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An efficient progressive compression and interactive transmission algorithm for 3D normal meshes, based on rate-distortion optimization, are proposed in this work. A normal mesh is partitioned into several segments, which are encoded independently. By truncating the bitstream for each segment optimally using a distortion model, the proposed algorithm yields a higher coding gain than the conventional approach. Moreover, to support interactive transmission of 3D models from client's viewpoint, each segment can be endowed with different priority of transmission. The view-dependent processing technique enables to reduce the transmission bandwidth considerably while maintaining the same visual quality.