ModelPort is a 3D model importer add-on for Graphisoft ArchiCad. Although ArchiCad can handle many file formats, somehow the still very popular OBJ and the nowadays quasi-standard FBX is not among them.
To fill this gap we created ModelPort which can construct ArchiCad Library parts from Alias Wavefront OBJ, Autodesk FBX, Collada DAE and 3D Studio 3DS files.
You can find huge amount of ready-made ArchiCad library parts on the internet, but often happens, that you need something special, something unique to match the design of your new building. It can be a statue, the grandpa’s old chair which is dear to the customer’s heart or maybe a really fancy ornament on the wall. Sometimes you find the right object file on the internet (but in a wrong format), or you have to create your own model in a modeller software (but you cannot read it into ArchiCad). You can convert your files to .3DS or .DXF format but it is a cumbersome process and often something essential is lost during the conversion. We think it is better to choose the easy way, use ModelPort to import these files.
ModelPort uses the Autodesk FBX SDK, which is the same code what is used by Autodesk to create bridge between their popular 3D Softwares: Maya, Softimage XSI, 3DStudio MAX, etc. Using the FBX SDK means we can provide reliable connection to these and to many other 3D programs.
Usually FBX and OBJ are the best formats for exchanging files between 3D programs, but they have their limitations. You can read more about the specific formats below. (source: wikipedia, autodesk, turbosquid, graphisoft)
The OBJ file format is a simple data-format that represents 3D geometry alone — namely, the position of each vertex, the UV position of each texture coordinate vertex, vertex normals, and the faces that make each polygon defined as a list of vertices, and texture vertices. Vertices are stored in a counter-clockwise order by default, making explicit declaration of face normals unnecessary. OBJ coordinates have no units, but OBJ files can contain scale information in a human readable comment line.
Pros: The most popular exchange format for 3D models, OBJ can be exported and imported by just about every 3D application. Quad topology is retained.
Cons: Does not hold rigging or animation information.
FBX® (Filmbox) is a proprietary file format developed by Kaydara and now owned by Autodesk. FBX data exchange technology is a 3D asset exchange format compatible with many 3D tools. FBX facilitates higher-fidelity data exchange between several Autodesk content creation packages and supports certain third-party and propriety applications. With FBX in your pipeline, it’s easier to transfer files, retain more data, and work more efficiently.
Pros: The only exchange format that holds rigging and animation information. A newer format, it can hold more complex material information than OBJ. Quad topology is retained.
Cons: Older versions of the FBX format often exchange model information better than newer versions.
Having been around since 1990, 3DS format has grown to become a de facto industry standard for transferring models between 3D programs, or for storing models for 3D resource catalogs. The format is based in chunks, where each section of data is embedded in a block that contains a chunk identifier and the length of the data (to provide the location of the next main block), as well as the data itself. This allows parsers to skip chunks they don’t recognize, and allows for extensions to the format.
Pros: Sometimes older models are available only in 3DS format.
Cons: All topology is stored as triangles regardless of the original topology. 3DS cannot reference texture file names more than 8 characters in length, so in models exported to 3DS the texture references are always truncated to 8 characters. OBJ files cannot hold rigging or animation information.
ArchiCAD is an architectural BIM CAD software for Macintosh and Windows developed by the Hungarian company Graphisoft. ArchiCAD offers specialized solutions for handling all common aspects of aesthetics and engineering during the whole design process of the built environment — buildings, interiors, urban areas, etc.
Development of ArchiCAD started in 1982 for the original Apple Macintosh. ArchiCAD is recognized as the first CAD product on a personal computer able to create both 2D drawings and parametric 3D geometry. In its debut in 1987, with Graphisoft’s “Virtual Building” concept, ArchiCAD also became the first implementation of BIM. Today more than 100,000 architects are using it in the building design industry.