We talk about the state of BIM software in previous post, in this post we will talk about free BIM viewers existing on the market, with emphasis on infrastructure and civil engineering application
What is the function of BIM viewers? #
A lot of times you only have to read, but not edit, BIM files produced by other software. In this case, you don’t need to buy expensive BIM software licenses such as Revit or Navisworks, you can just use a BIM viewer to render the drawing.
The best thing is that, a lot of decent BIM viewers come in free!
Below are the free BIM viewers that you can use to view the BIM files
As far as entity clash analysis is concerned, Navisworks– owned by Autodesk is the leader in the market. Navisworks has its own proprietary format ( .nwd, .nwt), it also supports IFC format.
The only drawback is that Navisworks free version, Navisworks Freedom does not support IFC format. So it does not qualified as free BIM viewers.
You can view BIM files ( including IFC files) online via Autodesk free online viewer. Because it is an online viewer, so it might take some time to view and parse the file.
We gave it some rudimentary testing, and we found out that as of now, the online viewer can’t parse IFC 4×1 specific file.
BIM Vision is a free IFC viewer, developed by DataComp, a company in Poland. Currently it supports IFC 4. It has a Microsoft Ribbon style interface, giving it a modern feeling.
RDF IFC Viewer is developed by RDF Ltd, a company in Bulgaria. It is the only viewer that supports IFC 4×1 currently.
The drawback is that color and textual entities are not supported ( yet). So the rendering is a bit bland compared to other viewers.
XBim is developed by xBIM. xBIM builds on the concept of Open BIM, an initiative of several leading software vendors using the open buildingSMART Data Model. If you know C#, you can even download the source code of XBIM Explorer and tweak the explorer to your liking. This viewer comes with proper color and textual entities support, so it looks quite well.
From our testing, this viewer only supports up to IFC 4.
Dalux also has a free online BIM viewer like Autodesk free online viewer. You can view BIM files on websites, or even on mobile phones.
Like the majority of the free BIM viewers, Dalux BIM viewer seems to support only up to IFC 4; IFC 4×1 is not yet supported.
We go through a few leading free BIM viewers, there are pros and cons associated with them. There might be no one-size-fits-all free BIM viewers, So we recommend you to use different viewers, depending on your needs and requirements.
You may even want to write to the software viewer providers and tell them the problems you face with their viewers. They might even want to fix the problem for you! For it is their interest to do so.
Any BIM viewers that you want to recommend? Let us know in the comment!