Freeform modeler SuperD for Rhino 3D bridges the gap between aesthetics and engineering modelers

SuperD from Boulder Graphics is a new CAD software tool designed to bridge the gap between aesthetic 3D modeling and engineering 3D modeling. It is a desktop version of the popular SuperD app for iOS devices, modified to work as an add-on to the popular Rhino 3D CAD modeler from Robert McNeel & Associates.

To introduce it, let’s look at the two types of professional 3D modeling software. At a technical level, aesthetic 3D software generally defines shape using polygons (triangulation) while engineering 3D software generally defines shape using 2D and 3D geometric objects (lines, arcs, cubes, cones, etc.). Aesthetic 3D models are for viewing, engineering 3D models are for manufacture or construction. But in practice the distinctions blur.

SuperD uses modeling controls familiar to mobile users. (Source: Boulder Graphics)

The problem comes when an engineer (architect, etc.) wants an especially pleasing aesthetic or an artist wants to construct a physical version of the model. Aesthetic models lack rigorous geometric precision; engineering models lack continuity of form when shape becomes complex. Think of it as the difference between working in clay and dimensional lumber.

SuperD uses the most popular technology for aesthetic modeling, recursive subdivision (SubD), but uses technology borrowed from engineering software to produce improved smoothness. “There are no troublesome extraordinary points, dimples, irregular triangulations, or patch clusters,” says Alyn Rockwood, Ph.D. chief scientist and CEO of Boulder Graphics. Rockwood says “there are no troublesome extraordinary point (dimples), irregular triangulations, or patch clusters.” The output is smooth — C2 continuous in tech jargon — and watertight.

SuperD can import OBJ files, allowing the use of existing SubD models in Rhino applications. Rockwood says SuperD can also be used for original design work as well as editing existing data. The 3D editing tools include all Rhino “gumball” operations, as well as tools for extending the model through extrusion, subdivision, duplication and deletion. The SuperD model converts to Rhino B-spline model with a single button click.

“SuperD is for high quality sculptured surfaces,” says Rockwood, “It has better triangulation, and fairer shape. A small database also has strong implications for cloud computing”

Technical features:

  • Employs the popular SubD interface
  • Quality (mostly C2) surfaces with no extraordinary points, regular triangulations without cracks or patch clusters
  • Compact SuperD database
  • Creates watertight models for 3D printing
  • OBJ and B-spline input/output
  • Level of Detail (LOD) management
  • Integrates with Rhino3D
  • 3D editing operations including box select, rotate, pan, scale, pull (extrude), duplicate, subdivide, delete, and B-spline convert
  • Layering (groups)
  • Open or closed models with Bezier curve boundaries

SuperD for Rhino 3D requires Rhino3D version 6 for Windows. The product is sold directly by Boulder Graphics for $550.  A 30-day free trial version is available.

A SubD model imported and edited inside SuperD and Rhino 3D. (Source: Boulder Graphics)

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