Chapter 1:
3D Asset Management

What is 3D asset management?

3D asset management or 3D digital asset management (DAM) refers to the process of organizing, storing, and utilizing three-dimensional (3D) digital assets. These assets can include 3D models, simulations, digital twins, animations, textures, and other related files created using computer-aided design (CAD), 3D modeling software, or other tools such as 3DSMax, Maya, Clo, Browzwear, Solidworks, Ansys and others. The primary goal of 3D asset management is to streamline the workflow of working with 3D content, enabling effective collaboration, version control, and accessibility across various projects and teams.

Key components and aspects of 3D asset management include:

  1. Storage and Organization: Storing 3D assets in a centralized repository with a systematic organizational structure is essential to allow users to quickly locate and retrieve specific assets when needed. 3D assets are much larger in file size than traditional 2D content which needs to be considered when choosing a 3D asset management system.

  2. Version Control: Managing different versions of 3D assets is crucial, especially in collaborative environments. Version control ensures that teams can track changes, revert to previous versions, and avoid conflicts in the development process.

  3. Metadata: Associating relevant information with 3D assets, such as creation date, authorship, usage rights, product information and project associations helps users understand the context and details of each asset. Without metadata, there would be no way to understand where an asset came from making collaboration and usability impossible. Product information is also important so the 3D assets can be utilized in other systems down stream of design for sales and marketing.

  4. Collaboration Tools: Providing tools that facilitate collaboration among team members working on 3D projects. This may involve features like real-time editing, commenting, and project sharing. This can also include annotations where you can drop a pin on a 3D model and annotate so other users can see the exact point in 3D space you are referring to.

  5. Integration with 3D Software: Seamless integration with popular 3D modeling, simulation and animation software allows users to import and export assets directly from and to the management system. This not only makes the user workflow more efficient, but ensures if updates are made a 3D model they can be automatically propagated into all associated projects to ensure the proper version is used everywhere.

  6. Accessibility: Ensuring that 3D assets are easily accessible by authorized users within an organization. This may involve implementing access controls and permissions to protect sensitive or proprietary content. Single-sign On (SSO) is a great way to do this at scale.

  7. Rendering and Preview: Providing tools for rendering or previewing 3D assets within the management system. This allows users to visualize how the assets will appear in the final product or project. A 3D web viewer is required to see and interact with a 3D model while a 2D rendering tool could be used to automatically generate 2D images and videos of the 3D asset which could be viewed in the platform.

  8. Workflow Automation: Implementing automation features to streamline repetitive tasks, such as rendering previews, converting file formats, or updating metadata.

3D asset management is particularly important in industries such as gaming, animation, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), architecture and manufacturing, where 3D content plays a central role. Efficient management of 3D assets enhances productivity, collaboration, and overall project success in these creative and technical fields.

How does 3D asset management Work?

3D asset management involves several key steps and processes to efficiently handle, organize, and utilize three-dimensional digital assets, digital twins and simulation models. Here’s an overview of how 3D asset management works:

Creation of 3D Assets:

3D assets are created using various tools such as computer-aided design (CAD) software, 3D modeling applications, or specialized programs for animations and simulations. Artists or designers generate 3D models, textures, animations, and related files based on project requirements. Some common 3D modeling and animation software include 3DSMax, AutoCAD, Solidworks, Clo, Browzwear, Keyshot, Modo, Maya and Houdini. Simulations are generally done in Siemens and Ansys software programs with in the industrial manufacturing industry.

Storage and Organization:

The 3D assets are stored in a centralized repository or database. This can be a cloud-based solution, a local server, or a combination of both. Assets are organized in a systematic structure, often categorized by project, type, or other relevant criteria so they are easy to find.

Version Control:

Version control mechanisms are implemented to manage different iterations of 3D assets. This ensures that changes made by different team members are tracked, and users can revert to previous versions if needed. Changes may include modifications to the 3D model, texture updates, animation edits, or any other alterations made during the asset creation process. These changes are usually made in the original 3D design programs and then uploaded to the 3D asset management system though some 3D asset management platforms can enable limited editing.

