Yep, you’re right. I just double-checked. It is, in fact, 2020. How easy is it to view and share 3D models online? Well, easier — we’ve made a lot of progress over the last decade — but you would think viewing and sharing photorealistic 3D models would be common and incredibly easy.
Until it gets easier, we’ll prep our models properly and take the little 3D sharing wins when we have them.
Online STEP File Viewer
One such win is a new, free online STEP file viewer from eMachineShop. eMachineShop is more commonly known for, well, their machine shop services — 3D printing, CNC machining, sheet metal, and injection molding — and their free eMachineShop CAD software.
Now, they’re complementing their free product and paid services with a simple viewer that breaks the barrier of sharing 3D models quickly online. You simply visit the site, upload your model (from your computer, Google Drive, Dropbox, or URL) and click Share to grab a link, QR Code, or embed code to share it with whomever you like. That… is simple.
Is it high quality? As you can see in my duct example above the surfaces are extremely tessellated for curved surfaces but machined parts look much better. You can see many, many examples in their STEP File Viewer Gallery.
Is it secure? Not in the slightest. The STEP file can be downloaded by anyone, anywhere it is shared, whether you intend to or not. They do allow the option to ‘Delete from server’ or ‘Request Takedown’ but that is the extent of the protection.
What it is, is free, simple viewing and sharing of 3D models, STEP files specifically. It doesn’t require that you sign up with eMachineShop or even use their product or services. And the practical side is that I can upload an item I need to be manufactured, and share it with the team, a machinist, or other departments.
Could the viewer have more features? Yup. I’d at least suggest re-tessellation options or just higher tessellation on import for models with curves, but for the ability to upload and share quickly, it works great.
What I think more interesting is how they’re using it to complement their other product and service. Their Viewer is free and their CAD product is free, but it facilitates the use of their paid manufacturing services with the option to ‘Get a Quote’ built into both free products.
Of course, this isn’t the only free, online STEP viewer, or 3D model viewer for that matter, or the first to offer dynamic price quotes. What sites/services have you used or do you use for online file viewing?