How to create a virtual plant ?
January 1, 2007 6:14 AM   Subscribe

How to create a real time 3D simulation of an industrial plant ?

The purpose of the project is to create a 3D simulation for a whole industrial plant (steelmaking plant).

It could be used for worldwide training in an immersive environnement.

Having the same level of graphic and interaction as FPS games like Half-life 2 would be wonderful. I know that 3D realtime engines exist.

Which companies can do that ?
Can it be online (like a MMORPG)?
How easy can it be to add new elements (machines,...) or update existing ones ?

Any suggestion is welcome.
posted by vincentm to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you have a $250k budget, anything is possible.
posted by SirStan at 8:06 AM on January 1, 2007

Valve Software doesn't discuss the cost of the Source engine, but probably the price of the engine alone is somewhere around half a million dollars. Video games these days are multi-million dollar projects, after all the art and software costs.

Fortunately, you can make "mods" a lot cheaper than that. If you're on a shoestring budget, get a copy of the game, the level editing software and go at it. It really depends how detailed and how interactive the environment should be, though. The FPS game engines aren't designed to simulate complex machinery. They let you put a bunch of boxes and barrels in a room, and maybe allow you to push those objects around. If your budget is in the multiple millions, then your options will grow.
posted by knave at 8:39 AM on January 1, 2007

I would attempt to contact valve software and tell them what it is that you're looking for. I disagree, however, that you can't simulate complex machinery, if, even on a purely cosmetic level. Attempting to contact valve and having a budget in mind will help you cut to the chase straight away. I imagine that if it were made as a half life 2 mod, then for the price of a valve license, anyone could get on and run around. You could get pretty fancy. You just have to know the right people.
posted by allthewhile at 8:43 AM on January 1, 2007

Another option is the Unreal Engine from Epic Megagames, which is used to run many of the best known FPS games. I've used UnrealEd (the editor) and what you describe is certainly possible, although lots of work.
posted by unSane at 8:53 AM on January 1, 2007

The Unity game engine from Over The Edge might be a good solution for you. Deployable on the web via a plug-in and supports importing from almost all major 3D apps (with textures). Cheap too! $250 for an indie license or $2000 for pro version. Develop on Mac OS X and deploy on Mac and Windows.
posted by Scoo at 10:04 AM on January 1, 2007

open croquet
posted by paradroid at 3:21 PM on January 1, 2007

Do you just mean some way of rendering it and walking around or do you need to actually simulate the operation of the plant? There's a few orders of magnitude more complexity there than I think you realise.
posted by polyglot at 9:40 PM on January 1, 2007

Response by poster: Polyglot : I understand that having a full scale model would be quite impossible (or would cost several million dollars). A simplified version of the operation, though, would be interesting.
posted by vincentm at 11:13 PM on January 1, 2007

I wish you had an email address in your profile; the company I work for to pay the bills has done this, among other things. The last one we did that was close to what you're describing was a full sim of a government office building that wasn't yet completed (they might not have even broken ground yet, in fact) that they wanted to show to an organization-wide group.

We use the Torque engine, FYI. The level of optimization isn't what you'd get from Unreal (which we did some prototypes with) but it's affordable, allowing US to remain affordable, and the license is structured in such a way that we can distribute the client freely.

Anyway, if you're actually interested in a corporate solution - ie, paying someone else to do it - we'll work from blueprints. Drop me an email to the address in my profile if you want to hear more.
posted by phearlez at 7:21 AM on January 2, 2007

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