Metadata Association:

Metadata, such as creation date, authorship, usage rights, product information and project associations, need to be associated with each 3D asset to help users understand the context, purpose, and specifications of each file. Often ERP, PIM or PLM systems are linked via API to 3D asset management systems to ensure this data is always up to date and there is a single source of truth for each file across an organization.

Collaboration Tools:

Collaboration features are integrated to facilitate communication and teamwork among individuals working on 3D projects. This can include real-time editing, commenting, and project sharing capabilities within an organization and with outside vendors. For 3D assets, it’s important to have annotation capabilities so users can drop a pin on the 3D asset in 3-dimensional space to clearly articulate the area of concern.

Teams can collaborate seamlessly, whether they are working on different aspects of the same project or contributing to multiple projects simultaneously.

Integration with 3D Software:

Integration with popular 3D modeling and animation software allows users to import and export assets directly from and to the asset management system. This helps enable a seamless workflow for the 3D designers, eliminating the need for manual file transfers and ensuring consistency across different stages of the project.

Integrations with game-engines like Unity and Unreal also helps streamline work so it’s easy for engineers to find and add 3D assets to digital twins and other applications. Connecting these systems via API helps ensure the most up to date 3D asset is used. For example, if a designer edits a 3D model in a software program and uploads it to the 3D asset management platform, that asset can automatically update in Unity, Unreal and any other program it is linked to without the engineer having to do it manually. This saves significant time and ensures the correct 3D asset is used everywhere.

Accessibility and Permissions:

Access controls and permissions are implemented to regulate who can view, edit, or delete specific 3D assets. This ensures that only authorized individuals can make changes or access sensitive content.

Accessibility features enable team members to retrieve the necessary assets quickly, contributing to a more efficient workflow. They also enable approval workflows so only admins with the proper roles have the ability to approve and publish 3D models.

Rendering and Preview:

Tools for rendering or previewing 3D assets within the management system are provided. This allows users to visualize how the assets will appear in the final product or project.

Previews help in decision-making, especially when collaborating with stakeholders who may not have direct access to the 3D modeling tools. For 3D assets, this requires a 3D viewer. If your team plans to generate 2D images and videos from 3D models, it is also important you have a designated rendering tool which can be embedded in the 3D asset management platform as well as the ability to view 2D images and videos.

Workflow Automation:

Automation features may be implemented to streamline repetitive tasks, such as rendering previews, converting file formats, optimizing file formats or updating metadata. This reduces manual effort and enhances overall efficiency.

By following these steps, 3D asset management ensures a smooth and organized workflow for teams working on projects that involve three-dimensional digital content.

Why does 3D Require Different Asset Management Features?

3D content creation and management differ significantly from traditional 2D assets, necessitating specialized features in asset management systems. The unique characteristics of 3D assets, such as complexity, interactivity, and collaboration requirements, demand tailored solutions. Here are several reasons why 3D asset management requires distinct features:

File Complexity:

3D assets are inherently more complex than 2D assets. They often consist of multiple components, such as textures, meshes, animations, and materials. In additiona, there are hundreds of various 3D file formats. Managing these intricate files and array of file types requires a system that can handle the diverse data types associated with 3D models.

Version Control for Iterative Work:

The iterative nature of 3D design and modeling necessitates robust version control. Artists, designers and engineers frequently make revisions and updates to 3D assets during the creative design process. Versioning capabilities are crucial for tracking changes, managing collaboration, and ensuring that the latest version is readily available.

Collaborative Workflows:

Collaboration is integral to 3D projects, involving various team members, including modelers, animators, engineers, designers, and even sales and marketing teams. Asset management systems for 3D content must facilitate seamless collaboration, with features like real-time editing, commenting, and project sharing to enhance communication and teamwork.

Metadata for Detailed Information:

3D assets often require more detailed metadata than 2D assets. Information such as polygon count, texture resolution, animation details, and software compatibility is vital for understanding the characteristics and requirements of each 3D model. In architecture, engineering and construction data around physics and real-world properties are also essential to have digital twins and simulation models replicate real world products for proper testing and real-time monitoring. Robust metadata capabilities help users navigate and utilize assets effectively.

