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Maybe you’re a manufacturer with a bunch of amazing products. Meaning you have great product stories to tell. Considering some sort of 3D experience to educate and engage your customers? An augmented or virtual reality experience? Or something on your website, like a product configurator.

Why not? We have reached a point where the technology is available. Companies are using 3D experiences across their Enterprise to increase their bottom line. Opportunities exist in product marketing, sales, service and training.


You might be wondering where to start. If so, read The Ultimate Guide to Your Products in 3D on the Web for more information on how to get your products online in 3D. We detail a number of options for creating 3D visuals for your products. One of these options is using CAD data. The good news is that you’re a manufacturer, so you likely have CAD. Hooray! The bad news is that CAD data is not easily translated for use in 3D Web, AR, or VR. CAD data is NURBS based, while these 3D experiences require polygonal 3D models. CAD is also very dense and cannot be rendered at the required 60-120 frames per second.


As a result, most companies rely on retopology to manually create 3D visuals from their CAD data. This means creating a 3D model from scratch, using the CAD data as a guide. This method is inefficient, time consuming, and costly. What if there was a better way?


Enter ONU 3DLite. We empower digital content creators to build the perfect asset in a fraction of the time. Then put those assets to use in 3D Web, AR, VR and mobile experiences. Automatically convert native CAD into low poly FBX files in minutes. Realize up to 100x density reduction without compromising visual accuracy. Adjust the level of detail to further reduce density or increase quality. Easily identify and remove unnecessary pieces. See the result of your changes realtime.


I have included a “tale of the tape” style comparison below.



ONU 3DLite

Manual Retopology

Free Your Workstation

Tessellate CAD files on the ONU cloud while you work on your workstation
Wait and wait while your high-end workstation processes

Convert My CAD

Convert any native CAD files to poly in minutes.
Buy third-party software to convert each CAD format

Tessellate with Quailty

Automatically reduce density up to 100x and maintain visual quality
Decimate density AND visual quality with your 3D modeling tool

Save Time and Money

Create lightweight meshes in minutes with our second-pass optimization tools
Spend days doing manual retopology

Retain Assembly Info

Retain part numbers and assembly hierarchies for 3rd-party system integrations
Lose all valuable assembly information during conversion

Create Multiple LODs

Automatically create multiple Levels of Detail (LODs) and choose the one that works best
You get one LOD. Choose wisely…

Share Easily

Share your work any time with anybody via a web link viewable on any browser
Peers or customers need your software to review your work in progress

Centralize and Store Safely

All of your assets in one place, the secure ONU cloud
Files are safe on artist workstations, until they’re not…

Of course, there is no silver bullet. Once CAD data is converted and optimized using 3DLite, there may be some manual defeaturing or minor retoplogy necessary. In our expereince, using this optimization method reduces content creation time by 10 to 75 times. In one instance, we reduced the time from 100 hours to under an hour!

So Stop the Retop and sign up for your free trial on ONU 3DLite today.


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ONU has been creating 3D Web technology and experiences for over 3 years. Making us a pioneer in this exciting new space. So we decided to write The Ultimate Guide to Your Products in 3D on the Web. Everything you need to know about how to get your products online in 3D.

With the rise of e-commerce and the race for online sales, consumers are expecting more and more from their online shopping experience. They expect not only education, but also engagement with your products. There is also an increasing desire for consumers to personalize products to fit their precise needs. Using devices ranging from laptops, to tablets, to their phones.

Chances are, your website uses traditional photography for product education and engagement. This falls well short of expectations for most consumers. You may use 360 degree photography for more complete views of products. This is a nice upgrade, but still leaves most consumers wanting more. More engagement, more information, more interactivity.


In response innovative companies have begun to adopt 3D web technology. Finding immediate benefits in online sales and marketing. Providing customers the ability to customize and personalize a product, and instantly see the results. Some retailers are even using 3D product visuals to provide better service and training for their customers. Read The Ultimate Guide to Your Products in 3D on the Web to find out how!




