Autodesk Mudbox - where CAD is not enough

One of the less known components of the new Autodesk Design Suites is the modeling application Autodesk Mudbox.

Despite its "dirty" name it is a useful tool - it can help to model 3D shapes that would be impossible or very difficult to model in standard CAD applications.

Autodesk Mudbox is a kind of "digital clay". Its tool set contains functions for sculpting, "kneading" and interactive shaping, smooth adding and removing "clay" (3D mass), applying 3D textures and 3D painting. These sculptor operations can be performed with mouse or from a pressure-sensitive digitizer tablet.

A practical example of CAD functions in Mudbox is modeling from textures (2D images) - typically for engraving. The shade of each pixel defines the offset (height/depth) of the respective point on a 3D model.

First you have to create an adequate fine initial model (e.g. a flat surface). Then you can use the function Maps > Sculpt using Map to apply a texture with a proper offset Multiplier factor (a negative multiplier toggles the extrusion direction). The resulting model can be then transferred using the FBX format as a 3D object e.g. to AutoCAD, 3ds Max or Maya.

The process is illustrated in the video on CAD Studio's YouTube channel: