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Create Apple ARKit Files (USDZ) for iOS with Blender

In this guide I will show you how to create usdz files that can be displayed natively in Safari on iOS 12 and above.

The usdz file format, that was developed by Pixar, can be used to create Quick Look Objects that can be displayed in 3D and AR (Augmented Reality) either in Apps or in Safari on iOS.

This is how an experience on iOS can look like.

How to create a usdz file

1) Create a 3D File

To create usdz file you’ll need a 3D file that you’ll convert to a usdz file. For a still object you can use a Wavefront (.obj) file. For an animation you’ll use an Alembic (.abc) file.

I used Blender to create that File but you can use any other 3D program that can output .obj files.

2) Use the usdz converter to covert 3D file

Update 2021: There is a new Python Tool called “USDPython” that you have to download from Apples Developer Area. Once you download and install the tool you’ll have to start it up by running the USD.command file in the applications folder. This starts a terminal window from where you can run the commands that are mentioned here.

You will need to install Xcode on your mac which has the so called usdz converter pre-installed. If you want to dig deeper and create usdz files in your application check out apples documentation

To get started you’ll need the following files:

  • .obj file of your 3D object that has all it’s UV Maps saved properly for the textures
  • A set of textures for each mesh that exists in the file. Each texture is optional and only has to provided if you need it to improve the look of the file.
    • color map (also called albedo)
    • normal map
    • metallic map
    • roughness map
    • ao map (ambient occlusion)
    • emissive map

The terminal command to convert your file looks like this:

usdzconvert input.obj output.usdz 
-m CubeMaterial
-normal cubenormal.png 
-diffuseColor cubecolor.png 
-roughness cuberoughness.png 
-metallic cubecmetal.png

If you had another Material in the 3D file just follow up starting with another -m and the name of the material.

If you want to debug the input file and get verbose output to look at the names of the materials in the obj file just add -v like so:

usdzconvert input.obj output.usdz -v

And here is a complete video walkthrough of the whole process. (The script has changed since this video was made so use the script above)

Tipps

A few tips for you so that you don’t make the same mistakes as I did.

  • Don’t compress your png textures with a tool like TinyPNG, it will mess up the alpha channel and won’t work correct.
  • If you have Photoshop you can use it to create normal maps (Filter -> 3D)

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