ONU just secured a speaking opportunity at the AR in Action event, taking place next week in Cambridge, MA. I will be discussing the importance of content creation in the augmented reality ecosystem. Concentrating on current bottlenecks and how CAD can increase efficiency, in an otherwise inefficient process. Concluding with why using a platform like ONU can assist in making AR a reality for Enterprise level applications.

I will be joining an amazing list of speakers, including Arpit Gupta of Wayfair and Jim Heppelmann of PTC, to name a few. So please get your tickets and join us!


About AR in Action

Dates: January 16-17, 2018

Location: Cambrige, MA – MIT Media Lab


Convening some of the top minds in Augmented Reality to accelerate conversation and collaboration between the industry innovators, thought leaders, investors, and corporations working to bring the benefits of AR to the world.

AR in Action participants are inventors, innovators, integrators, investors, and other executives–all experts in their fields. They will be coming from the boardrooms and the trenches, ready to focus on the next great leap in human performance. When we’re done, every human empowered with AR will be able to excel in the real world!




ONU 3DLite can convert and optimize a variety of native and neutral CAD file formats. Below is a list, along with any related best practices for getting the best possible results. Once processed using ONU 3DLite, use the resulting visuals in 3D Web, AR, VR and mobile experiences. Read The Ultimate Guide to Your Products in 3D on the Web for more information on how to get your products online in 3D.

Note that only file types of .asm and .prt are supported in .zip archive format.



STEP is a neutral CAD format, usually used to share 3D models between users with different CAD systems. STEP stands for “Standard for the Exchange of Product model data”. Officially known as ISO 10303, STEP is developed and maintained by the ISO technical committee TC 184.


ONU 3DLite Best Practices
  • File Extension: .step or .stp

  • Supported Versions: AP203 and AP214

  • Maximum File Size: 500 MB

  • Notes: When converting a STEP file, 2D graphics will not be converted with your 3D geometry.


IGES is another neutral CAD format, which stands for “Initial Graphics Exchange Specification”. According to Wikipedia, it was originally an initiative of the United States Air Force Integrated Computer Aided Manufacturing (ICAM) project (1976-1984). IGES is an ASCII based file format.


ONU 3DLite Best Practices
  • File Extension: .igs or .iges

  • Supported Versions: Up to and including 5.3

  • Maximum File Size: 250 MB



Parasolid was originally developed by Shape Data Unlimited, now owned by Siemens. Although a proprietary format, it is still a common format used for data exchange. A Parasolid file normally has the file extension .x_t, which is a standard text file. Another possible format is .x_b, which is in binary format.


ONU 3DLite Best Practices
  • File Extension: .x_t

  • Supported Versions: v10 to v29

  • Maximum File Size: 250 MB


Siemens JT

JT is an ISO-standardized 3D data format, which stands for “Jupiter Tesselation”. It is the current format used across all of Siemens PLM Software. JT is a “lightweight” format and commonly used for data interoperability between systems. According to Wikipedia, because it supports all major 3D CAD formats, a JT assembly can contain a mixture of any combination. Which has led to the term “multi-CAD”.


ONU 3DLite Best Practices
  • File Extension: .jt

  • Supported Versions: Up to and including 10

  • Maximum File Size: 1 GB

  • Notes: Export option window should have “include precise geometry” selected


PTC ProE/Creo

The ProE/Creo file format uses the .asm and .prt file extensions. It is a proprietary format output by PTC’s Creo CAD software. Creo was formerly known as Pro/Engineer, resulting in the ProE/Creo reference. The .asm extension represents an entire CAD assembly. The .prt extension represents individual parts within a larger assembly.


ONU 3DLite Best Practices
  • File Extension: .asm or .prt

  • Supported Versions: Pro/E 2000i to Creo Parametric 4.0

  • Maximum File Size: 500 MB

  • Notes: All .asm files with associated .prt files need to be zipped (.zip) together before upload. 



