3D Model Tracking: Leveraging CAD Models for Augmented Reality


3D models are powerful assets to design, assemble, and visualize products. But they are also unique resources that can be transformed into immersive augmented reality experiences in and out of the factory floor. 

Object and scene tracking technologies connect people to places and objects around them. 

Whether you’re a toy producer looking to create augmented play or a manufacturing process engineer seeking workflow optimization, this technology can help you leverage existing CAD data and other 3D models to achieve your business goals.

What is CAD?

Widely used for architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing, and product design, CAD (Computer-Aided Design) files allow engineers to build realistic models for machinery and general products. It also helps increase designers’ productivity, improve design quality, better communications through documentation, and create a manufacturing database. 

CAD models can be produced by digital designers in-house or ordered from external partners specialized in CAD modeling. According to MJSA, CAD models can range from $150 to $3,800,  depending on the item’s complexity. Beyond construction and documentation, enterprises can make the best out of their CAD investment by repurposing models for augmented reality-based solutions.

Additional to CAD, other popular 3D model formats can equally be leveraged to power augmented reality solutions, for example, glTF 2.0, FBX, .Obj, and more.

Leveraging CAD-based augmented reality in the industry sector

IT leaders across industries are embracing augmented reality as part of their digitization process.  

For the past five years, AR has proved its value helping optimize workflow, increase safety and productivity, and facilitate knowledge sharing along the productivity chain. 

CAD data and other 3D models can be used as the input method to create digital representations of the object or environment to be augmented. This can help optimize these goods and machinery production, build documentation around them, assemble, operate, inspect, use, and maintain them. 

With AR graduating from the Garter Hype Cycle, enterprises are ready move from POC to commercially relevant solutions tightly integrated in the business workflow. 

In this sense, AR is shifting the way enterprises utilize their physical assets and environments by creating immersive workspaces that are layered with digital content. A few examples include:

  • • Machines enhanced with step-by-step guides;
  • • Factory floors embedded with AR navigation systems;
  • • Mobile devices helping workers register and communicate issues across shifts;
  • • CAD data repurposed for AR inspection and training;
  • • Smart glasses remotely connecting experts to workers and more.
  • Leveraging CAD-based augmented reality in the consumer-facing sector

    Augmented reality opens new opportunities for retail, consumer goods, toys, and entertainment industries to engage with their target audience. In fact, 40% of shoppers would pay more for a product if they could experience it in AR, according to research from Retail Perceptions.

    Similarly to the industrial sector, consumer-facing industries turn to 3D models to prototype, visualize, produce, assemble, and create instructions for a wide variety of goods.   

    This allows for fewer iterations and testing before a particular toy or electrical domestic appliance are ready for production. 

    AR allows companies to explore digital channels’ untapped potential to deliver information compellingly, enhance storytelling, and effectively capture customer attention. Here are a few examples deployed in the market today:

  • • Augmented reality instruction manuals for home appliances such as coffee machines, vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, and more;
  • • Augmented toys with interactive play, such as LEGO’s Hidden Side and Disney’s AR Mech-X4 robot;
  • • Car feature demonstration with AR like Nissan LEAF;
  • • Product enhancements and variations with AR view;
  • • Product recognition and description with digital layering on retail stores;
  • • Step-by-step guidance on how to use appliances or environment features;
  • • Augmentation of buildings and façades to attract visitors (see Mumok ;
  • • Augmented reality art using urban landscapes and more.
  • Advantages of using 3D model-based augmented reality

    An essential dependency of all these complex business solutions is accurately recognizing and tracking objects and scenes (areas). 

    CAD and other 3D models typically provide accurate information about the object, maximizing the potential for reliable AR experience. 

    Furthermore, using 3D models as an input method for AR expands the variety of objects and scenes to be recognized. Some advantages include:

  • • 3D models provide accurate information about the object
  • • Allow recognition and tracking of objects with varying colors
  • • Can support texture-less objects with uniform surfaces and a high amount of reflective parts
  • • Easy to integrate into existing CAD/CAM workflow
  • • Delivers robust against light changes
  • Unlock the power of CAD + AR

    Interested in integrating AR in your process or product using CAD data or other 3D models? Wikitude’s beta program is open for testers! 

    Applicants will receive dedicated support from our expert engineers and win a free customized Object Target map for testing your solution. Start working with 3D Model-based Object Tracking today.

    No CAD or 3D models in-house? Try Wikitude’s image-based object and scene recognition and tracking technology. With this alternative, anyone is able to work with AR combined with physical assets.

    If you need help choosing which method is best for your particular solution, check out our handy AR tracking guide

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