Simulation and modeling are two processes in the development phase of a robot that increase the productivity, reduce costs, and decrease the time for development. If softwares like Robotics Developer Studio, RoboGuide, or Workspace are advanced tools for simulation, tools like Blender or Maya are tools for modeling.
Using a graphical representation in two or three dimensions for a robot add value in the development process by knowing in detail the robot since in this phase the robot takes shape for the first time. In this article, I made an overview of modeling tools with possibilities to export files in order to be imported in simulation tools and used in various scenarios of working and to develop the programming code for a robot.
A used modeling application in robotics has many advantages like:
- the robot can be observed in detail;
- any stage of development is available anytime for update;
- decrease the time for simulation;
- increase the productivity;
- new and advanced techniques and concepts could be developed;
In other words, the modeling process is a pre-simulation stage. Many simulation tools allow users to import files from other applications. These files have to have specific extensions compatible with native files of the simulation software.
Some simulation tools allow user to import files directly while others have to install plug-ins before to import files. The most common extension used for modeling files is .obj, but there could be others extension like MRDS that is compatible with .dae, .obj and .x file formats.
All of these files contain meta-data including relocation information, comments, information about the symbolic cross-references between different modules, as well as program symbols and debugging or profiling information.
- K-3D – free 3D modeling and animation software compatible with Windows and OS X operating systems. It could be used to create 3D files and export these for various simulation software. The tool includes a large number of model objects that can be combined to design the desired 3D object.
- Blender – compatible with almost all common operating systems, Blender is one of the most advanced free modeling tools. It can be used to create 2D as well as 3D objects and exported to be used in simulation tool for robotics. Blender has a friendly and intuitive interface with continued improvements since 1994 when the software was released.
- Google SketchUp – with support for Windows and Mac OS, the SketchUp is a simple, free, and powerful 3D modeling tool.
- Anim8or – 3D modeling tool with a short list of features.
- Wings 3D – another free tool with 3D support and wide range of file formats compatible with simulation tools. Features include support for lights and materials, and mapping facilities through AutoUV application. The software is available in different versions and has a fully customizable interface.
- Inventor – part of the Autodesk family, this is a CAD tool for engineers with 3D support and simulation possibility.
- Maya – another tool for Autodesk family with 3D support and features including 3D animation, modeling, or visual effects.
- BobCAD-CAM – support CAD design for D or 3D wireframes, and a wide range of modeling type like surface construction or solid modeling.
- Alibre Design 3D CAD – compatible with a long list of CAD files, the 3D software offer a wide range of tools for modeling and studying the objects in details.
- TurboCAD Deluxe 18 – comprehensive tool for 2D and 3D drafting, modeling, detailing, or rendering and a wide range of file extension support. The tool is designed with a high flexibility for architectural and mechanical design.
- AutoCAD – compatible with Windows and Mac OS, the tool is a leader in 2D and 3D modeling and simulation. Used especially by engineers, AutoCAD has a user-friendly interface and can be used along other tools for designing and simulating advanced robots.
- Solidworks – another common name among modeling tools along AutoCAD, Solidworks is a flexible modeling tool with support for different platform including iPad. With an intuitive design, the software can accelerate the production process and increase the productivity.