NavisWorks was launched by the UK-based company, LightWork Design (developer of LightWorks, the leading 3D rendering engine), and spun off as a separate company in 2002. On June 1, 2007, NavisWorks was purchased by Autodesk for $ 25 million

What started off as a base level viewer and visualizer of 3D CAD models has matured into a product that can access all the popular 3D design file formats, has the ability to combine multiple models into one file, comes with an Application Program Interface (API) for customization, and includes plug-in modules for advanced capabilities such as interference checking and 4D construction simulation. With the growing interest and push towards 3D building modeling, applications like NavisWorks will become increasingly critical as a means to view and collaborate on 3D content outside of the one or more 3D authoring applications that create it.

Before looking at NavisWorks in detail, a quick overview of this new genre of applications should help to place it in the right context.

The New Genre of 3D Viewing, Checking, and Presentation Software

Current electronic publishing solutions such as PDF and DWF are primarily geared towards 2D drawing content. With the increased adoption of 3D modeling, a new genre of software solutions is emerging to address the need to visualize, review, and present 3D content outside of their authoring applications. Some applications in this genre I have reviewed over the last two years include o2c_Interactive!, Solibri Model Checker, and QuadriSpace Presenter.

Built on the highly-compressed, Internet-deliverable o2c format, o2c_Interactive! is an application that allows designers to interactively navigate through 3D content online, explore and present different variations of material finishes for 3D objects on the fly, and generate high-resolution photorealistic renderings of selected alternatives (see my review of this application). 

At the other end  Solibri Model Checker, a tool for "design spell checking" of a building model in the IFC format to detect potential problems, conflicts, interferences, or design code violations, and ensure the integrity of the model to downstream building analysis applications. It has a good visualization interface, allowing viewing and walk through of the model, and enables parametric constraints for checking that can be configured to desired standards, which explains the high price tag (see my review of Solibri).

The third application, QuadriSpace Presenter, is a 3D publishing and presentation solution that falls between these two extremes from a cost perspective.  this is a tool for creating interactive multimedia presentations combining navigable 3D models, animation sequences, and , intended for use by design professionals to present their design concepts to clients. It includes some powerful features such as the ability to record animation sequences in 3D models and include these sequences in the presentation, the ability to synchronize a 3D model and the corresponding 2D vector drawing so that the position in the floor plan can be monitored during navigation through the 3D model, and collision detection in walkthrough animation (see my review of QuadriSpace Presenter).

NavisWorks includes a suite of several different tools that together provide many of the capabilities of the applications just described. The entry level solution is Roamer , which opens 3D design files in the most popular file formats, allowing review of geometry, object information, and materials. The other NavisWorks tools are available as plug-in components for Roamer: Presenter is an authoring application that allows textures, materials, and lights to be applied to the 3D model and creates both still and animated photorealistically rendered output; Publisher creates compressed and secure review files for sharing with other team members and clients, which can be viewed and navigated with Freedom, a free 3D viewer; Clash Detective allows the geometry created by different 3D design applications to be reviewed together and checked against each other for interferences; and finally, TimeLiner  allows task schedules to be linked to 3D model data for performing 4D construction simulation.