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Ultimate iPad Guide: Modeling & Rendering Apps for Architects

Our listing guide of Modeling & Rendering apps for iPad includes gems we think you may have missed or not yet heard about

Modeling & Rendering Apps for Architects on iPad

In this category we are going to include apps that are used to both model and render models on the iPad. There is some overlap here as some apps in our CAD Viewers category overlap with these abilities, as do some BIM apps in their list. Explore those lists as well.

What we are interested in here is primarily model making and model editing, plus those apps highly focused on model rendering. Of the modeling tools one app that stands out is Verto Studio 3D by Michael L. Farrell. The app has been featured on TV in an iPad TV commercial. It supports 4-split screen view, works with OBJ file format, imports, creates and exports and supports Dropbox. There is also a terrain generator with heights field. (see image 01).

01 - Verto Studio has fantastic reviews in the App Store.

02 - FormIt by Autodesk is relatively new and at first sight looks like SketchUp.

03 - This Shaderlight app for iPad ties into a leading SketchUp renderer and cloud rendering.

Another  modeler very much worth pointing out is Autodesk FormIt which is now at version 2.0. This is a basic conceptual modeling tool meant to be used at the building site to help make early design decisions. You can store and share design models with Autodesk 360 Cloud. (see image 02). Finally, speaking of the cloud ShaderLight by Limitless Computing has a nifty iPad app for viewing your cloud renders on the go. Besides letting you view your SketchUp models rendered on the Shaderlight Cloud Rendering Cloud, you can use the app to check on the status of in-progress renders (great when away from the desktop or office/studio), (see 03 above).

The List (11 Apps)

Here is one of the most complete listing of excellent modeling and rendering tools useful to architects on the iPad at the time of this writing. Again, if we have somehow missed an app we would sure appreciate your email on the subject. It may also be listed in another category in our series. Without further ado:

  • Autodesk FormIt — this app from Autodesk lets you use real-world site information to help support early 3D design decisions. It supports easy, gesture interface conceptual modeling and syncs data with the cloud for further work in Revit. (3 reviews, 3 1/2 stars) TBD
  • Autodesk 123D Design — this app is a basic 3D modeling tool for iPad that is geared towards the maker market. Despite this market orientation the app is nonetheless in the limited group of true modelers on the iPad. (12 reviews, 4 stars) Free
  • CadControl – we decided to put this very unique and special app in this list. It’s not a 3D modeling app on the iPad per se but rather turns your iPad into a sophisticated 3D controller and interface device for doing 3D modeling on your desktop software. It works with SketchUp 7 and 8 on Mac, Rhino 5 on Mac and all versions of Autodesk Maya on Mac. (18 reviews, 4 1/2 stars) Free
  • Mandelbulb Raytracer HD — this app is of very little use to us architects but yet we have listed it here because it represents a very interesting iPad technology demonstration. The quality of the raytracing–which runs off the GPU in the iPad–is quite impressive. What this apps does is produce fractals-based models and then render them with OpenGL ES 2.0 shaders. The ultimate purpose is to create compelling imagery for screen backgrounds. The developer has a few other similar apps all about real-time raytracing on iPhones and iPads. (3 reviews, not rated) 1.99.USD
  • iSculptorHD — this sculpting 3D modeling app is a basic polygonal modeler. Working with the OBJ file format you can pull vertices around, extrude polys into 3D shapes and export to your favorite OBJ compliant desktop modeling apps. (7 reviews, 2 stars) 4.99.USD
  • iTracer – this app is a 3D rendering app that supports, as the product name may suggest, raytracing rendering. Materials include high quality transparency, reflection, refraction and various light sources, and shadow support. Brings in 3ds files via iTunes. Many users rate this a perfect five stars.  (44 reviews, 4 stars) 4.99.USD.
  • iVisit 3D – this app by Abvent R&D of Europe, brings the powerhouse rendering software developer’s expertise to the iPad. This tool allows you to view panoramas generated from Abvent’s Artlantis Render or Studio. These panoramas can also be viewed on Abvent R&D’s web app. (zero reviews, not rated) 19.99.USD
  • Shade 3D Mobile — this app is dedicated to viewing Shade 3D based files on your iPad device. And using Shade Basic and Shade 3D mobile you can utilize OBJ, DXF and SketchUp files for iPad viewing as well. (6 reviews, not rated) Free
  • ShaderLight Cloud Viewer — this app with in junction with the ShaderLight app and its cloud-rendering service. It lets you check the status of cloud renders, download and display final renders, view scenes and animations, bringing your ShaderLight renderings into the field. (zero reviews, not rated) Free
  • SightSpace 3D — this app is focused on exploring your SketchUp models or Google Earth models (.KMZ format) on your iPad complete with Augmented Reality (AR) capabilities. With it you overlay models onto the real world. (22 reviews, not rated) 14.99.USD.
  • Verto Studio 3D — this app, which was once featured on an iPad TV commercial, is a fully functioning 3D app designed to rival desktop apps. You can create quick 3D mockups, it supports viewing, editing and exporting of models and works with the open OBJ format. Has Dropbox support. (31 reviews, 4 star rating) 13.99.USD

The Gem in the Group

Although iTracer is a very promising proof of what a ray tracing app and basic modeler could be on an iPad, we would be remiss if we failed to point out the small gem in this group which is CadControl.

04 - CadControl turns your iPad into an interface element for control of 3D software programs like SketchUp and Maya.

This app not only gains more software control support but today you can use it to interact and control SketchUp, Rhino 5 and Maya, all on Mac in addition.

next page: Mobile CAD Authoring for Architects

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