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3D Design and Management

As well as creating toolpaths directly from 2D drawings, Aspire can produce extremely flexible 3D toolpaths. These toolpaths are created from 3D design elements called 3D Components that can be generated from models created in external 3D design packages , imported as 3D clipart or built entirely from within Aspire using 2D artwork as a source.

The 3D View

The 3D View can show you the current Composite Model (which is built from all of the currently visible 3D Components and Levels), the Toolpath Preview (a highly accurate 3D simulation of the resulting physical object that will result from your toolpaths called the Preview Material Block). Which of these is currently displayed will depend on whether or not you have a part which has 3D Components and Toolpaths or are just working on something that only includes 2D Data. Whenever you have the Preview Toolpaths form open on the Toolpaths tab, the 3D View displays the Preview Material Block instead of the Composite Model. When this is closed if you are working on a part that only includes 2D data and 2D or 2.5D toolpaths it will continue to display the Preview Material Block. If your part contains any visible 3D Components then as soon as the Preview Toolpaths form is closed it will revert to showing the Composite Model in the 3D View and hide the simulation. In addition to these items, you can see line drawings of any calculated toolpaths in the 3D View. The visibility of these calculated toolpaths can be controlled from the Toolpath List on the Toolpaths tab using the check-boxes next to the toolpaths name. If working in a 2 Sided environment you can view both sides of a project in the 3D View using the Multi Sided View option.

The Composite Model

Aspire has been designed to work in a way which enables the user to easily create even very complex projects. In any situation, the best approach to producing something complicated is to break it down into smaller pieces until a level of simplicity is reached that can be understood and managed. In Aspire this is achieved by letting the user work with pieces of the design which are combined to make the finished part. In the terminology of the software these pieces are called Components. To help organize the Components they are assigned to Levels. Step by step, Components and Levels can be created and modified until you have all the elements you need. In the images below you can see an example of how this might work. On the left you can see the separate component for a model of a bunch of grapes and on the right you can see these positioned to make the complete part - we call this resulting combination the Composite Model.

There is no limit to how simple or complex a Component or the Components on a Level can be (this is the user's choice). In the example shown, you can see that a model of a whole bunch of grapes may be made up of smaller individual components but they could also be combined to exist as one single Component (the assembled bunch of grapes) that could then be used to lay-out a more complex part with multiple bunches of grapes. They could also be organized so all the grapes were on one Level and leaf and stem on another to provide a different way of managing and manipulating the shapes. Each user will find a level of using Components and Levels they are comfortable with which may be dependent on the particular job or level of proficiency with the modeling tools.

3D Components and Levels

In Aspire, the aim is to end up with a set of Components and Levels that when combined together will make the finished 3D part. One way to think of this is like building a 3D collage or assembly. As the design evolves, new Levels or shapes may need to be created or existing ones changed. The parts of the collage are managed with the Component Tree which will be covered in more detail later.

Creating and Editing Components

An existing Component can be copied, scaled and have other edits carried out on it as an object. The user can also change the way it relates to the other Components, for instance whether it sits on top or blends into an overlapping area of another Component. The shape, location and relation of these pieces determine the look of the final part. As the job progresses, the user will need to create brand new Components or edit existing ones by adding new shapes, combining them with others or sculpting them.

Components can be created and edited by:

  1. Use a modeling tool to create shapes from 2D vectors.
  2. Import a pre-created 3d model - either a model previously created in Aspire or from another source such as a clipart library or a different modeling package.
  3. Create a 'texture' Component from a bitmap image.
  4. Use the Split Components Tool to break an existing Component into multiple pieces.

All of these methods are covered in detail throughout the training material.

Dynamic Properties

As well as having its underlying 3D shape, each component also has a number of dynamic properties that can be freely modified without permanently changing its true shape. These include scaling of the Component's height, the ability to tilt it, or to apply a graduated fade across it.

These dynamic properties can always be reset or altered at any time during your modeling process, which makes them a particularly useful way of 'tweaking 'your components as you combine them together to form your final composite model.

Combine Modes

The Combine Mode is a very important concept when working with 3D shapes within Aspire. The options for combine mode are presented when creating new shapes and also when deciding how Components and Levels will interact in the Component List. Rather than cover this in every section where it is applicable, it is worth summarizing the options here so the general concept can be understood.

When you have more than one 3D shape, such as the Component pieces of the design or where you have an existing shape and are creating a new one, then you need to have a way to tell the software how the additional entities will interact with the first. This can be an abstract concept for users who are new to 3D but it is an important one to grasp as early as possible. In Aspire this is controlled by a choice called the Combine Mode.

There are four options for this: Add, Subtract, Merge and Low. These determine how the subsequent shape is combined with the previous one, for instance whether it sits on top of the original shape or blends into it.

As modeling is an artistic and creative process, there is no general rule to describe when to use each one. As a guide though you can assume that if the second shape's area is completely within the originals one then you will probably be adding or subtracting and if the shapes only partly overlap that you will probably use Merge or, very occasionally, Low.

