Ever heard of 3D rendering? Even if you haven’t you’ve undoubtedly seen it. It goes by several other names like CGI, computer animation, etc. and is the backbone of most modern Hollywood hits. This technology isn’t limited to the silver screen and is quickly becoming a staple of many modern product development cycles.

What is 3D Rendering?

Image from Chaos Group

3D rendering is the process of creating a digital image of an object, real or fictional, in such a way that realistic images can be created. The first step is to create a 3D model, then to apply textures to give it a real-world appearance, then to simulate real-world lighting, then to use special software to put all that together and create a realistic image. Sounds exhausting right? The image above is 100% digital and doesn’t exist in the real world!

Costly Product Development Cycles

Stock Image

For many, 3D rendering seems little more than another tool in the modern film-maker’s toolset—a way to create the next blockbuster. It’s a much more exciting premise to businesses that have large initial costs in their product development cycle. For example, architects aren’t able to create their product before it’s sold to a consumer. Imagine paying for two houses—it’d cost as much to build an example—just to approve the design for one! Architectural Visualization is one of the largest 3D fields out there and the poster child of most 3D software’s portfolios.

Other consumer industries such as automotive and furniture have costly product development cycles that, generally, limit the ability to create initial demonstrative versions of their products. Just like architect’s build scale models, automotive designers build clay models, simulate airfoil design on computers, and simulate crash data with initial designs rather than start off buy building cars. It’s just cheaper. Furniture design is similar in that, especially for overseas manufacturers with minimum quantity thresholds, creating representative products early in development cycles is the only economical approach.

3D Rendering Lowers Development Cost

Image from RenderNode

3D rendering allows manufacturers to gain invaluable insight into what their final products will look like without actually making them. For furniture companies, this helps designers quickly and effectively compare finishes, sizes, and aesthetic combinations. For industries such as automotive, companies can do much the same. Color, size, shape and, in cases of advanced CAD Simulations, performance can be simulated digitally.

3D modeling and 3D rendering services can help cut out initial sampling stages as well as product photography costs. Not only does this approach cut down on expenditure but it enables companies to be more responsive to consumer demands and relevant marketing milestones. BMW could quickly render an American Flag painted version of the latest model for a few hundred dollars while repainting and hiring a photographer would cost thousands, if not tens of thousands.

Seems like a drop in the bucket for such a large company but it adds up—especially when 3D becomes an integral part of a product development cycle. Unlike real-world objects, 3D objects can quickly and effectively be recycled and reused.

Types of 3D Services

Stock Image

Most companies aren’t able to invest in their own 3D departments. The software to get started is relatively cheap—free in some cases—but the management and maintenance of skilled labor and digital assets can be burdensome. For small businesses, an extra $5000 per month for a new team-member dedicated to 3D, along with the software and hardware expenses, isn’t feasible. In such cases, there are a plethora of contract and agency 3D services available out there. Here’s a roadmap for what to look for.

3D Modeling Services

3D models are the raw ingredients of 3D renderings. They can be useful for rapid-prototyping, such as 3D printed models, and also are essential to CAM-centric manufacturing. 3D modeling is largely industry-relevant and the end-use matters. For example, if you’re creating 3D models to help your company simulate thermal wear on machine parts, you want someone familiar with software like SolidWorks or ProE. On the other hand, if you’re modeling 3D characters for your next video game launch you might need someone with expertise in Maya, Blender, or even 3DS Max. Upwork is a great place to find 3D modeling contractors that specialize in different fields.

3D Rendering Services

3D rendering is less use-case specific and relies on many of the same fundamentals regards of the subject. The three most discerning variations are real-time, animation, and still. Examples of these are virtual reality and video games, movies and product animations, and architectural visualizations and product renderings. Here you’re likely to succeed by finding an agency offering 3D rendering services that cater specifically to your business’ industry. For example, RenderNode is one such company that specializes in furniture rendering.

Lower Costs Mean Better Products

If nothing else, 3D rendering should offer existing companies ways to lower the costs associated with their product development cycles. This cost-lowering attribute should, in a perfect world, persuade a re-investment into product materials and development quality. That’s not always the case. For newer companies, it’s a mixed bag. Those with inferior and superior products can now enter the market, or at least gauge consumer receptivity, for pennies on the dollar. How will 3d services such as photo-realistic rendering continue to affect the consumer marketplace? Only time will tell.