MDL Materials in SOLIDWORKS Visualize

By Mike Souders on

SOLIDWORKS Visualize has a great selection of material appearances right out of the box. It allows users to improve upon the standard SOLIDWORKS appearances and make their renderings look amazing. More choices are never a bad thing, and in 2019, SOLIDWORKS added support for NVIDIA MDL materials to SOLIDWORKS Visualize.

What is MDL?

MDL stands for Material Definition Language. These are meant to be portable material definition, meaning that the material will appear the same, regardless of which rendering application is used. These MDL materials can be downloaded for free here.

Adding support for these materials in SOLIDWORKS 2019 opened a wider range of appearances for SOLIDWORKS Visualize users. However, it was still not possible to edit the definition of these materials. Now, in SOLIDWORKS 2020, support for these materials has improved. Users can now edit the properties of the MDL materials. The definition of these materials is somewhat unique, and it allows a greater degree of customization than users may have seen in the default materials.

>> Watch our video to learn more about creating multi-layered appearances in SOLIDWORKS Visualize

Adding MDL Materials to Files

Here is an example of a rendering I created using the default materials:

Default materials in SOLIDWORKS Visualize Render
I wanted to try out these new MDL materials, so my goal was to change the material used on the chess pieces, as well as the material of the couch cushions.

After entering my information in the form on NVIDIA’s site, I downloaded the self-extracting .exe file and stored the MDL library in a folder on my computer.

To add the materials, users can drag and drop the MDL material onto an object within their scene. I wanted to experiment with different wood textures on my chess pieces, so I dragged the Bubinga Wood material to my chess pieces. Doing so adds a wide variety of options for the Bubinga Wood material to your current project. This allows you to then drag and drop these appearance options to the objects within your scene. I chose the bleached and oiled version for my white pieces, and the mahogany stained version for my black pieces.

Once the materials were assigned, I then discovered that these MDL materials have additional settings that can be tweaked beyond the typical color or roughness of the material.

SOLIDWORKS Visualize Toolbox

As you can see in the image, I was able to adjust additional properties like the stain color, weight, how much grain darkening effect there was, as well as the varnish amount and roughness. This allowed me to get the appearance just right for my chess pieces.

>> Read our related article, How Do I Print Wood?, to learn more about designing wood textures for 3D printing

MDL Selection in SOLIDWORKS Visualize

The fabric material for the couches offered some of its own unique options as well. I was able to adjust the color of the tweed pattern, and even how much “fuzz” there should be.

Fabric_selection_in_SOLIDWORKS_VisualizeThese materials expand upon the appearance library and give users even more options to create stunning renderings of their designs. Best of all, they’re free!

With SOLIDWORKS Visualize it’s easier to play with materials to achieve the best outcome for your designs. You can create renderings that will help you get a feel of what your final product would look like. Its design-oriented features and workflows enable easy and fast creation of visual content.

If you are interested in learning more about SOLIDWORKS Visualize and becoming more familiar with all its capabilities, watch our on-demand webinar, Get to Know SOLIDWORKS Visualize.