3D Definition & Meaning

Three dimensional (3D) is something that has width, height, and depth. Our physical world is three dimensional, and we are able to perceive 3D because of the depth perception in our eyes. In relation to computers, 3D describes an image that provides the illusion of depth or varying distances. This is commonly used in films, graphics, computer games and virtual reality.

3D computer graphics

3D computer graphics generate and display 3D objects in a two-dimensional (2D) space, such as a display screen. Whereas pixels in a 2D graphic have the properties of position, color, and brightness, 3D pixels add a depth property that indicates where the point lies on an imaginary Z-axis. When many pixels are combined, each with its own depth value, the result is a 3D surface, called a texture. In addition to textures, 3D graphics also supports multiple objects interacting with one another. For example, a solid object may partially hide an object behind it.

3D films

3D films are motion pictures made to give an illusion of 3D depth, typically with the help of special glasses worn by the viewer. The first 3D movie came out in 1922 and has evolved to what it is today. To achieve 3D video, stereoscopic vision is used, meaning that two separate images are shown simultaneously, one to each eye. Closer objects appear more separated than distant ones. There are different types of 3D glasses that work in tandem with projection in order for the movie to become 3D. A few examples include:

  • Red/Cyan glasses (Anaglyphic processing): The original 3D system that is now largely out of use.
  • Polarized filter glasses (Polarized light system): The most common system for cinemas today.
  • LCD shutter glasses (Active shutter system): Newest, battery powered glasses that will most likely be the standard for 3D television.

3D printing

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of making a 3D, solid object from a digital file. Printing can be done with plastic, resin, and even metal. To print a 3D object, a digital model must be created using Computer Aided Design (CAD). The design is then imported to 3D printing software where the model is sliced into layers to be read by the 3D printer. The printer then produces layers of material one on top of the other. Industries that use 3D printing include education, prototyping and manufacturing, medicine, construction, and art industries.






Abby Dykes
Abby Dykes
Abby Dykes is a writer and editor for websites such as TechnologyAdvice.com, Webopedia.com, and Project-Management.com, where she covers technology trends and enterprise and SMB project management platforms. When she’s not writing about technology, she enjoys giving too many treats to her dog and coaching part-time at her local gym.

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