ACIS is a file format produced by the ACIS 3D modeling kernel, developed by Spatial, part of Dassault Systems. Per Wikipedia, ACIS files have an open format allowing external applications, even those not based on ACIS, access to the ACIS geometric model. It supports two file extensions; Standard ACIS Text (SAT), and Standard ACIS Binary (SAB). SAT files are ASCII text files viewable with a simple text editor. While SAB files are not viewable with a text editor and are more compact.


ONU 3DLite Best Practices
  • File Extension: .sat

  • Supported Versions: Up to and including R21

  • Maximum File Size: 500 MB



The Rhino file format is represented with the .3dm extension and is used by the Rhino3D CAD system. The 3DM format is part of the OpenNurbs Initiative. An open-source toolkit allowing developers to read and write the 3DM file format.


ONU 3DLite Best Practices
  • File Extension: .3dm

  • Maximum File Size: 500 MB



The CATIA file format uses the .catproduct and .catpart file extensions. It is a proprietary format output by Dassault Systems’ CATIA V5 CAD software suite. The .catproduct extension represents an entire CAD assembly. The .catpart extension represents individual parts within a larger assembly.


ONU 3DLite Best Practices
  • File Extension: .catpart only

  • Maximum File Size: 500 MB

  • Notes: To import full CATIA assemblies, please export them in STEP format. Alternatively, use this tutorial to convert the CATProduct to a CATPart.



The SolidWorks file format uses the .sldasm and .sldprt file extensions. This proprietary format is output by Dassault Systems’ SolidWorks CAD software. Similar to the CATIA format, the .sldasm represents a CAD assembly, with .sldprt representing an individual part. Per Wikipedia, SolidWorks files (previous to version 2015) use the Microsoft Structured Storage file format. Starting with SolidWorks 2015, third-party data stored in SolidWorks files cannot be externally read or written by standard structured storage.


ONU 3DLite Best Practices
  • File Extension: .sldprt

  • Maximum File Size: 500 MB

  • Notes: To import full Solidworks assemblies, please export them in Parasolid format.

    • Click File > Save As.

    • Set Save as type to Parasolid (*.x_t), then click Options.

    • Select from the following options:

      • Flatten assembly hierarchy (assemblies only) – Do not flatten

      • Output coordinate system – ONU 3DLite defaults to Y-Up


Screen shot of ONU 3DLite being used to optimize a Reverie bed for 3D Web

More companies are using 3D web technology to display their products online. These companies are bottlenecked by the 3D asset creation. The process is inefficient, time consuming and costly. For companies that design and manufacture their own products, CAD data is the answer. Using existing CAD provides the starting point for more efficient and cost-conscious asset creation.


The other consideration when displaying products online using 3D is performance. Starting with CAD data will result in dense 3D models. This density creates performance issues on a browser, particularly on mobile devices. Where rule of thumb for 3D assets to perform is under 250,000 polygons. For more in-depth information on perfoemance and other considerations, read our Ultimate Guide to Your Products in 3D on the Web.


This is where ONU 3DLite excels. Providing high quality visuals without the density of normal CAD files. Companies such as Xenith Helmets use our technology to provide a 3D product configurator to their e-commerce customers. Below is a list of frequently asked questions when using ONU 3DLite. If any of the terms are unfamiliar, our Glossary of Terms For CAD to Low Poly Conversion will be helpful.


1st-Pass Optimization – Importing and Automated Tesselation

What CAD formats do you support?

Information about supported CAD import formats and best practices can be found here.


What do the polygon count options have to do with my model?

Selecting Low, Medium, or High will help us take an initial pass at optimizing your model. After our 1st-Pass optimization, you will be able to use our 2nd-Pass tools to further increase or decrease detail levels on a part by part basis.


If the desired polygon count is unknown, leaving the settings at Medium (default) will produce the best results.


What is deviation angle?

Deviation angle, in our tool, refers to the amount to detail applied to the model. A small deviation angle will produce a finer amount of detail, but increase the polygon count. A larger angle will have a lower amount of detail, and use the fewest amount of polygons possible in order to maintain the shape of the part(s).


What is auto size?

This parameter defines the lower size limit of an element side. Increasing this parameter will speed up the meshing process at the expense of quality (surface feature details).


