One of the major enhancements in Visualize 2019 is the enhanced support for materials, available in both Visualize Standard & Professional. If we break down the enhanced material support further, we can talk about 3 different types of materials or workflows supported; NVIDIA MDL, PBR & Allegorithmic Substance Designer. Let’s take a few minutes to describe them further and see what’s what.
NVIDIA MDL (Material Definition Language) Materials
NVIDIA MDL, is a proprietary language used to create and define textures, and is now quickly becoming an industry standard. Because the textures are “programmed”, and are not based on images, the benefit is consistency between various applications like CAD modeling, rendering and animation packages. Using MDL, materials look the same across applications. Think of it like how we use neutral files, like STEP to exchange between CAD packages, but for rendering applications. This alone is of huge benefit to customers that uses a number of different rendering applications in their workflow. This is particularly true for the automotive, aerospace and architectural sectors, huge users of advanced materials and textures.
Using MDL in 2019 is very easy… simply drag and drop the the MDL material from Windows Explorer onto your Visualize model. Currently, MDL is supported as read-only for 2019, but the plan is to expose some of those controls via sliders in future releases. For example, you could change the color shifts, or amount of scratches, or depth of the scratch, etc. As you initially drop the MDL onto the part, Visualize will expose all the various colors contained in the MDL, if more than one exists. From this point on, you can change the color needed. To change the texture mapping, simply choose the desired Texture Mapping Mode within the Appearances Tab. You can also create your own Visualize appearance using any of the MDL color variants of the texture imported, simply by exporting (saving) the Appearance from within the Appearance Tab.
NVIDIA has made accessible a collection of MDL materials anyone can download called vMaterials Catalog. To get your own copy, just send a request from the NVIDIA website here:
PBR (Physically-Based Rendering) Materials
Although the name “Physically-Based Rendering” is a bit misleading, PBR materials use images or “texture maps” to create the majority of the appearance’s look and feel. They are not “programmed” like MDLs are. Instead, PBR materials use a combination of the Texture Maps and settings/sliders typical of a normal Visualize appearance, to adjust settings like Clearcoat, Transparency, Roughness, etc. PBR Materials also allow more texture banks (7 to 8) compared to MDL (only 4). PBR Materials are perfect for adding surface imperfections, like fingerprints, smudges, scratches, dust and more.
PBR textures can be classified into 2 workflows or categories: Metallic/Roughness or Specular/Glossiness (most popular) and allows customization once added to Visualize.
To learn more about PBR materials, watch this quick video:
Applying PBR textures can be done one of 2 ways. First, you can simply drag and drop from Windows Explorer, like you would a MDL material. When doing so, once you drop the texture map onto the part, Visualize will prompt which of the texture maps you wish to use, giving designers flexibility over what map they want applied to their model. The second method is by creating a new appearance, and then importing the texture maps. This method offers the major benefit of being able to import all available maps automatically when selecting the first one. Since the texture map naming convention is not standardized and can vary, this can be a huge time-saver!
Even though PBRs are more recent then MDL, one of the benefits of PBR textures is that they are widely available from various sources like Poliigon. In fact, by creating a free account on Poliigon, you can download over 50 free textures to add to your own library.
Allegorithmic Substance Designer
High-end users of rendering tools may also be creating their own materials and textures. One of the most popular tools is Allegorithmic Substance Designer. This tool is widely used in automotive, AEC and industrial design and is simply amazing.
For those users, Visualize offers a live link between both applications. Changes and updates created in Allegorithmic Substance Designer can be applied instantly into Visualize to see the rendered result. First export your textures from Substance Designer as PNGs, create a new PBR material in Visualize, then add those PNGs to your texture maps. Then as changes are made in Substance Designer, re-export the new PNGs (by saving over the exact same filenames) and Visualize will automatically instantly update them!