Preview and Visualization:

Previewing 3D assets is crucial for decision-making and collaboration. Asset management systems for 3D content should provide tools for rendering or visualizing 3D models directly within the system. This allows users to assess the appearance and functionality of assets without relying solely on external 3D modeling software. For 3D this requires a 3D viewer. If you plan on using VR or AR you also need the ability to test and view content on these devices.

Integration with 3D Software:

It is crucial to have smooth compatibility with widely used 3D modeling, simulation and animation software such as 3DSMax, Maya, Solidworks, Browzwear, Clo, Siemens, Ansys and others. The specific programs you need will depend on the industry you are in. Enabling the direct import and export of assets between our platform and these applications is vital for a seamless workflow, preventing any compatibility issues. This integrated approach ensures consistency throughout various project stages.

Access Controls for Sensitive Content:

3D projects often involve proprietary or sensitive content. Access controls and permissions are critical to regulate who can view, edit, or delete specific 3D assets. Granular control ensures that only authorized individuals can manipulate or access sensitive content, maintaining data security.

Automated Workflows for Efficiency:

Due to the complexity of 3D models, it is essential to have automation features with in your 3D asset management platform to streamline repetitive tasks. Automation can include rendering previews, converting file formats, optimizing files, or updating metadata. For example, if you are a manufacturer of consumer products and you want to be able to share 3D models of your products as an interactive 3D and AR experiences on B2B sales channels, eCommerce, Amazon storefronts and create 2D images and videos, you will need the following data automation:

  • Automated optimization to convert 3D models to various sizes and file formats required by different B2B sales platforms, eCommerce, Amazon and various Augmented Reality platforms.
  • Automated rendering to generate 2D images and videos from the 3D models.
  • Automated metadata tagging to ensure all product information is associated with the 3D models and 2D images and videos so they can be deployed across all the channels properly.

These automated workflows reduce manual effort and enhance overall efficiency in handling 3D assets.

In summary, the intricacies of 3D content creation and collaboration demand specialized features in asset management systems. From handling complex file structures to supporting collaborative workflows and providing detailed metadata, these features enable efficient and effective management of 3D assets throughout their lifecycle.

Why is 3D Vital to a Company’s Strategy?

The integration of 3D technology is increasingly vital to a company’s strategy for several compelling reasons, impacting various aspects of business operations and customer engagement for all industries from construction and engineering to consumer goods. Here are key reasons why 3D is crucial to a company’s strategy:

Enhanced Customer Engagement:

3D technology provides a more immersive and engaging experience for customers. Whether it’s interactive product configurations, 3D visualization, or virtual try-ons, the ability to interact with products in a three-dimensional space enhances customer engagement and promotes a deeper connection with the brand.

It’s not just for consumer facing products. B2B sales processes are also greatly benefited by 3D. All relevant stakeholders and be quickly brought up to speed on product capabilities and businesses can more clearly showcase their superior features over competitors.

Improved Product Visualization:

For companies selling physical products, especially those with complex products, 3D allows customers to better visualize and understand products.

Products with customization options are also greatly benefited by 3D because it allows customers to visualize and personalize products more accurately. This leads to better-informed purchasing decisions, reduces the likelihood of returns, and enhances overall customer satisfaction.

Differentiation in Marketing and Advertising:

Companies can stand out in the competitive market by leveraging 3D technology in their marketing and advertising efforts. Interactive 3D ads, immersive multimedia experiences, and virtual product showcases grab attention, differentiate the brand, and leave a lasting impression on buyers.

Innovative Sales Strategies:

3D plays a crucial role in transforming traditional sales approaches. Virtual showrooms, augmented reality try-ons, and other 3D-powered sales strategies create unique and memorable shopping experiences. This innovation in sales approaches can contribute to increased conversion rates and higher average order sizes on eCommerce as well as shortened sales cycles and higher sales in B2B sales.

