Thursday, May 26th, 2016 Posted by Jim Thacker

AlphaVFX teases BulletFX 4, ships Volumetric Cutting

AlphaVFX has released a couple of sneak peeks at new features in BulletFX 4, the next update to its rapidly evolving 3ds Max multiphysics plugin, both designed to mimic the behaviour of living tissue.

From Bullet physics to multiphysics in under a year
Beginning as a simple GPU-accelerated implementation of the open-source Bullet physics library on its initial release last year, BulletFX has since grown to include solvers for fluids and granular materials.

In simulations, rigid and soft bodies, granular materials and FLIP fluids can interact with one another.

New tools for simulating organic meshes
Version 3 also added a differential FEM (Finite Element Method) solver, and a Tetrahedralize modifier for breaking meshes into tetrahedra, which now form the basis of the new features in version 4.

First up, the new Finite Element Organism solver (top of story) will “give the user the ability to simulate fully dynamic moving tetrahedralized meshes to replicate the movement of a living organism”.

Finite Element meshes can also interact with rigid bodies, as shown in the video above.

According to AlphaVFX, “the new Corotational Finite Element Volumetric Cutting solver … can be used to [simulate] the cutting of food and [in] medical simulations like cutting through organs”.

Available as an extension to the Bullet physics library
The new functionality – or something very much like it – is actually already available to purchase, in the shape of a new Volumetric Cutting extension to the Bullet physics library.

Depending on whether you buy it as a C++ library, a standalone tool, or an Unreal Engine add-on, it costs between $499 and $1,200; while the full source code is available for $1,800.

Other than that, there’s no information about Volumetric Cutting on Alpha VFX’s website, and it doesn’t seem to be possible to download a demo of the new tool before you buy.

Only low-res demos so far
How well the new functionality would hold up in production is difficult to judge, since both the demo videos for the Volumetric Cutting extension and Bullet 4 itself show only simple low-res meshes.

(In particular, the video for the extension uses a simple cube, making it a real leap of the imagination for a tool designed to allow users to “cut through organs for medical simulations”.)

The AlphaVFX website doesn’t have a forum, making it hard to tell what users are doing with the tool in practice, but you can read some feedback about previous releases, both good and bad, in this story on CGPress.

Pricing and availability
AlphaVFX hasn’t yet announced a release date for BulletFX 4, but BulletFX 3 is available for 3ds Max 2014 and above. It costs $260 for a single licence, with volume discounts and other licence types listed here.

Read more about BulletFX on AlphaVFX’s website