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3D modeling applications are notoriously difficult and expensive which means that there's plenty of scope for new contenders majoring on usability and value. That's exactly what Eovia promises with the release of its brand-new application, Hexagon.
Hexagon takes advantage of its fresh start to totally rethink its interface and approach. The result is a streamlined environment consisting of a large central work area surrounded by: a control bar running below to manage layout, grid, view and display options; a series of collapsible properties panels to the right to manage scene, object and tool parameters; and a large toolbar across the top providing access to the main manipulators, selection options and the creation and editing tools. It's not exactly revolutionary but compared to most 3D applications it's extremely easy to come to terms with and, more importantly, very efficient in practice.
So just what modeling power does Hexagon provide? As you'd expect, Hexagon provides a typical assortment of ready-to-go primitives including cubes, spheres, cones, cylinders and TrueType-based text. Crucially it also supports the most fundamental and useful building block of all, the multi-sided polygon or n-gon. Most eye-catching is the support for spline-based objects which are constructed by drawing closed shapes and open lines that are then designated as sections and/or profiles. Most modelers provide basic Sweeps and Extrusions, but Hexagon also provides advanced options such as Ruled Surfaces, which are particularly useful for producing faces, and Gordon Surfaces which are commonly used for product design.
For the most regularly used Sweep and Extrusion effects a very handy feature is the ability to create the profile on the fly simply by clicking and dragging, especially as this enables the size of each section to be changed. Such creative interactivity is great but you're unlikely to get things absolutely right first time. However that's not a problem thanks to Hexagon's Dynamic Geometry system. Look in the Dynamic Geometry panel and you can select the original sections and profile paths and then re-edit them with the object updating accordingly in real-time.
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| Hexagon offers retrospectively editable spline-based surface construction.
Spline-based surfaces play an important role in building up objects but ultimately maximum control lies at the polygon level and it is here that Hexagon really shines. Before you can take full control of your mesh, you first need to select the right faces, edges or points to work with and Hexagon makes this process simple with a host of options for converting between selection types, automatically selecting loops and rings, soft selection, growing and shrinking selections and so on. The core transformations of repositioning, scaling and rotating in 3D space are also child's play thanks to the intuitive colour-coded onscreen manipulator.
It's with its range of hands-on editing tools though that Hexagon really stands out. The interactive sweeps and extrusions that provide so much power with splines are also available for faces, edges and points, and there's a simple Fast Extract tool with its own interactive manipulator. To add detail to your work there are dedicated Tesselate and Connect tools while the excellent Edge tool provides another special manipulator to enable new edges to be produced interactively by filleting or extracting along or around the current selection. And to finish things off, the Tweak tool lets you visually refine your object much like a sculptor working with clay.
For more large scale edits, Hexagon provides a number of utilities for applying one-off bend, taper and twist deformations and for triangulating and simplifying the mesh. Particularly useful are the surface modeling options for applying a set offset or set thickness to your objects - great for instantly creating walls and corridors especially as these parameters are retrospectively editable via the Dynamic Geometry panel. Most important by far is the ability to set an overall smoothness level for your object which enables Hexagon to handle more organic modeling tasks. Crucially the necessary surface subdivision is handled seamlessly in real-time and is also retrospectively editable. The ability to quickly remove and re-apply object smoothing really makes the most of Hexagon's hands-on mesh editing.