If you’re like me, you know there’s nothing like spinning around till you stumble and slam your head through a 3D display. The small joys of life. Much like being able to model 3D on a display while wearing some dope looking lenses and chewing on a stick of butter. At least it use to be like that for SolidWorks users.

Some people got excited when SolidWorks added Stereoscopic 3D support using StereoGraphics CrystalEyes in 2005. Technology and user’s interests changed, and two years later… they canned it.

So what happened? What did SolidWorks do with the ability to viewing models with 3D glasses and a 3D monitor or projector? We got a hold of Kirk Haller, Director of Research at SolidWorks to find out what happened and whats going on to bring back the flurry of 3D that’s all the rage with the kids these days.

“Other 3D programs have it? What about SolidWorks?”

I got wind of a discussion on the SolidWorks forums about SolidWorks support for 3d Stereo DLP-Projection. When the support went missing in 2007, there was no information as to why. Today, Kirk Haller clears that up and tells us what SolidWorks is doing to address it.

In SolidWorks 2007, we dropped support for OpenGL’s Quad-Buffered Stereo mode. At the time, this functionality was rarely used and the technology was such that it induced headaches or motion sickness. It also was very costly to support, and limited our ability to leverage performance characteristics of the graphics cards. Basically, we spent more time supporting it than people spent using it.

Clearly, technology has advanced since then. There is a renewal of interest in 3D display that is being lead by the entertainment and game industries. This has not gone unnoticed by us, as evidenced by our demonstrations at SolidWorks World 2010. We showed two examples of 3D display technology: the Canon Mixed-Reality system and the InfiniteZ’s “zSpace” virtual holographic display. It is our conclusion that 3D display technology becomes truly compelling when it is combined with 3D manipulation.

This is an active area of research for us, and certainly encompasses many of the available 3D technologies. Hopefully, if this capability is reintroduced to the SolidWorks product line, it will be in a way that is immersive, compelling and delivers real value.

Thank you Kirk, but really “if this capability is reintroduced to the SolidWorks product line..”? I think that should read “when this capability is reintroduced…” There’s just no way around the onslaught of 3D displays coming at us and to think SolidWorks isn’t doing research into the possibilities would be insanity. The only desire I have for this is, once it is reintroduced, that it would be compatible with autostereoscopic device technology with continuous motion parallax between viewing angles. There, nuff said.

Canon’s Mixed-Reality system

Kirk mentioned Canon’s Mixed-Reality system above. Here’s a shot of it displayed at SolidWorks World 2010. It allows you to view and interact with virtual objects in the physical environment. It’s the next step past your reality simply being augmented to display data by bringing in interaction with that data.You can see the guy watching on the left is not convinced invisible dinosaurs are about to eat him, while the guy watching on the right is having trouble catching his breath from sheer amazement. They both battled each other to the death, right after I took this picture.

Requirements for Stereoscopic 3D

If you are trying to set up Stereoscopic 3D to work with a professional level CAD application, you’ll want to view this article from 3dvision-blog.com. It has info on settings and discusses the difference between OpenGL and Direct 3D support. It also provides hints for getting low and mid-range cards to work without flickering. (Quadro Stereo Technology is supported by the entire Quadro FX line, but the high-end cards (FX 3700 – 5800 series) are currently the only ones shown to render sweet 3D projection flicker-free.)

From NVIDIA, here are the basic system requirement if you want to soak your oculars in a stereoscopic haze.

  • Windows Vista or Windows 7
  • Computer with 1GB min. system memory
  • 3D Vision Ready Display
  • A compatible NVIDIA GPU (Quadro)

…and of course support added back in from SolidWorks.


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.