RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – From his days at Virtus Technologies in the early 1990s, Triangle entrepreneur David Smith has been an outspoken advocate of 3D technologies. In fact, he’s credited with creating the first interactive 3D game called “The Colony.”

On Monday, Smith’s relentless drive to make 3D a commercial success apparently paid off in a big way.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin acquired 3Dsolve, a company focused on simulation and training technology, for undisclosed terms. Smith is chairman of the firm. Word is that the 3Dsolve investors and shareholders were very pleased with the deal. And Richard Boyd, one of Smith’s longtime partners as well as CEO of 3Dsolve, will stay with the unit of 19 employees that will remain based in Cary.

Virtus and 3Dvillage, which was led by Boyd, were commercial ventures that ultimately failed to be significant commercial successes in part because the technology was too far ahead of the adoption wave. Now, however, 3D is becoming common, especially in training, simulation and games.

Yes, it appears that pioneers Boyd, Smith and others at 3Dsolve such as Chief Operating Officer Frank Boosman are no longer taking arrows in the back as pioneers. They’ve got a big brother to watch their backs.

By becoming part of Lockheed Martin, the 3Dsolve group will gain access to resources and capital it had not been able to secure through organic growth. 3Dsolve had worked with Lockheed Martin for several years on a contract basis.

The deal does not affect the “Republic of Fun” game development group that 3Dsolve recently spun off. Led by former 3Dsolve exec Rett Crocker, Republic of Fun is off to a fast start with several contracts already signed. Its focus will be casual games.

Smith and company have ventured into gaming before. Smith became a friend of best-selling author Tom Clancy and the two teamed up to form Red Storm Entertainment. (It is now part of Ubisoft.)

Another venture with a high-profile author, Michael Crichton, didn’t turn out as well. Timeline Studios folded after developing a game based on Crichton’s best-selling book .

By the way, 3Dsolve’s board of advisors includes another 3D veteran in the Triangle – Julian Lombardi. Lombardi, who now teaches at Duke, launched a 3D world called ViOS. While that venture failed, Lombardi’s wizardry helped create a predecessor to “Second Life.”

Persistence sometimes does pay off.