What does merge meshes do?

By enabling this option, all meshes sharing the same assigned material or color will be combined as one mesh. It decreases rendering time and simplifies your model, however, assembly structure and part hierarchy will not be retained.


The initial position of the model is not oriented the way I want. How can I change this?

The model can be manipulated by manually zooming, rotating or panning. Select the Help button in the lower right hand corner of the Viewer for instructions on how to perform these operations on your device.


You can also use the Cameras drop-down to choose from Top, Bottom, Front, Back, Left, and Right views of the model.


Once the model is oriented to your preferences, use the Default Camera button in the upper left corner of the Viewer to save the current view as your default.


2nd-Pass Optimization – Defeaturing (Hiding Parts) and LODs

If I know the part numbers for specific parts, what is th ebest way to find them?

The Tree View contains a hierarchical structure of all parts in the assembly. You can search for an exact matching part name, or type in a few characters and it will filter to match any/all parts containing those characters.


What is the best way to identify parts that contain the most polygons?

The Sunburst View is a visual representation of the part hierarchy. The innermost ring represents the entire assembly or top-level, the next ring ring out represents the first level of sub-assemblies, and so forth, with the outermost ring representing individual parts.


The Pie Chart View is a visual representation of parts grouped by name. Parts with the same name will be grouped together and represented in a single piece of the pie chart.


In both views, the larger the colored section, the more polygons associated with the part or parts. Clicking on one of those sections will select the corresponding parts in the Viewer and provide information about the selection, such as names and number of polygons.


Can I select more than one part at a time?

Yes, there are a number of ways that multiple parts can be selected.


Hold the CTRL key to multi-select individual parts of the model in the Viewer.


Using the Tree View, multiple parts can be selected by holding CTRL key and clicking the individual part names. Holding SHIFT allows you to select an entire range of parts between the first selection and last selection.


Using the Sunburst View, selecting a section on any of the inner rings will select all parts associated with the section.


Using the Pie Chart View, selecting a section containing more than one part will select all parts associated with the section.


What does my reduction percentage value mean?

The reduction is a percentage value, calculated based on the number of polygons removed from, or potentially added to, the model after import.


How many Levels of Detail (LODs) are created by default? How do I switch between them?

There are 3 LODs created by default. You can switch between them using the Plus and Minus buttons located beneath the Tree View.


Lowering the LOD should decrease the number of polygons in the model and increase your reduction percentage. Note that each individual part can have a separate LOD setting, depending on your needs.


How do I defeature my CAD model?

Parts can be hidden by selected them, using any of the methods described above, and then using the Hide button located beneath the Tree View. Note that hiding parts will decrease the number of polygons in the model, bringing you closer to your poly budget.


Once I’ve defeatured my CAD model, can I make parts visible again?

Yes, there are two ways to make hidden parts visible again. The first is by locating parts in the Tree View represented with the Hidden Icon. Select any of these hidden parts and make them visible again by pressing the Show button.


Is there an easy way to identify parts that are on the inside of the model?

Yes, use can use the Internals button, located next to the search box above the Tree View. This button will limit the parts listed to those on the inside of the model. These can then easily be selected and hidden.


How do I make sure all my work is saved?

Use the Save button located beneath the Tree View.


Exporting and Sharing

If I share a link to my optimized CAD model, will other users be allowed to make changes?

No, shared links simply allow anyone with the link to view the model. They will be allowed to zoom, rotate and pan, but not select parts or edit the model in any way.


I want to export my optimized CAD model for use in Unity. Is that possible?

Yes, our optimized FBX exports can be uploaded to many applications, including Maya, 3DS Max, Modo, ZBrush, Cinema4D, Blender, Keyshot, Unity3D and Unreal Engine.


Will hidden parts be included in my exported FBX?

No, hidden parts will be excluded from the exported FBX.


I’m working in 3DS Max and my FBX imports with 2D splines around the model. What are those?

3DS Max refers to those as “Dummy Helpers” and can easily be removed with a marquee selection, then delete. Click here for more information.


