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Get an inside look at your complex designs with object transparency

Written by nTop

Published on September 11, 2023


  • General

Key Software Capabilities

  • Real-time visualization

nTop has always enabled engineers to design parts with complex geometry that take full advantage of additive manufacturing. Yet, with emerging applications with refined internal geometry, like 3D-printed heat exchangers, and the release of new capabilities like Field Optimization, there is an increasing need to visualize and inspect the internal geometry of these complex parts.

In traditional CAD, transparency is a relatively common feature. However, nTop uses a revolutionary new approach that enables our users to work with highly complex models. This level of complexity makes transparency a lot more valuable but also requires a more thoughtful approach to implementing.

This article looks closely at nTop’s new transparency feature and highlights some of its most impactful uses.

What is object transparency?

Comparing topology optimization iterations using transparency

Simply put, object transparency is the ability to see through a model's outer surface and into a part's interior.

While this sounds easy in principle, many technical and design challenges pop up when designing parts with complex geometry. For example, there are multiple approaches to determining the final color value displayed at each pixel and how the layers are blended to present important details. Moreover, the software must process more information about the model in real time.

Know your designs inside and out

Being able to see through parts with complex geometry gives engineers higher confidence that the part they designed will work as intended. Here are a few helpful ways to use transparency when working with complex geometry in nTop:

  • Inspect the internal geometry of any part.
  • Spot hidden or unintended internal features with ease.
  • Visually compare two or more objects.

Inspecting internal geometry

Inspecting internal geometry for voids or other unintended features using transparency

We find transparency to be extremely useful when designing parts with internal geometry. Whether you’re designing a heat exchanger or lightweighting a part using the shell and infill approach, you can use transparency to perform inspection tasks, like:

  • Identifying hidden voids or unintended internal geometry.
  • Visualizing hidden hot spots in thermal simulation results.

Comparing objects

Before and after comparison of a model compensation workflow

You can also use transparency to visualize two or more overlapping objects. A few scenarios we found useful during our testing include:

  • Comparing the effect of different nTop workflows or design parameters.
  • Viewing the “before and after” results of a topology optimization process.
  • Comparing the differences of a model compensation workflow.

Using transparency with the field viewer

Using transparency and the field viewer on a heat exchanger

Lastly, we want to highlight a capability that is unique to nTop: combining transparency with the field viewer. You can simultaneously enable a see-through view of your part while inspecting a specific cross-section with the field viewer. This lets you analyze internal geometry more accurately.

How to use transparency in nTop

You can make any object in the scene transparent by pressing T and then use the Right Side Panel to adjust its transparency value.

In our initial release, we allow users to render transparent any object on their screen, including implicit bodies, CAD bodies, simulation results, optimization iterations, and more.

You can activate a block’s transparency setting and adjust its value in the display tab of the Right Side Panel — the same way you would change an object’s color. You can also quickly toggle the transparency of any selected block or object in the scene by using the shortcut T.

You can learn more about object transparency in nTop in our release notes.

What’s next?

Beyond transparency, nTop’s modeling experience team is focused on developing new features that enable more functionality in the scene — nTop’s model viewport.

The team is actively working on improved rendering capabilities as well as new methods for interacting with your model in the scene to streamline the design experience in nTop.


nTop (formerly nTopology) was founded in 2015 with the belief that engineers’ ability to innovate shouldn’t be limited by their design software. Built on proprietary technologies that upend the constraints of traditional CAD software while integrating seamlessly into existing processes, nTop allows designers in every industry to create complex geometries, optimize instantaneously, and automate workflows to develop breakthrough 3D-printed parts in record time.