Documentation - Active Dimensions 3

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System Requirements: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT 4.0, 2000, XP, 2003 Server, Vista

  1. Purchase
  2. Screenshot
  3. Surfaces
  4. Dynamic Transformation Control
  5. Calibrating Measurements
  6. Quick 3D Positioning
  7. Inverse Kinematics
  8. Color Selection
  9. File Menu
  10. Edit Menu
  11. View Menu
  12. Tools Menu
  13. Help Menu
  14. Context Menu
  15. 2D Editor for Active Dimensions 3

Purchase

The price of Active Dimensions 3 version 2.5 is $9.99 US. Click here to purchase your copy online.


Screenshot


Surfaces

Preset surfaces are grouped into ten categories as shown below.

Category Surfaces
Miscellaneous Outline Block, Plane, Tiled Plane
Extruded Regular Polygons Extruded Hexagon, Extruded Octagon, Extruded Pentagon, Extruded Triangle
Joints Mechanical Joint, Organic Joint (inverse kinematics)
Diamonds Round Diamond, Soft Diamond, Softer Diamond, Softest Diamond
Platonic Solids Dodecahedron, Icosahedron, Octahedron (outline block), Tetrahedron (outline block)
Cones Cone, Pyramid (outline block)
Cubes Cube (outline block), Soft Sube, Softer Cube, Softest Cube
Cylinders Cylinder, Soft Cylinder, Softer Cylinder, Softest Cylinder
Sphere Sphere
Torus Torus - Small Pipe, Torus - Medium Pipe, Torus - Large Pipe


Dynamic Transformation Control

The Dynamic Transformation Control (DTC) is located directly beneath the ten surface category buttons. The DTC is used to rotate, scale, or translate a surface. The DTC may also be used to extrude planar geometry.

Rotate - Manual

Go to Edit menu and to Options. Be sure menu item labeled Enable Auto Rotation is not checked.

Select a surface. Click and hold the left mouse button on one of the three green rings of the DTC and drag the mouse tangent to the selected ring. View movie demonstration.

If you want to rotate a surface a specific number of degrees, right-click one of the green rings of the DTC. A dialog box will appear. Enter the number of degrees you want to rotate the surface, and click OK or press Enter.

Rotate - Automatic

Go to Edit menu and to Options. Be sure menu item labeled Enable Auto Rotation is checked.

Select a surface. Click and hold the left mouse button on one of the three green rings of the DTC. The selected surface will automatically rotate. Use the right mouse button to rotate in the opposite direction. Drag mouse horizontally away from mouse-down location to increase speed of rotation.

Scale

Select a surface. Click and hold the right mouse button on one of the arrows of the DTC and drag the mouse in the direction of the arrow. The selected surface will be scaled in the direction of the arrow. If mouse is moved opposite the direction of the arrow, selected surface will be scaled opposite the direction of the arrow. View movie demonstration.

If you want to scale a surface to a specific size, right-click (without dragging the mouse) one of the arrows of the DTC. A dialog box will appear. Enter a measurement and click OK or press Enter. See Calibrating Measurements before using this feature.

Translate

Select a surface. Click and hold the left mouse button on one of the arrows of the DTC and drag the mouse in the direction of the arrow. The selected surface will be translated in the direction of the arrow. If the mouse is moved opposite the direction of the arrow, the selected surface will also be translated opposite the direction of the arrow. View movie demonstration.

If you want to translate a surface a specific amount, click (without dragging the mouse) one of the arrows of the DTC. A dialog box will appear. Enter the number of units you want to translate the selected surface and click OK or press Enter. See Calibrating Measurements before using this feature.

Extrude

Planar geometry can be created using the 2D Editor for Active Dimensions 3.

Select a planar surface. Click and hold the right mouse button on the appropriate arrow of the DTC. Drag the mouse in the direction of the arrow to extrude the selected surface. After extrusion, a message box will appear asking you if you want to bevel the edges of the extruded geometry. Click Yes if you want to bevel the edges.

