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Has anyone experience in rendering CAD data to photorealistic images by using Photoshop? I know that Blender can do this, but Blender is quite complicated.

Do you know what programm is best in terms of image qualitiy and usability?

Additional information: I currently have a i5 with a GeForce 950m running Win10. This might not be the best hardware for this job, but my company could buy better hardware. We could spend 1000 € for rendering software, but we are looking for free software like blender so that we can easily install it on more than one machine so that other colleages can take advantage of it. We have ca 40.000 articles that we want to render. So there should be some sort of batch processing.

  • Photoshop is definitely not the best tool for this job. If you can edit your question to include what hardware you have and what software you are familiar with then you might get some good suggestions... – Westside Mar 24 '18 at 9:54
  • Also, what is your budget. Some 3D software is VERY expensive. – Westside Mar 24 '18 at 9:55
  • I currently have a i5 with a GeForce 950m running Win10. This might not be the best hardware for this job, but my company could buy better hardware. We could spend 1000 € for rendering software, but we are looking for free software like blender so that we can easily install it on more than one machine so that other colleages can take advantage of it. We have ca 40.000 articles that we want to render. So there should be some sort of batch processing. – Jens Mar 24 '18 at 10:29
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If i were you i would just take a look at some renderer that bolts into your CAD directly. Since you dont mention what CAD you use its hard to say. For example keyshot is pretty good if you have the kind of software that can hook into it.

Now blender is not hard, for your purpose. Youve got the geometry, you dont need to learn animation in blender just import apply materials put in a light rig and that's it. For a 1000$ you dont get awfully lot of commercial tools. (however for good quality pictures you need to know about photography)

Now dont even consider using Photoshop for this, its slow its limited and is probably the ONLY rendering application that has a really really stupid batch interface. Remember rendering is a Batch process! So a rendering engine without a dedicated batching is a bit like a fish with a bicycle.

Now 40.000 articles will take a LONG time to render, especially if your rendering for print. For low human input, no optimization global lightning renders you can usually look into 4-8 minutes per image for full HD size, for print quadruple that. So 40000 images will take in the range of 112-222 days to render (24/7)! So dont scoff on having 20 computers rendering in parallel. So considering the time investment that 1000$ would be better spent on hardware (your computer is a toy) such as AWS or just a better rendering engine. (there can be a huge benefit of having the fastest rendering out there, as this alone can take more than half your time off)

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Blender can do this, and the Cycles renderer is pretty decent, and you can plug in to use Octane or Vray renderers if you want another renderer than Cycles.

For myself I use modo for mass rendering of CAD data, but that's specific to my use cases (arch vis & product images): besides very artist-friendly tools and workflows, with my licensing I can, if I need to, set up a headless renderfarm if I've extra machines available, and manage them from one central modo session.

In concert with the comments below my answer, I'm adding a couple of quick images to show the type of output I get with Richard Yot's Quick Lighting presets I use in modo for this kind of approach - setup for each of these was less than 30 seconds per file, and then the preset with optimizations can be saved to be applied to other CAD imports.

Of these two images, the tie down's render time was far greater, almost twice as long as the smaller hardware, due to higher quality render settings, including higher GI counts.

Tiedown image Hardware image

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    After reading OP's post on blender.se i now suspect that he does not necceserily have a CAD just a bunch os STEP files. Now this is a bit of a problem since DCC apps dont generally do a good job of importing the STEP files. Some tools do this well others like autodesks programs did do this but autodesk did a new reader that while theoretically a step forward has a bug so it does not work very well. Also Bender is unable to read STEP files, modo didnt last time i tried. If my suspicipn is right then it may not satisfy OP's requirement. But we do not know. – joojaa Mar 26 '18 at 15:54
  • @jooja - very good point. Modo will happily take in abc (alembic), stl (stereolitho), pdb (protein database), fbx, dxf, obj, 3Ds, dae, lwo (lightwave), 3dm (rhino), sldpart, stdasm (solidworks) all natively, and has a moderately expensive CAD plugin one can add for a much wider range of 3D CAD files, including STEP. <br/> For me, I use SimLab for most of my 3D CAD conversion for file formats other than those listed, and that way get a *far* larger range, cheaper, and add 3D PDF in-out conversions, which for me in Arch Viz has been very helpful in the past. – GerardFalla Mar 26 '18 at 16:19
  • I'll add a note now having read the Blender SE post to which @jooja refers above: I purchased and set up some specific quick lighting presets for product renders which allow me to very quickly setup and render small products in anything from decent to high quality, but even that abbreviated workflow requires importing the CAD object, setting the camera angle, invoking the lighting preset, optimising render settings, then saving. – GerardFalla Mar 26 '18 at 16:50
  • Do that times 5,000 items, then point the headless renderer at the directory in which you've saved all the scenefiles, and walk away for quite some time, and you'll get 5,000 decent renders. There will be some which require rework, but still, it's... do-able. – GerardFalla Mar 26 '18 at 16:50
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    I dunno, some companies have quite good policies for managing CAD files. In many cases if they had a good and adhered policy its pretty quick to decide how to render and you could automatically get passable renders if for example the policy stated that objects need to default orient as they would be presented. In which case you could just batch export all in one go apply materials based of surface quality and material description. And be done with it. If not then somebody would have to open all 40.000 files – joojaa Mar 26 '18 at 17:21

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