Newbie - STP files to Maya, how to cleanup

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  04 April 2013
Newbie - STP files to Maya, how to cleanup

I am an absolute beginner here, just working my way through Digital Tutors courses on Maya.

One of our clients has supplied us with CAD of there products in STP and IGS format.

I'd like to know what workflow you would go through to optimise and clean up the model in maya to fix any issues and to simplify it, as at the moment the complexity of the model is slowing me down to a crawl.

The products are washing machines, I could supply one if anyone is willing to give me a shove in the right direction. Ultimate aim is to create photorealistic renders (still) of the products to replace traditional photography

  04 April 2013
There might be other 3rd party solutions but PolyTrans has been around for years - I've never used it (windows only last I heard) but seemed very capable if it actually does what it claims. If I got more jobs using complex STEP files in Maya I might consider getting a PC just for this. I've heard it doesn't work well with boot camp. Another down side - pretty expensive.

There is also N-Power Maya Translator plugin This does (or did) work with the Mac and PC both. I tried the demo once but never bought it. It looks like a good solution and much cheaper than PolyTrans - but not sure how stable it is and if they even support it currently. Out of curiosity I clicked on the buy it button on their website and it was broken. Not a good sign.

I've had a few situations similar to yours with getting STEP files from clients (had several refrigerators and medical lab equipment.) The animations tended to be fairly simple - the main thing was getting great renders. Probably 90% of the product's geometry was never seen by the camera (bolts, electronics, etc). In many instances I just manually deleted the geometry that wasn't needed to render. Where needed I manually re-modeled various parts using the nurbs curves from the STEP import to create more useable polygonal geometry - or just used it as a template to remake the geometry by hand.

I wasn't getting enough money from the job to justify getting the plug-in - that seemed iffy on how reliable or useful it would be. Depending on how complex your washing machines are - and how much they want to show the motor and inner working parts, it might not take as long as you might think. You can eventually figure out what you can safely delete to make the overall geometry lighter to make texturing, rendering and animating more manageable.
  04 April 2013
Mesh cleanup

If you're just looking for a mesh cleanup and not a polygon reduction, you can run your mesh(es) through:

....or use their free application.

If you're looking to reduce polys, you can try Meshlab (also free).

  04 April 2013
First thing I do is make sure that Maya is importing all the data correctly. I try to leave it in NURBs / trim surfaces unless some surfaces are not displaying the way they should. Make sure you've applied the '1' Sub-D preview to all the shapes, since '3' will dramatically bog down your viewport. If you have display layers, it helps to switch them to bounding box. Another trick is to enable Interactive Shading mode (Bounding Box) in the Shading menu of your viewport. This helps with camera tumbling bigtime.

As for organizing the shapes, that's usually a manual process because the hierarchy is rarely maintained in my experience. I'll usually select a piece, press 'up' to walk up the hierarchy if there is one, then name the group and assign it to an appropriate display layer with visibility off. If there are any shaders, you can also select shapes per assigned material and group those.

Faceting can be a huge pain in the neck, so you'll want to use the mental ray approximation editor to tessellate your shapes at rendertime. My preset is something like:

Approx Method: Spatial
Approx Style: Fine
Min Subdivisions: 0
Max Subdivisions: 7

Length: 1
View Dependent: checked
Sharp: 1
  04 April 2013
Brilliant, thanks for the pointers guys, the majority of the model actually looks how I'd expect it to, with the exception of a few surfaces, I also noticed that a lot of surfaces are duplicated.

So I guess its just a manual process of stripping out what isn't needed.

I'll have another look at it with your suggestions in mind

  04 April 2013
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