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3D models can be used for pretty much anything. By definition, 3D models are digital representations of real-life objects. But it's the application of those models or images in eCommerce, science, arts, and entertainment that's where it gets interesting.

Although 3D visuals are widely used today, it's because they look so photorealistic that many people don't realize just how widespread it is.

In this blog, we explain what a 3D model is, where the models are being used, and reveal our top 5 suggestions on how to best reuse and distribute 3D content.

What is a 3D model?

3D modeling refers to the process of creating a digital representation of an object. The outcome of that process is a 3D model captured as a digital file - with many potential uses and re-uses!

Of course, you need a 3D model to print a 3D object, but 3D models in themselves are also used across a variety of purposes as blueprints, prototypes, animations, and images.

Two main types of 3D models

When creating or ordering a 3D model, in addition to providing the right visual material, you'll need to decide whether you want it in high-poly or low-poly, as these two main types of 3D models have different purposes.

But don’t worry, even if you're a beginner with 3D, it’s really quite simple. High or low poly refers to the polygon count of the 3D image, much in the same way as we talk about high or low resolution of 2D images.

The main difference between High-poly & Low-poly models is the number of polygons used to create the models, thus resulting in the amount of details. (Source: CGTrader)

High-poly

  • A high-poly 3D model is going to be a lot more photorealistic and ideal for those detailed close-ups in an HD 360 viewer. But at the same time, these models are heavier, which means they could take longer to create, download, and store on a server or cloud.

Low-poly

  • A low-poly 3D model compromises on detail in exchange for speed, interactivity, and a lower price tag. So we tend to see more low-poly models in real-time applications like gaming, as well as view-in-room augmented reality.

To dive into more detail about this topic and more real-world use cases, see our blog.

Where are 3D models used?

A world without 3D models is like a world without the internet - 3D is now such an essential part of so many professions and expressions. In fact, 3D modeling has gotten so good that many times people don’t know if they’re looking at a photograph or a 3D render. A great example from CGTrader's Head of 3D Modeling is car commercials, which look so real but more often than not are entirely 3D.

Most new car visuals are made using 3D modeling.

Examples of 3D in widespread use:

3D models are also used to create physical products, as in 3D printing. But most often, they serve as a reusable digital file with infinite possibilities - especially in combination with augmented and virtual reality.

  • We see 3D models in gaming and movies, as characters and new worlds.
  • In hospitals and universities, modeling everything from bones to bacteria in pursuit of discovering new methods and cures.
  • In architecture, interior design, engineering, and also eCommerce and retail, in the shape of building plans, interiors, and products.

What is 3D + AR?

Augmented Reality (AR) is a breakthrough technology that lets you use digital content (e.g. text, graphics, video, audio) in real life. This happens by rendering digital 3D files onto real-world objects so that you can visualize how a shoe would look on your foot - or see if a sofa will fit in your living room - all before placing an order.

You can view the products at the comfort of your home while using AR.

Combining 3D technology with the world’s largest 3D designer network, ARsenal offers the only truly scalable product visualization system. From the niche to the mainstream, the ARsenal team presents our top 5 use case suggestions for reusing 3D content.

Top 5 Use Cases for reusing 3D models:

1. Deliver a compelling, personalized website UX

3D modeling not only allows you to create countless product visuals, but also lets the user to interact with it in 3D Viewer & AR. (Source: CGTrader)

One of the very first customer touchpoints is, of course, your website. Here, it’s not only the first impression that counts but the complete journey - from browsing through to checkout - that makes all the difference.

In order to deliver a compelling and personalized web user experience to your customer, how you visualize your product data is key. Increasingly, retailers and manufacturers are switching from traditional photography to 3D virtual photography because of all the things that 3D content can do that photography simply cannot:

  • For example with a 3D viewer, you can display, spin and zoom in on a product from any angle.
  • Offer view-in-room augmented reality to enhance both the online and in-store experience.
  • The ability to interact with products anywhere, on any device, creating a more personalized shopping experience.
  • Order at scale at a fraction of the cost with unbeatable turnaround times compared to photography.
  • Substitute a tradeshow experience with a virtual tour.

Especially in eCommerce, the combination of 3D + AR on the web has proven to speed up buying decisions and reduce return rates. Women’s high-fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff saw its customers become 65% more likely to place an online order after implementing AR. Whereas Australian fashion brand Rollie Nation saw its conversion rate boosted by 39%.

2. Build a reusable product catalog

With 3D modeling, you create the product's 3D model once and re-use it forever; get all the angles, colors & sizes you need. (Source: CGTrader)

Unless you're selling water, chances are that your product catalog is constantly changing and updating. From introducing brand new collections to expanding the color range of a bestselling product, every single new item must be cataloged, sorted, and photographed, right?

