Support for 3D Models

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The Altium Vault 2.5 release, in conjunction with Altium Designer 15.1, brings support for vault-based 3D models. Used in a similar fashion to file-based linked 3D models,  a vault-based 3D model Item can hold a 3D model file, that is then referenced through a 3D body attached to a standard 2D footprint. This support brings with it the security and inherent benefits (where-used, lifecycle management, etc) associated with use of an Altium Vault.

Folder Type

When creating the folder in which to store a 3D Model Item, you can specify the folder's type. This has no bearing on the content of the folder – uploading a 3D model file will always result in a 3D Model Item. It simply provides a visual 'clue' as to what is stored in a folder and can be beneficial when browsing a vault for particular content. To nominate a folder's use as a container for 3D Model Items, set its Folder Type as altium-3d-library.

A 3D model file can be uploaded into the next planned revision of a new/existing 3D Model Item, irrespective of whether that Item resides in a 3D Library-type folder, or any other folder type.

Specifying the folder type - its intended use - gives a visual indication of the content of that folder when browsing the vault!

Item Naming Scheme

Another important aspect of the parent folder is the Item Naming Scheme employed for it. This defines the format of the unique ID for each Item created in that particular folder. Several default example schemes are available, utilizing the short-form code for either the folder type (A3DL - Altium 3D Library) or the content type (A3D - Altium 3D):

  • $CONTENT_TYPE_CODE-001-{0000} - for example, A3D-001-0001.
  • $CONTENT_TYPE_CODE-001-{A00} - for example, A3D-001-A01.
  • $FOLDER_TYPE_CODE-001-{0000} - for example, A3DL-001-0001.
  • $FOLDER_TYPE_CODE-001-{A000} - for example, A3DL-001-A001.

Using a default naming scheme, the software will automatically assign the next available unique ID, based on that scheme, having scanned the entire vault and identifiers of existing Items. This can be a great time-saver when manually creating 3D Model Items prior to release.

A custom scheme can also be defined for a folder, simply by typing it within the field, ensuring that the variable portion is enclosed in curly braces (e.g. STEP3D-001-{0000}).

The Item Naming Scheme of the parent folder is applied to the Unique ID for each Item
created within that folder.

The Item Naming Scheme employed for the parent folder can be changed at any time. The modified scheme will then be applied to any subsequent newly-created Items within that folder.

Item Type

When creating the target 3D Model Item in which to store your 3D model file, ensure that its Content Type is set to altium-3d-model. If you are creating the Item in a 3D Model Library type folder, this Item type will be available from the right-click context menu when creating the Item.

Creating a 3D Model Item within a 3D Model Library - the correct Content Type is available on the context menu.

Item Lifecycle Definition and Revision Naming

When defining the 3D Model Item, to which the source 3D model file is uploaded, be sure to specify the type of lifecycle management to be used for the Item, and the naming scheme employed for its revisions, respectively.

Control over which Item types can use a particular lifecycle definition or revision naming scheme, can be defined and enabled at a global level from within the Content Types dialog, when defining each schema. For a newly-installed vault, the default schemes assigned for use by a 3D Model Item are: Basic Lifecycle and 1-Level Revision Scheme, respectively.

Once a 3D model file has been uploaded into the initial revision of a 3D Model Item, these schemes cannot be changed for that particular Item.

Specify the required schemes in the Item Properties dialog, using the Lifecycle Definition and Revision Naming Scheme fields respectively.

If the option to control use of lifecycle definitions and revision naming schemes per content type is enabled for any definitions/schemes, and the 3D Model Item type is not set to use a particular definition/scheme, then that definition/scheme will not be available in the applicable drop-down list.

Selecting the Lifecycle Definition and Revision Naming schemes for a manually created Item.

Observing standard revision naming schemes and lifecycle definitions, across the various types of design item in a vault ensures smooth, consistent management of those items.
It is a good idea to add a comment and description as part of the Item's definition. This information is used when searching the vault and enables quick identification of what a 3D Model Item offers.

Uploading a 3D Model File

Getting a 3D model file into an Altium Vault is not a case of 'releasing' that file, in the traditional sense, but rather a case of 'uploading' it into a planned revision of a target 3D Model Item. The vault can be thought of, in this case, as simply another storage medium (albeit more secure and offering features such as lifecycle management, and where-used functionality).