Adaptation to Changing Consumer Expectations:

Modern consumers and enterprise buyers alike increasingly expect dynamic and interactive online experiences. The relationship between sales reps and content has significantly changed in the B2B sales process:

  • B2B buyers are 57% – 70% through their buying research before contacting sales.
  • Nine out of ten B2B buyers say online content has a moderate to major effect on purchasing decisions.
  • Sixty-seven percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.
  • Eighty-four percent of CEOs and VPs use social media to make purchasing decisions.
  • Sixty-two percent of B2B buyers say a web search was one of the first three resources they use to learn about a solution.

[Source]

It is essential to have engaging, clear digital content of your products to clearly communicate their superiority and capture your buyer’s attention during their research phase. Companies that incorporate 3D technology demonstrate an understanding of evolving consumer expectations and a commitment to providing cutting-edge, modern solutions.

Efficient Training and Communication:

In industries such as manufacturing, architecture, and healthcare, 3D technology is valuable for training and communication purposes. Simulations, virtual models, and augmented reality aids enhance training efficiency and facilitate clearer communication of complex concepts within the organization.

Strategic Use of Augmented and Virtual Reality:

Companies incorporating augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) into their strategies can provide customers with immersive experiences. This can range from virtual try-ons for fashion items to VR-based walkthroughs of real estate properties and manufacturing plants. These technologies open new avenues for customer interaction and brand exposure.

Competitive Advantage:

Companies that embrace 3D technology gain a competitive edge by staying ahead of industry trends. Early adoption of innovative technologies positions a company as forward-thinking and can attract tech-savvy buyers who value cutting-edge experiences.

Integration with eCommerce Growth:

As eCommerce continues to grow, the integration of 3D technology becomes increasingly relevant. The ability to showcase products in 3D, enable view in your room, and provide immersive shopping experiences aligns with the evolving landscape of online retail.

Data-Driven Insights:

The use of 3D technology often comes with data analytics capabilities. Companies can gather insights into customer interactions, preferences, and behavior within 3D environments.

Industrial and manufacturing companies can gather real-time data and sync with digital twins to analyze processes, predict maintenance, improve efficiency and test new methods.

This data-driven approach allows for informed decision-making and targeted marketing strategies.

In conclusion, the strategic adoption of 3D technology enables companies to innovate, differentiate themselves in the market, and meet the evolving expectations of modern buyers. Whether enhancing customer experiences, improving product visualization, or adapting to technological shifts, incorporating 3D into a company’s strategy contributes to overall success and competitiveness in today’s dynamic business landscape.

The Benefits of 3D Asset Management

3D asset management offers a range of benefits for businesses, especially those involved in industries such as gaming, manufacturing, engineering, animation, virtual reality, architecture, and product design. Here are some key advantages:

Efficient Organization:

3D asset management systems provide a centralized repository for storing and organizing 3D models, digital twins, simulations, textures, animations, and related files. This centralized structure simplifies asset location, retrieval, and overall organization, leading to a more efficient workflow.

Version Control:

Robust version control is crucial for 3D projects that involve iterative work. 3D asset management systems allow teams to track changes made to assets, manage different versions, and collaborate seamlessly without the risk of overwriting or losing valuable work.

Collaboration and Teamwork:

Collaboration features, such as real-time editing, commenting, and project sharing, are vital in 3D asset management systems for fostering efficient teamwork, enabling real-time communication, and ensuring streamlined project sharing. These tools enhance cross-functional collaboration, reduce errors through version control, and adapt to the demands of remote work, ultimately optimizing project efficiency. In 3D projects, the seamless integration of collaboration features is indispensable for enhancing productivity and achieving successful project outcomes.

Metadata for Detailed Information:

Associating intricate metadata with each asset is a capability provided by 3D asset management systems. This metadata encompasses details such as polygon count, texture resolution, creation date, authorship and product information, offering users valuable insights into the context and specifications of individual 3D models, digital twins and simulations.

Preview and Visualization:

Within asset management systems, there are frequently integrated tools for rendering or previewing 3D assets directly. This functionality enables users to visually assess how the assets will be presented in the final product or project, facilitating informed decision-making and collaborative efforts.

Integration with 3D Software:

Having plugins to existing 3D design software makes it much easier for users to bulk upload and export 3D assets to and from 3D asset management platforms. This ensures compatibility and consistency across different stages of the project.