The four options and their specific effects are described on the following pages. To illustrate the different effects a combination of an overlapping beveled square and a dome will be used. You can see in the image top right how these are arranged in the 2D View and how they overlap. Then you can see each individual shape in the images below middle and right. These shapes will be used to demonstrate the different Combine Modes. In every case the Dome will be considered the primary shape and the square is the secondary shape which is being combined with the first. In addition to the dome/square example some images of 'real world' parts will also be included to help to understand how these can be used on actual projects.

As well as working on individual shapes, the Combine Modes are also assigned to Levels. These will govern how the combination of all the individual components on one Level interacts with the result of all the Components on the Level below it in the Component Tree.

Note: There is a 5th Combine Mode available from the right mouse click menu after a component has been created called Multiply. This combine mode has specialist applications which are dealt with in the appropriate tutorial videos. This option will literally multiply the heights of the Component or Levels being combined to create the new Composite 3D shape.


When Add is selected, it takes the first shape and then just adds the height of the second shape directly on top of the first. Any areas which overlap will create a shape which is exactly the height of each shape at that point added together (see below)

Typically the add option is mainly used when the shape being added sits completely within the original shape, this ensures that the uneven transition where the parts only partly overlap (as shown in the example) do not occur.

The example above shows the Maple Leaf and border extrusion Components being Added to the dome Component in the sign example from the Introduction to Modeling document.


When Subtract is selected it takes the first shape and then removes the height of the second shape from the first. Any areas which overlap will be a combination of the original height/shape less the second shape. Areas where the shape goes into the background will become negative regions. You can see how this looks using the dome and square in the image below:

Typically subtract, like the add option, is mainly used when the shape being removed sits completely within the original shape, this ensures that the uneven transition where the parts only partly overlap (as shown in the example) do not occur.

The image shown above has some 'creases' to help define the muscles of the lioness. The shapes to create these recesses were created by using the Subtract option with the Create Shape tool on the vectors representing those recessed areas.


When the Merge option is selected any areas of the shapes which do not overlap remain the same. The areas that overlap will blend into each other so that the highest areas of each are left visible. This results in the look of one shape merging into the other and is in effect a Boolean union operation. You can see how this looks using the dome and square in the image below:

Typically the merge option is used when the shape being combined partly overlaps the original shape. This enables a reasonable transition to be made between them.

The image above shows 2 Herons, a rope border and banner Components. Each of these overlaps with the others and so they are set to Merge in this areas. Whatever is the higher of the two merged areas is what is prominent. In this case the rope is lower than everything and the Banner is higher than the Herons so the desired effect can be achieved.


The Low option is only available when combining Components (not in the modeling tools). When this mode is selected, any areas which do not overlap are left as they were in the original two shapes. Any areas which overlap will create a new shape which is the lowest points taken from each shape, this is in effect a Boolean intersection operation. You can see how this looks using the dome and square in the image below:

The Low option is used for recessing a shape into a raised shape. An example of this is shown in the image above.

The example shown on the right above uses the Low option to combine the flat topped 'button' component on the left with the curved top face component with the letter 'A' on the right. Combining both components with the merge low option gives the keyboard button with the curved top you see in the bottom row.

Combine Modes Summary





Level Mirror Modes

Right-clicking Levels in the component tree will open a pop-up menu offering commands and operations related to the clicked level and Mirror Modes can be set in this way. If a mirror mode is set on a Level, all the components it contains will be continually mirrored dynamically as they are moved, transformed or edited. The mirroring is non-destructive, that is it can be turned off or on at any time and does not alter the underlying components in any permanent way. Working inside a Mirror modes Level is a simple way of achieving a complicated symmetrical pattern by editing only one half (or quarter, see below) of the design.

The available Mirror Modes are broadly divided into two groups. The first group apply one plane of symmetry:

These modes allow you to work in one half of your job and the other half will be automatically and dynamically generated for you. For example, in Left to Right mode you would place your components in the left half of your job and a mirrored equivalent of each would be created in the other half of the job. This 'reflection' is updated dynamically as you work.

The other group offer two planes of symmetry (horizontal and vertical):

When using these modes your components should all be in the quadrant (quarter) of the job. Mirrored reflections horizontally and vertically will be created in the other quadrants of the job for you.

IMPORTANT: When a component is on a level with a Mirror Mode enabled, it will not be visible if it is in a reflected part of the job. For example, components on the right side of your job will not be visible in Left to Right mode because the right side of the model is being dynamically replaced by the mirror mode. Simply switch off the mirror mode for the containing level to restore everything to its previous layout.

Multi Sided View

When working in a 2 Sided environment you can create components independently per side or using the Right click option you can copy or move a component to the opposite side. Selecting the option to work in 'Multi Sided View' allows you to view components you may have on the Top and Bottom side in the 3D View. In the Toolpath Preview form of a project that contains toolpaths for the Top and Bottom Sides the multi sided view presents the simulation of the toolpath preview on both sides also, if the multi sided view is not selected you can use the 'Preview all Sides' option in the Toolpath Preview form to display the Top and Bottom Toolpaths in the 3D view. 2 Sided Setup will be described in detail later in the relevant section of this manual.