Working with 3D set operators

What are they?

The 3D set operators are a collection of geoprocessing tools that allow for the geometric comparison of 3D features in ArcGIS. They can be used to investigate and determine the relationship between 3D features, such as checking if one feature is located inside another. They can also be used to create derivative features from input features, such as combining two cubes into a complex shape. There are six 3D set operation tools:


Near 3D, which calculates the 3D distances between features, is often used in conjunction with 3D set operators.

Difference 3D in action
Difference 3D
Intersect 3D in action
Intersect 3D
Union 3D in action
Union 3D

What are they used for?

These tools are commonly used to construct new features, provide quality control on existing features, and conduct spatial analysis. Below are some examples of how the 3D set operation tools might be used:

Data requirements

Some 3D set operators require a closed multipatch to operate effectively. This is because the tools are calculating the relationship between a feature and the volume that a multipatch represents.

Learn more about multipatches and closed multipatches


Some 3D set operators are fairly process intensive and may take longer to execute. For example, Difference 3D and Intersect 3D require iterating through every feature in one input feature class, once for each feature in the second input feature class. Each iteration involves determining whether two features overlap, then computing their geometric intersection and writing a new unique feature. As a result, care should be taken when deciding what feature classes to use as inputs to these tools, regarding size and complexity of data.


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