Secure Sharing:

Role-based access enables access controls and permissions to regulate who can view, edit, and/or delete specific 3D assets. This guarantees the safeguarding of sensitive or proprietary content, restricting access and manipulation permissions solely to authorized individuals.

Automated Workflows for Efficiency:

3D assets are much more complex than 2D images and videos, so editing files can be very time consuming. 3D asset management platforms include software to automate repetitive tasks like rendering, optimizing and converting file types which reduces cost and improves efficiency.

Improved Productivity:

A recent study by Forester showed employees were  losing an average of 12 hours per week just searching for digital content. A significant portion of participants (46%) highlighted that inefficient business processes lead to prolonged decision-making and an increased likelihood of incorrect choices. These inefficiencies negatively impact revenue and contribute to employee frustration and disengagement. [Source]

Having a centralized place to easily fine all the digital assets needed by teams across the organization will save time, increase speed to market and result in better decisions. Team members can spend less time searching for assets, avoid versioning conflicts, and focus more on creative and productive aspects of their work.

Enhanced Decision-Making:

The ability to preview and visualize 3D assets within the management system contributes to more informed decision-making. Even non-technical stakeholders can assess the appearance and functionality of assets without relying solely on external 3D modeling software which they might not have or know how to use.

In summary, 3D asset management brings efficiency, collaboration, and organization to the intricate process of handling three-dimensional digital assets. These benefits contribute to smoother workflows, increased productivity, and better overall outcomes for businesses involved in 3D content creation and design.

The Challenges of 3D Asset Management

While 3D asset management offers numerous benefits, it also presents certain challenges that organizations need to address. Here are some of the key challenges associated with 3D asset management:

Technological Learning Curve:

Incorporating 3D asset management often requires adapting to new technologies, especially for teams not familiar with 3D workflows. Training employees and overcoming the learning curve can be time-consuming.

Product Catalog Digitization:

For businesses looking to incorporate 3D models into their product catalogs, the process of digitizing existing product inventories into 3D models can be labor-intensive and may require additional resources. It’s important to reach out to the design team if your company has one to see what 3D assets they already have versus hiring outside vendors to build models from scratch.

Creating 3D Content:

Developing effective 3D content requires a different skill set compared to traditional 2D content. Companies need to invest in or train their teams to use 3D modeling software and ensure the sales and marketing team has the tools and skills required to use 3D models in marketing material.

Sales Pipeline Integration:

Integrating 3D technology into the sales pipeline may pose challenges. Identifying optimal points in the sales process to leverage virtual or augmented reality experiences effectively requires careful consideration and planning.

Cost:

The adoption of 3D asset management comes with associated costs. This includes investments in technology, training, software licenses, and potentially hiring skilled personnel. Smaller businesses may find these costs prohibitive.

Technological Compatibility:

Ensuring compatibility between different software tools used for 3D modeling, rendering, and asset management can be challenging. Incompatibility issues may arise when transferring assets between different software applications because they may require different file formats and sizes.

Data Security and Privacy:

As with any digital asset management system, ensuring the security and privacy of sensitive 3D assets is crucial. Implementing robust access controls and encryption measures is essential to protect intellectual property.

Standardization of 3D Formats:

The lack of standardized 3D file formats can complicate interoperability between different software and platforms. Companies may need to convert or optimize 3D assets for various applications, leading to potential data loss or compatibility issues.

File Size and Storage Requirements:

3D models, especially those with high levels of detail, can be large in file size. Managing and storing these large files can strain storage infrastructure and lead to increased bandwidth requirements for data transfer.

Interoperability with Existing Systems:

Integrating 3D asset management with existing business systems, such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or CRM (Customer Relationship Management), may require customization and compatibility adjustments.

Ongoing Maintenance and Updates:

Keeping 3D asset management systems up-to-date and maintaining compatibility with evolving technologies can be an ongoing challenge. Regular updates and maintenance are necessary to address security vulnerabilities and take advantage of new features.

Addressing these challenges requires careful planning, investment in resources, and a strategic approach to the adoption and integration of 3D asset management within an organization. Overcoming these obstacles can lead to the successful implementation of 3D technology and its associated benefits.