What should be my target polygon count when optimizing my CAD file for 3D web?

Polygon counts between 250,000 – 500,000 are best for performance and quality. However, if longer load times are not an issue, 1,000,000 polygons should be the maximum target.


What should be my target polygon count when optimizing my CAD file for the Microsoft Hololens?

Polygon counts under 125,000 work best in the Hololens environment.


Mercedes Mesh.jpg

CAD, FBX, and LOD, all terms associated with CAD conversion and optimization, are showing up in a lot of technical journals these days. What do they mean? You may be familiar with a few or even all of them, but perhaps not how they pertain to digital content creation, 3D Web, Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality. Here’s a handy guide to give you a brief overview.


Real-time rendering: Creation of a 3D visual, scene or experience that is interactive. This is different than traditional still renders or video rendering, which are sequential experiences, lacking interactivity. Examples of real-time rendering would be a 3D web configurator created using WebGL, an AR experience on a Hololens, or a VR experience on an HTC Vive. Read our Ultimate Guide to Your Products in 3D on the Web for more information.


CAD (Computer-aided design): Computer software that facilitates the creation, modification, or optimization of a design, streamlining the design process. Often times used by manufacturers to design consumer products. Examples of this type of software would be OnShape, Solidworks, AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, CATIA, PTC Creo, and Siemens NX.


NURBS (Non-uniform rational basis spline): Mathematical models used in CAD, CAM (manufacturing), and CAE (engineering) using control points to represent curves, surfaces, and shapes. Essentially the units used to represent CAD data, which is great for representing engineering data, but not real-time rendering data.


Assembly hierarchy: The term assembly is used to represent the entirety of a CAD model. The assembly has a hierarchical representation, known as the assembly hierarchy, made up of smaller sub-assemblies which contain individual parts with unique part names and/or numbers.


Polygon: A geometric primitive (simple shape) used in computer modeling and rendering. Much as the NURB is the basic unit in CAD data, the polygon is the base unit in 3D models.


Polygon mesh: A surface that is constructed out of a set of polygons that are joined together by common edges. In relation to CAD, one can think of a mesh as representing a specific part, such as a screw or bracket.


Tessellate: The mathematical definition is to cover (a plane surface) by repeated use of a single shape, without gaps or overlapping. For our purposes, it means to translate NURB data into solid polygonal meshes, normally while performing some level of optimization to reduce density of the original geometry.


Instancing: The practice of rendering multiple copies of the same mesh in a scene at once. Examples are screws or washers which may appear multiple times in the same model and are geometrically identical. Instancing reduces the number of draw calls, leading to improved performance.


Mesh merging: The act of combining two or more polygon meshes, usually those with the same material, to simplify the rendering process. For further explanation, see this handy tool for Unity developers.


LOD (levels of detail): Decreasing the complexity of a 3D model in a scene as it moves away from the viewer. This is common technique in gaming engines, as an object doesn’t need to be as detailed as it gains distance from the player. Many game developers use Simplygon to automatically create a range of LODs for a 3D model.


Decimate: The dictionary definition is to destroy a great number or proportion of something. For our purposes, it means to reduce the density of a model by removing some number of polygons, which normally compromises the visual quality.


Defeature: The process of removing parts or features from a design or assembly. The purpose can be to either mask design details or to remove density from the model.


Retopology: The act of recreating an existing surface with more optimal geometry. Retopology is normally employed with performance as a consideration, when only a dense mesh is available.


FBX: A polygonal file format (.fbx), owned by AutoDesk, which has become standard within the digital content creation community. FBX files are commonly used in programs such as Blender, Maya, 3DS Max, Modo, Keyshot, Unity, Unreal, and ONU.


In an industry full of acronyms, sometimes it’s nice to spell things out. Complex CAD models often require a combination of tessellation, decimation, and defeaturing to reduce the number of polygons and create the low poly models that can be used in AR, VR, 3D web or mobile.  Using ONU 3DLite will help you automate these tasks and achieve up to 99% reduction in content creation time.