There is no explicit way to change the beveling radius in Active Dimensions 3. However, to effectively increase the beveling radius, scale planar geometry to a smaller size prior to extrusion. After the extrusion and beveling process, scale geometry to original size. To decrease bevel radius, use the same procedure, however scale geometry to a larger size prior to extrusion.

The figure above shows an I-beam created by extruding a 2D cross-section.


Calibrating Measurements

Select a surface. Right-click (without dragging the mouse) one of the arrows of the DTC. A dialog box will appear. Enter a measurement for the selected dimension of the selected surface and click Calibrate. For instance, if you would like the measurement to be six centimeters, enter 6 in the left textbox and enter cm in the right textbox.


Quick 3D Positioning

The first three of the round buttons below the DTC provide an alternative to the DTC.

  • Click the first button to rotate a surface. Click and drag either the left or right mouse button on a surface to rotate the surface.
  • Click the second button to scale a surface. Click and drag either the left or right mouse button on a surface to scale the surface.
  • Click the third button to translate a surface. Click and drag either the left or right mouse button on a surface to translate the surface.

Inverse Kinematics

Inverse Kinematics is for joints only.

Inverse kinematics in Active Dimensions 3 is simple and basic. Simply add a joint to your scene. Click the Inverse Kinematics button. Drag the mouse on the tip of the smaller end of the joint, and watch the joint follow the mouse in a natural manner.


Color Selection

Click the left mouse button on the color you want in the color selection box. (You may also choose a color anywhere on your screen by dragging the left mouse button from the color selection box to the location of the color and releasing the mouse button.) Any new surface added to your model will be the selected color. You may change the color of an existing surface by right-clicking the surface and selecting Apply current color to this object. from the context menu.
You may also select a color by selecting Choose Custom Color... from the Tools menu. This will display the color dialog box so you can choose an exact color.


File Menu

New
Initialize a new workspace.

Open...
Display Open dialog box to open a model in the AD3 version 2.2 format. Files saved with all versions of Active Dimensions 3 prior to version 2.2 are in the AD3 version 1.0 or 2.0 format and must be converted to the 2.2 format. A conversion utility is available.

Save As...
Display Save dialog box to save a model in the AD3 version 2.2 format.

Save Image...
Display Save dialog box to save image of model as a bitmap.

Import...
Display Open dialog box to import an AD3 version 2.2 model into your current work.

Export > DXF...
Display Save dialog box to export model as DXF.

Export > STL...
Display Save dialog box to export model in binary STL format.

Export > VRML 2...
Display Save dialog box to export model in VRML 2.0 format.

Export > Wavefront...
Display Save dialog box to export model in Wavefront obj format.

Exit
Exit Active Dimensions 3 after prompting you to save any unsaved work.


Edit Menu

Undo
Undo last action if supported.

Select All
Select all surfaces.

Deselect All
Deselect selected surface(s).

Options > Enable Auto Rotation
Toggle rotation mode of Dynamic Transformation Control from manual to automatic or from automatic to manual.

Options > Highlight Selection
Toggle highlighting of selected surface(s).

Options > Create Detailed Geometry From Outline
If this menu item is checked, Active Dimensions 3 will generate detailed geometry when you create a curved surface from an outline surface.


View Menu

Background Color > Black
Set background color to black.

Background Color > White
Set background color to white.

Wireframe Without Perspective
Display model using line segments without showing 3D perspective.

Before performing a Boolean operation or joining two solids, it may be helpful to view your model in this mode.

Wireframe With Perspective
Display model using line segments showing 3D perspective.

Medium Quality
Display model using Gourand shading.

Good Quality
Display model using Phong shading. (Default)

Best Quality
Display model using antialiased Phong shading.


Tools Menu

Choose Custom Color...
Display Color dialog box to choose an exact color.

Paint Object
Apply current color to individual surface polygons.

Select Color from Object
Select the color of a surface by clicking the surface.

