All 3D modelers fear the dreaded “error message” followed by the software crashing and the possibility of losing valuable work. Whether it’s Maya or another 3D package, 3D software are built to handle large amounts of 3D data. However, as 3D files become even more complex – particularly across design-led industries like engineering and architecture – working with 3D software can become even more challenging. In this post we’ll look at 3D modeler’s pipeline for working with engineering or architectural CAD files that need to be converted into polygon mesh before importing into a 3D design software like Maya.

When does Maya crash and why does it happen?

Engineering and architectural CAD files have a key difference compared to polygon mesh. While CAD geometry is designed with manufacturing purposes in mind, polygon mesh used in Maya is designed to create realistic animations or visualizations.  Also, because they are designed to be physically accurate, CAD designs are far more complex than polygon mesh and aren’t fully compatible with 3D packages. Because of this, CAD designs need to be converted to polygon mesh in a process called tessellation.

Tessellation is the process of turning surfaces into a net of polygons. Sounds simple – just arrange a bunch of triangles or quads in a repeated pattern to shape the surface. However, the process is more complicated, and the result is a very heavy topology that gets even more complex once you start adding the layers of UV maps and textures in Maya. Working with such large 3D files can overstrain your RAM and may eventually result in your software crashing – and you possibly losing all your work.

CAD vs polygon mesh comparison

Comparison of a CAD model (left) and its polygon mesh conversion (right). The CAD model is 600 KB whereas the polygon mesh is 1.6 MB and has 5200 vertices, making the polygon mesh more difficult to work with in Maya.


Does file size affect Maya’s performance?

Many 3D users believe that the larger their file size, the harder it will be to work with in Maya. Yet file size isn’t the only factor that affects Maya’s performance. A factor that many users may overlook is the number of parts in their file. Even though a file may not be excessively large (for example smaller than 2.5 GB), it may have too many parts and an extensive outliner. This takes a  toll in the processing power of your machine. Both files size and complexity take up a dedicated space in RAM usage and handling either can exhaust the system.

For 3D modelers working with architectural and engineering CAD files, triangulation from CAD conversion is a big culprit in increasing part count. This is because triangulating a CAD file automatically increases the number of vertices and faces that need to be rendered in the graphic processing unit (GPU). Rendering a complex file with over 1000 parts results in the GPU being over-exhausted and eventually causing a crash.


How to prevent Maya from crashing with CAD files

CAD and polygon mesh are written in different languages which means the conversion from CAD to polygon mesh isn’t always perfect. This is because there’s inevitable data loss and errors that occur in the translation process.  Because of this, the most important step in preventing Maya from crashing is to optimize your model, and correct and clean up these errors.

Our 3D optimization software, Meshmatic, automates the clean-up process by applying optimization actions like instancing duplicate assets, applying LOD’s, and minimizing the outliner to the entire file – not just individual parts. Instead of spending valuable time individually optimizing 3D parts, you can use Meshmatic to efficiently optimize your entire 3D file in one click, and prevent Maya from crashing.

Maya workflow comparison with and without Meshmatic
Comparison of CAD workflows without an optimization software (top) and with Meshmatic (bottom). Manual data preparation tasks that would normally take a 3D modeler 2-3 weeks can be done in less than 15 minutes with Meshmatic.

Optimizing with Meshmatic to prevent Maya crashes

Meshmatic makes working with complex CAD designs in 3D packages such as Maya easier by lightening the file and reducing system loading. Meshmatic does this by fast and accurate 3D file conversion and optimization algorithms.

To optimize your file for Maya, simply import your CAD model into Meshmatic. The software will analyze your file and convert it to polygon mesh. Once your file’s converted, you can use Meshmatic’s Auto-Optimizer tool to optimize your file based on your end project – whether it’s game engine development, 3D printing, or in this case, 3D design. The Auto-Optimizer will automatically clean up your outliner, instance duplicate assets, and optimize small parts, in just one click. This means that a manual task that would normally take a 3D modeler 2-3 weeks can be done in less than 15 minutes with Meshmatic.

Finally, you can import your converted and optimized file into Maya – or other 3D design software that you choose. Because your CAD file was properly converted and optimized, you will notice the following benefits while working in Maya:

  • Faster file import.
  • Maya does not crash.
  • No need for manual asset cleanup.
  • Maya’s 3D previewer loads faster and can catch up with your changes.
  • Your system doesn’t slow down and other open software, like Photoshop won’t crash.

With all these added benefits and productivity improvements, you can now easily add textures, materials and UV maps that will bring your project to life.

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