my pc is equipped with core 2 duo 2.8 ghz, 8 gb ram, 256 mb quadro fx graphics card and enough hdd. i want to show an entire steel plant. there are thousands of parts in the plant model (modeled in Solid edge). i converted those models to STL format. imported to 3ds max (Applied quick weld, auto smooth, remove double face and unify normals). i could import those files successfully to max. but when i try to move a part max get crashed. it can't handle that much data.
besides, i have to show at least a hundred water pipes, smokes and fires. lol !!!. i can't even imagine the rendering part. my company ordered a 2 gb graphics card for me. i don't think its adequate.
is there a way to reduce the data size so that i can work with?
There are a few things you can do, depending on how close you have to get to the elements in your project with the camera. You can use the Optimize modifier once you reach a point at which you're happy with the models; this will cut down the number of polygons, and the models will appear the same as before. You can also work on separate projects, all with the same settings, units, etc., and then when you're ready to render, you can use the Merge tool in the Files pulldown to bring everything together.
If you're not animating the camera (even if you are, you can save the camera animation), think about creating your fire and effects in a separate pass, and then compositing them together using After Effects. This will cut down on the overhead. Using layers will help as well, so that you don't have all of your geometry turned on (using Hide Selected to hide what you're not currently working on) at the same time.