Adjust Light Position
Adjust light position by dragging left mouse button in the scene.


Help Menu

Help Topics
Launch Active Dimensions 3 documentation.

About Active Dimensions 3
Displays Active Dimensions 3 splash screen containing version information, vendor information, license information, and program specific information. Click the mouse anywhere on the splash screen to return to the main window.


Context Menu

The context menu appears when you right-click a surface without dragging the mouse.

Align Horizontally - Select an object to horizontally align this object with.
Align two surfaces horizontally. Right-click the surface to be aligned and select this item from the context menu. Select a second surface to horizontally align the center of the first surface with the center of the second surface. This menu item will not appear when all is selected.

Align Vertically - Select an object to vertically align this object with.
Align two surfaces vertically. Right-click the surface to be aligned and select this item from the context menu. Select a second surface to vertically align the center of the first surface with the center of the second surface. This menu item will not appear when all is selected.

Apply current color to this object.
Apply current color to all polygons of selected surface that have the same color as the selected polygon. If all surfaces are selected, no color matching is performed.

Delete
Delete selected surface(s).

Duplicate
Duplicate selected surface(s). Duplicate surface(s) will coincide with original surface(s). This menu item will not appear when all is selected.

Group - Select an object to group this object with.
Group surfaces. Right click a surface or group of surfaces and select this item from the context menu. Select a second surface or group of surfaces to group the two. Grouping surfaces enables you to perform certain operations on surfaces simultaneously. Grouped surfaces do not support Boolean operations and joining.

Join - Select an object to join this object to.
Join two solids to form a single solid. Two solids can be joined only if they are adjacent and each adjacent vertex of one surface coincides with an adjacent vertex of the the other surface. You should view your model in Wireframe Without Perspective mode to help you accurately match up vertices. This menu item will not appear when all is selected or when a group of surfaces is selected.

Loft
Loft two planar surfaces created with the 2D Editor.

Right-click a planar surface and select this menu item. Select another planar surface to loft the two.

  • Planar surfaces for lofting must be composed of the same number of vertices.
  • The first vertex of one surface must be properly aligned with the first vertex of the other surface.
  • Vertex ordering of both surfaces must be the same.

This menu item will appear only when a planar surface is selected.

Mirror - Mirror this object over a vertical plane.
Create a mirror image of the selected surface over a vertical plane. This menu item will not appear when all is selected.

Remove this object from group
Remove the selected surface from a group. A grouped surface must be removed from a group before it will support certain operations such as Boolean operations. This menu item will appear only when a grouped surface is selected.

Reset Orientation of this object
Return selected surface to its default orientation. This menu item will not appear when all is selected.

Save current orientation as default orientation.
Set default orientation of selected surface to current orientation. This menu item will not appear when all is selected.

Outline Blocks

Active Dimensions 3 uses outline blocks to help make modeling rounded surfaces easier. Using outline blocks, you can build an outline of a rounded object and let Active Dimensions 3 automatically create the curved geometry. The process is very simple and efficient, enabling you to quickly model more complex surfaces.

Although the basic concept of outline blocks is simple, there are some important aspects to this modeling method that must be taken into consideration. First, you must understand that Active Dimensions 3 can only automatically create curved geometry from an outline surface. An outline surface is defined as a surface that was formed solely from outline blocks. You may construct an outline surface by joining outline blocks or by performing Boolean operations on outline blocks.

Create curved geometry from this object.
Create a curved surface from an outline surface. This menu item will appear only when an outline surface is selected.

Create more curved geometry from this object.
Create more curved surface from an outline surface. This menu item will appear only when an outline surface is selected.

Create most curved geometry from this object.
Create very curved surface from an outline surface. This menu item will appear only when an outline surface is selected.

