VIDEO TUTORIAL: How to compress / reduce the size of an industrial 3D CAD model with MeshLab and Blender?


Tutorials | 10/11/2023 |


We previously published a tutorial on reducing the file size of 3D models with Blender, which is an effective method for most 3D models, including animated ones. However, for high-definition static CAD models, we offer an alternative approach to achieve optimal results for your final AR render.

Our method supports various 3D CAD file formats, including STL, OBJ, STP, IGS, OFF, GLTF, GLB, WRL, BREP, XBF, PLY, MSH, PNG, LOG, ES, 3DS, QOBJ, PTX, VMI, PTS, APTS, XYZ, PDB, TRI, ASC, TXT, X3D, X3DV, FBX, BRE, DAE, and E57.

Understanding Industrial 3D CAD Models

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) refers to 3D modeling for parts and assemblies in the Industrial & Manufacturing sector. CAD models require high definition for production and are created using dedicated 3D CAD software like Fusion 360 Autodesk, Solidworks, CorelCAD, AutoCAD, Tinkercad, FreeCAD, SketchUp, Solid Edge, Bentley, LibreCAD, SOLVESPACE, BRL-CAD, QCAD, IRONCAD, PTC, CATIA, OpenSCAD, Rhino, and Siemens NX. These models often use dedicated file formats.

Reducing the Size of Industrial 3D Models

Follow our step-by-step guide to create a lighter CAD 3D model for augmented reality display using an AR Code. Begin by reducing the model's vertices directly in the design software if possible. Otherwise, use our recommended method involving CAD Assistant, Meshlab, Blender, and Gimp:

1. Convert Non-Annotated 3D Models with CAD Assistant

CAD Assistant is a free 3D CAD converter for personal and commercial use. Download it from https://www.opencascade.com/products/cad-assistant/.

CAD Assistant

Import your 3D model into the interface and export it in .OBJ format. This conversion prepares your 3D model for the next step.

2. Decimate Your 3D Model with MeshLab and/or Blender

Decimating a 3D model reduces its vertices, potentially causing a loss of definition. Avoid creating holes in the model's texture by regularly checking the rendering after each decimation. For optimal results, we recommend using both MeshLab and Blender, with MeshLab being particularly useful for very high-definition static models.

Decimation with Blender: (https://www.blender.org/download/)

  • Import your 3D file (GLB, GLTF, DAE, ABC, USD, BVH, PLY, STL, FBX, OBJ and X3D only)
  • Select the first mesh to decimate
  • Decimate as shown below, aiming for under 40,000 faces per mesh. If decimation creates UV holes, try Meshlab decimation first.
  • decimate Blender

  • Export your model in *.glb format, selecting "Apply modifiers" but not the "Compress" option.
  • apply modifiers Blender

Decimation with MeshLab: (https://www.meshlab.net/#download)

  • Import your 3D file (ES, 3DS, PLY, STL, OBJ, OFF, QOBJ, PTX, VMI, PTS, APTS, E57, GLTF, GLB, XYZ, PDB, TRI, ASC, TXT, X3D, X3DV, FBX, WRL, BRE, DAE, and E57)

Then, based on the texture, select:

  • Textured: Filters > Remeshing, Simplification and Reconstruction > Simplification: Quadric Edge Collage Decimation (with texture)
  • Not textured: Filters > Remeshing, Simplification, and Reconstruction > Simplification: Quadric Edge Collage Decimation

decimate Meshlab

Preserve your model's quality by setting an appropriate number of faces.

simplify Meshlab

Export your 3D model in *.obj format to include any textures.

export Meshlab

3. Compress Textures with Gimp

Follow these steps if your model has image textures:

  • Import your 3D model into Blender
  • Export your 3D model in .gltf + .bin + textures
  • Open texture files in GIMP
  • Scale images (to 1024x1024 or smaller for higher compression): Image > Scale Image

Gimp scale

  • Export textures in *.jpg format with a resolution of 90 (or lower for higher compression): File > Export as

Gimp compress

  • Edit your .gltf file with a text editor, replacing texture formats if needed (e.g., ".png" to ".jpg")
  • textures jpg png

  • Save the file

4. Convert Your Model to .GLB for Upload to AR Code

To convert and export your model:

  • Import your .gltf model into Blender
  • If you have already decimated your model with MeshLab, try adding a Blender decimation as detailed in Step 2.
  • Export your model in *.glb format, selecting "Apply modifiers" but not the "Compress" option.

apply modifiers Blender

You can now easily upload your 3D model to the AR Code platform.

Video Tutorial: Reduce the Size of a CAD 3D Model

Watch this video to learn how to reduce the size of a 3D model using Blender and Gimp. The video demonstrates each step in the process.

Frequently asked questions

What are industrial 3D CAD models and why are they used?

Industrial 3D CAD models refer to the 3D models created for parts and assemblies used in the industry and manufacturing sector. These models require high definition for production and are designed using specialized 3D CAD software like Fusion 360, Solidworks, AutoCAD, and others. They are used to visualize, plan, and simulate complex products and systems before manufacturing.

How can I convert my 3D model using CAD Assistant?

CAD Assistant is a free 3D CAD converter for personal and commercial use. You can download it from https://www.opencascade.com/products/cad-assistant/. Import your 3D model into the interface and export it in .OBJ format to prepare it for the next step.

What is 3D model decimation and why is it important?

3D model decimation is the process of reducing the number of vertices in a 3D model, which results in a smaller file size. This is important for augmented reality displays as it enables smoother and faster rendering. However, aggressive decimation can cause a loss of definition or texture information, so it's crucial to find the right balance to maintain the model's appearance.

How to compress the textures of a 3D model with Gimp?

To compress the textures of a 3D model with Gimp, first import your 3D model into Blender and export it in .gltf + .bin + textures format. Then, open the texture files in Gimp. Scale the images to 1024x1024 or smaller for higher compression by going to Image > Scale Image. Export the textures in .jpg format with a resolution of 90 (or lower for higher compression) by selecting File > Export As. Finally, edit your .gltf file with a text editor to replace the texture formats if needed (e.g., replace ".png" with ".jpg") and save the file.

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