Wrong. It's true that every product needs an image, but photography is not the only answer. 3D images and renders are a game-changing option for a growing list of users. From furniture staple IKEA to sports label Nike, there are many examples of big brand companies already enjoying the benefits of 3D and AR technology.

Product photography is big business, but also a significant expense and logistical effort because it requires brand new photos every time something changes. 3D images, on the other hand, have longer longevity than a photograph because of the ability to change product colors, textures, size, background, and more - on the fly. At CGTrader we like to say, "produce once, reuse forever".

3. Customise marketing campaigns across any channel

Make the brand consistent and support all of your channels with endless product visuals. (Source: CGTrader)

It's not only product photography that needs visuals. Every advertising company or marketing department needs visuals too. Visuals are an essential component of marketing campaigns, social media, and creative ads to showcase and sell - whatever it is that you're selling - across the various platforms and channels.

We've already mentioned the flexibility to customize products with 3D, but you can also customize every creative detail from the lighting to the decor, angles, colors, textures, configurations, styles, and more. Exactly the same way you would design and set up a photoshoot, but without requiring any physical props or the logistical hassle.

Working with 3D opens up many exciting possibilities for creative teams:

  • One product can be placed into any scene, fast and easy to modify.
  • Use and reuse to fit different cultural tastes, changing seasons, celebrate holidays, or showcase different campaign lifestyle shots, all while staying in control of your budget.

What's more, it's easy to maintain a cohesive look that speaks to your branding with unique yet consistent imagery and video across all your marketing activities - email campaigns, social media, blog posts, product feeds, events, collaborations, you name it.

4. Test new concepts or products

Update the 3D visuals whenever needed. (Source: CGTrader)

One of the most common applications of 3D is in design. 3D is used by millions of designers worldwide to create pre or post-production models, prototypes, and products.

  • Architects, for example, rely on 3D software to create detailed models of structures and buildings in order to demonstrate their work and ideas.
  • Interior designers use 3D to decorate, adding details such as furniture, lighting, and decor and easily customize according to the clients' tastes.

We also see fashion brands using 3D and AR to test new looks and share on social media, increase customer engagement, and ultimately, increase online sales.  Australian fashion brand Rollie Nation is another example that turned to 3D modeling to help launch a brand new product category. CEO Vince Lebanon explains the powerful impact of 3D on his buyers:

“Just yesterday, I was talking with one of my sales reps in New Zealand and he had a customer that asked, “Can you Photoshop this new color?”. I just did it in 3D and sent it to him. He was placing a thousand pairs order on that shoe without seeing a physical shoe and he said “I don’t even need a sample as it looked that good”. 20 years ago, without Photoshop, he would have needed to send a fax! Now, in literally 15 minutes, he was able to give an official order and felt comfortable and confident that he could place it from a 3D image.”

Not everything needs to be made from scratch. There are huge libraries of existing 3D model resources and 3D lifestyle scenes ready to integrate into your 3D design projects and applications. The world's largest 3D marketplace CGTrader has over one million 3D models, and thousands available to download for free. Search our extensive database here.

5. Communicate faster and better with your team

Make sure all of your stakeholders & teams have access to the updated product visuals. (Source: CGTrader)

Finally, 100% digital 3D files facilitate communication between teams and departments, distributors and resellers, architects and interior designers, partners, and more. 3D files allow all these different types of people to virtually experience and access new products or concepts while effectively replacing the need for a physical object or presence. Kinda like what Zoom did to meetings.

This not only spares the need for expensive shipping costs but is also a huge time saver supporting smoother communication and instant feedback across global locations, so designs can be easily and quickly adjusted and brought to market without any transportation costs or delays.

Vendors like IKEA and Bumbleride for example stand out from the crowd and reach more customers with a superior UX when using additional capabilities like 3D visualization with AR.

Bridging the gap between physical and virtual

In essence, 3D models act as a vital bridge between the two worlds we inhabit, the physical and the virtual. We’re not saying that eventually 3D and the virtual world will ever replace the existence of actors in a movie or physical stores on a high street - these will of course continue.

But the evidence of 3D on the rise is there, and where appropriate, we can expect to continue to see more and more movies use 3D in animation, think Avatar, Lord of the Rings and Thor: Legacy, and more companies switching from traditional photography to realistic computer-generated visuals.

And with ARsenal, you can order, store, manage and publish your 3D models all from one platform. Integrating augmented features is easy, no app or coding required, and it works on all devices. Ready to create your 3D render with CGTrader? Get in touch now to book a free consultation.

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How to reuse your 3D models: See our top 5 use case suggestions

Lara Oliveira is a Content Writer at CGTrader ARsenal. A meticulous researcher and copywriter, Lara has over a decade of B2B experience writing for wildly different industries - now focused on 3D and AR in eCommerce. Thanks to an odd childhood growing up around the world, Lara speaks 5 languages, and in her remaining spare time, writes a food, travel, and lifestyle blog.

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