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I was approached by a prospect client that has a very specific requirement. I would have to create a cross section of certain objects they're producing namely mattresses.

I'm very well versed in vector software as well as Photoshop and aldo SketchUp. I though I could make a 3D model in SketchUp, and then apply realistic retouching in Photoshop with better textures and specific materials (like wire springs above).

But is there a better way to create such images?

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All 3D tools can do cross sections, it just depends on how painful it gets. But for a bunch of squares and helixes no problem.

A 3d CAD/CAE app is ideal here, not only is that easy to model its also easy to cut up. However cad apps aren't really the king of the pack when doing texturing although in this case its pretty trivial.

The way i would approach this is to use one of following a bit depending on what look and feel you want.

  • Maya, 3DS MAX Cinema3d, Modo, if i need a photo realistic result.

  • Creo, Solidworks, Solidedge, Inventor, Catia, NX. I would use this route if possible since its easier to model and you can get vector content out. Also most likely your client has these models done so its just cut up and go.

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For this sort of thing I'd definitely use modo in my workflow, because it's my 3D DCC of choice, though I'm certain Blender, 3DS, Maya or C4D would all do just as well (I prefer the artist-friendly workflows and the shader tree & nodal shading I get with modo) though I don't know that you can assume the client has 3D CAD files - for something like mattresses they may only have 2D CAD.

It'd be a trivial matter even then to extrude elements from their 2D files, and in my case in modo, instead of "cutting up" the resulting model to get a cross-section, I'd use a live Render Boolean or a live MeshFushion Boolean to get my section cut, so that I could, for example, animate the section cut to show the mattress being "extruded" in any video output, and/or in sheerly still output the client could direct where they want the section cut in realtime.

Surfacing the items to be photoreal is pretty simple these days, as most 3D DCCs support PBR materials; in some cases a client may prefer NPR (non-photo real) shaders - so cel shading and toon shaders to get an illustrative effect.

The other advantage to developing this in a real 3D DCC is that if later your client wants an animation showing the springs giving and recovering, the mattress layers squishing and expanding, you're halfway there if you develop your model well.

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