Boolean Operations

Since Boolean Operations can, under certain conditions, fail to produce valid geometry, Active Dimensions 3 checks the geometric topology of the result of every Boolean Operation. If the result fails the solid topology test, AD3 will display Non-Solid in the status area. This means that the Boolean operation did not produce solid geometry. As a general rule, boolean operations involving solids should produce solid geometry. (All preset surfaces in AD3 are solids with exception of the plane, tiled plane, mechanical joint and the organic joint.) Under certain conditions however, AD3 may be unable to produce solid geometry. As a result, if Non-Solid is displayed in the status area immediately after a boolean operation involving solids, the operation should be undone and reattempted after the position, size, and/or orientation of one or both solids has been adjusted.

Boolean operations are used to form a more complex surface from two simpler surfaces.

Active Dimensions supports the difference, intersection, and union operations.

To perform a Boolean operation, right click the first surface. Select a Boolean operation from the context menu. Select the second surface for the operation.

The first image shows a sphere interpenetrating a cube before any boolean operation has been performed.

Boolean Difference - Select an object to subtract from this object.
The second image shows the sphere having been subtracted from the cube. The cube was selected first and the sphere was selected second. The Difference operation is not commutative, just as subtraction in mathematics is not commutative. As a result, if the sphere was selected first and the cube was selected second the result would be different. The difference operation preserves the volume of the first surface not shared with that of the second.

Boolean Intersection - Select an object to intersect with this object.
The third image shows the cube having been intersected with the sphere. The cube was selected first and the sphere was selected second. The Intersection operation is commutative. As a result, if the sphere was selected first and the cube was selected second the result would be the same. The intersection operation preserves the common volume of both surfaces.

Boolean Union - Select an object to unite to this object.
The fourth image shows the cube having been united with the sphere. The cube was selected first and the sphere was selected second. The Union operation is commutative, just as addition in mathematics is commutative. As a result, if the sphere was selected first and the cube was selected second the result would be the same. The union operation preserves the uncommon volume of both surfaces.

View from front.
View scene from front. If you want to change the predefined front view, rotate your scene to the desired front view. With all selected, right click scene and select Designate this view as front view. from the context menu. This menu item will appear only when all is selected.

View from side.
View scene from right side. This menu item will appear only when all is selected.

View from top.
View scene from top. This menu item will appear only when all is selected.

Designate this view as front view.
Define current view of scene as front view. This menu item will appear only when all is selected.


2D Editor for Active Dimensions 3

The 2D editor (Outline.exe) that is included with Active Dimensions 3 can be used to create surfaces of rotation or planar geometry for extrusion or lofting in Active Dimensions 3.

2D Editor Tutorial

Load the 2D editor. On the File menu Choose Open Background Image... and open the bitmap named "Outline Tutorial" for a very simple tutorial on how to create a 3D pulley.

After completing the tutorial, try saving the same outline as planar geometry and see what happens. You will be able to extrude the geometry in Active Dimensions 3.

You can also create a pulley without a hole in the center by following the steps below.

Delete the last point you added. (The last point was placed in the same location as the first point.) Drag the point that is directly below the first point to the very left of the window. Then drag the first point to the very left of the window. Now choose Save As Surface of Revolution... from the File menu to save the new pulley. In this case a fully enclosed outline was not needed.


Adding And Inserting Points

Click a location within the window to add a new point there. The new point will be connected to the previous point, if there is one. You can drag a point to any location. You can also insert a point between two points by clicking on the segment that joins the two points.

Deleting Points

To delete a point, select it and then press the delete key on your keyboard. You can choose Select All on the Edit menu and press the Delete key to delete all points simultaneously.

Opening a Background Image

You can choose Open Background Image... on the File menu to open a bitmap for manual tracing.

Save As Planar Geometry...

Choose this menu item to save your outline as planar geometry for extrusion or lofting in Active Dimensions 3.

Save As Surface of Revolution...

Choose this menu item to generate and save 3D geometry that is formed by rotating an outline 360 degrees about a vertical axis. The axis about which the outline is rotated is located along the left side of the 2D Editor window.

Creating Curves

Choose Smooth Points on the Edit menu to properly smooth any curves in your outline.