NVIDIA has announced that the latest version of its physics SDK will be available sometime next year. PhysX 5.0 introduces support for a “unified constrained particle simulation framework,” as well as the industry standard for deformable effects, the Finite Element Model (FEM). (AMD had unveiled its own library for this technique, FEMFX, earlier this week.) PhysX 5.0 also implements new methods for simulating liquids and fabrics.
The Finite Element Model (FEM) is an industry-standard simulation technique for deformable bodies. It is used extensively in the automotive and manufacturing industries to accurately simulate the structural strength of both rigid and soft assemblies. It will be built into PhysX 5.0.
For liquid simulations, developers will be able to use discrete particle simulations to model fluids and granular flow. The implementation is scalable; large time steps can be used to stably simulate a wide range of liquids. The Discrete Element Model (DEM) provides support for friction and adhesion. PhysX 5.0 also uses an implementation of Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) to simulate liquids with discrete particles, a technique used in oceanography and volcanography.
Arbitrary meshes can be simulated as cloth or rope using PhysX 5.0’s constrained particle model. These meshes can be coupled with volume preservation constraints with application defined pressures to simulate inflatable shapes. The mesh based simulations also provide a model to simulate aerodynamic lift and drag. The constraint model supports springs so it can be used to create mass-spring systems. Shape matching provides a mechanism for groups of particles to maintain a rigid structure. This can be used to simulate approximate rigid body dynamics. Furthermore, the rigid structure can be deformed at run-time to implement plastic deformation-like effects.