its subsidiaries in the US and/or other countries.