IFC, the AEC-centric data model specification for interoperability, could be key to expanding the role that Nvidia Omniverse plays in architecture, engineering and construction and BIM-centric workflows
Nvidia is exploring how BIM schemas, especially Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), can be layered on top of USD, the 3D scene description and file format developed by Pixar which forms the foundation for Nvidia Omniverse, the 3D design collaboration platform.
The research is part of Nvidia’s multi-year plan to expand the capabilities of USD beyond visual effects, to better support ‘industrial metaverse’ applications in architecture, engineering, manufacturing, and other sectors.
Rev Lebaredian, vice president of Omniverse and simulation technology at Nvidia, told AEC Magazine that the default schemas that Pixar created are the fundamental building blocks for computer graphics and that, over time, there will be more and more schemas showing up for different industries, including AEC.
At the moment, Omniverse is used predominantly for conceptual design, but bringing IFC into the fold – and the important underlying data that forms the leading open standard for BIM – Nvidia could carve out a more important role for Omniverse in detailed design authoring and even operations
“We’ve done work towards bringing existing BIM schemas from other formats and translating them into USD, encoding them in USD,” he said, adding that IFC is the most likely path forward.
“That should be the standard since that’s the closest thing we have to a BIM standard for AEC.”
Lebaredian adds that Nvidia has already done the development work internally. “You can take any data that’s represented as IFC, which is just an XML file if I’m not mistaken, and convert it into USD – just translate it directly as a one-to-one representation and without any loss of data, and you can take it back.”
He admits that the challenge isn’t so much about modifying USD as a technology, but about getting enough buy in from industry. “What we want to look towards is having consensus, with enough people in the community that just agree this is actually what everyone should be using. Once you have that, you have the snowball kind of effect.”
Explainer: what is IFC?
Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) is the data model specification designed to enable interoperability in the AEC industry. To learn more, read this AEC Special report.
Nvidia is also looking to extend USD to better support digital twins. The company is working on real-time streaming of IoT data so digital twins can be better synchronised to the physical world. Meanwhile, support for geospatial coordinates will enable city-scale and planetary-scale digital twins, says Nvidia.
Meanwhile, to help extend the reach of Omniverse itself, Nvidia has expanded its range of Omniverse Connectors, a collection of USD-based plug-ins that connect 3D authoring tools to the Omniverse platform.
Newly available in beta are Connectors for PTC Creo, Visual Components and SideFX Houdini. Nvidia has also announced the ongoing development of Connectors for Blender, Autodesk Alias and Autodesk Civil 3D, Siemens JT, SimScale, and Open Geospatial Consortium.
Finally, Nvidia has made MDL, the material standard for physically accurate representation of 3D materials, ‘fully open sourced’. According to Nvidia, this means developers will now be able to bring support of MDL to any renderer or graphics APIs like OpenGL and Vulkan.
What AEC Magazine thinks
Nvidia Omniverse is currently very focused on visualization. It’s a powerful way to connect geometry and materials from disparate 3D authoring tools, but lacks the structured data that is so important for true BIM workflows.
Encoding the IFC schema into USD could completely change the role Omniverse plays in AEC. At the moment, it’s used predominantly for conceptual design, but bringing IFC into the fold – and the important underlying data that forms the leading open standard for BIM – Nvidia could carve out a more important role for Omniverse in detailed design authoring and even operations. What’s more, with Nvidia currently working on real-time streaming of IoT data into Omniverse, all of this broadens the scope for creating true digital twins on Nvidia’s continually evolving platform.