To upload a 3D model file, right-click on the target 3D Model Item in the Vaults panel, and choose the Upload command from the context menu. Use the Open dialog that appears to browse for, and select, the 3D model file. The following model formats are supported:

  • STEP File (*.step; *.stp) - 203 and 214 formats.
  • Parasolid File (*.x_t; *.x_b) - up to V27.
  • SolidWorks Part File (*.sldprt) - up to 2015 format.
Parasolid and SolidWorks file support is only available when the SolidWorks Collaboration extension is installed. You will also require a SolidWorks Collaboration with Altium Designer license, which is enabled along with your regular Altium Designer license.

With the model file chosen, click the Open button - the upload will proceed, with the 3D model presented in the Preview aspect view for the Item Revision, in the Vaults panel.

If the existing 3D Model Item has no planned revision, upload will be to the next planned revision, created on-the-fly as part of the upload process. If the 3D Model Library folder has no pre-created 3D Model Items, a new 3D Model Item (and planned revision) will be created, as part of the upload process. Initial naming of the new Item will be in accordance with the Item Naming scheme defined at the folder level.

Specifying the 3D model file to be uploaded to the target 3D Model Item. The graphical depiction of the uploaded model can be viewed in the Preview aspect
view for the Item Revision

Downloading a Model File

Download the 3D model file stored in a revision of a 3D Model Item by right-clicking on that revision and choosing the Operations » Download command from the context menu. The model file will be downloaded into a sub-folder under the chosen directory, named using the Item Revision name. The file can be found in the Released folder therein.

Access the Download command from the top-level entry for a 3D Model Item itself, to download the 3D model file stored in the latest revision of that Item.
Click the Explore button in the Download from Vault dialog, to quickly explore to the download folder.

Referencing a Vault-based 3D Model Item from a 3D Body

A 3D body is used to provide the three-dimensional representation of the PCB component, and is typically placed and defined in conjunction with the standard 2D footprint model, when defining a component model within a PCB Library. This full definition then becomes a true PCB 2D/3D Component model, which itself is then released to the vault as a revision of a target PCB Component Item.

The quickest, and easiest way to use a revision of a 3D Model Item, is to place it directly from the vault into a PCB or PCB Library document, creating a 3D Body object that references that Item Revision. The 3D Body object can then be fine-tuned as required. To place:

  • Ensure a PCB Library (or PCB) document is open as the active design document.
  • Either right-click on the required revision of the 3D Model Item and choose the Place command from the context menu or, even faster, click on the revision, then drag and drop it onto the document.
Right-click and Place (or drag and drop) the top-level entry for an Item itself, to place an instance of the latest revision of that Item.

Conversely, if you are defining the 3D Body object, and want to reference a 3D model that is stored in an Altium Vault, this can be done from within the 3D Body dialog, when defining the properties for the body.

To do so:

  1. Set the 3D Model Type to Generic 3D Model.
  2. In the Generic 3D Model region of the dialog, choose the Vault option.
  3. Click the Choose button to the right of the Item Revision field. This gives access to the Choose Item dialog – essentially a trimmed incarnation of the Vaults panel. Use this dialog to browse to, and select, the revision of the required 3D Model Item. After clicking OK, a link will be created between the 3D Body and the target revision of the 3D Model Item. Evidence of this link can be seen back in the 3D Body dialog.

Manually linking the 3D Body object to a revision of a 3D Model Item, in the target vault.

The 3D Model Item being used can be changed at any time - simply click Choose and select a revision of a different 3D Model Item.
The status of the linked 3D Model Item is reflected in the 3D Body dialog. If a newer revision of the linked Item is available, simply click the Update to latest button, to use that latest revision.

releasing a PCB 2D/3D Component model into the vault

A PCB 2D/3D component model within a PCB Library document (*.PcbLib) on the design side is mapped to a PCB Component Item in an Altium Vault. Each release of the library stores the model data into a new revision of that Item. When a model in the library has a 3D Body object defined for it, and that body references (is linked to) a revision of a 3D Model Item in an Altium Vault, the following happens upon release of that component model:

  • The 3D Model link is detected and the revision of the 3D Model Item will appear listed as a child Item of the PCB Component Item, in its Children aspect view.
  • The revision of the 3D Model Item is detected as 'being used' and will therefore list the parent PCB Component Item in its Where-used aspect view.


Full support has been added to correctly acquire 3D Model Items when using the Content Cart.


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