Do free BIM viewers exist?

Geschreven door:

Demi-Jo Smith, May 19, 2022

Digital technology is an indispensable tool in the construction industry nowadays. Think of a modern document management system, a future-proof ERP system and special applications for communicating and collaborating remotely. 

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is an important working method within the modern construction industry. You create a three-dimensional, digital model of an existing or planned construction that is built up from objects. To this model, information about these objects is linked. This gives you a digital alternative to large blueprints on paper and creates an important source of information and collaboration during various phases of the construction process.

A BIM model differs from a normal 3D model, because of the enormous amount of information that comes with it. A BIM model contains not only information about shapes and dimensions, but all the data needed in construction. From the materials to the color of the structure. Multiple people, from the door supplier to the plumber, everyone can collaborate on and in a BIM model.

A BIM viewer is a useful tool for viewing and analyzing a BIM. The BIM viewer brings the BIM model to life and makes all the information it includes transparent. In this article you will read what a BIM viewer is, but also what the possibilities are. We regularly receive questions from the market as to whether there are free BIM viewers available and which parties offer good BIM viewers. These questions will be answered in this blog.

This way, you always know what stage a project is in

What is a BIM viewer?

A BIM viewer is a visualisation tool that allows you to view the BIM models that a design team creates. Just one click and you not only get the blueprint of a building, but all the important information that comes with it, as well. You can see the current design stage, but you can also choose to show models of the architect and structural engineer separately. In addition, a BIM viewer contains technical functionalities for making sections or measuring objects. Often, there is also a possibility to walk through the design in a first-person point of view.    

With a BIM viewer you can quickly see whether all the necessary data for the proper execution (information delivery specification) of the project has already been processed in the models your professionals work with. This way, you always know what stage a project is in. With a BIM viewer you can also easily share and discuss models and current projects with project team members, colleagues and authorised external partners (subcontractors, for example). Everyone has access to the correct information without delay or confusion, at any time. Furthermore, the client can check whether the contractor is meeting his predefined requirements and wishes.

A good BIM viewer also offers a solution for project managers. They can see immediately what is going on and what has or has not been carried out. Because from now on, you view all the drawings in one and the same tool. Therefore, it becomes easier to standardise or optimise workflows and processes.

Which parties and BIM viewers are there?

A common question coming from the construction industry is whether there are free BIM viewers available. The answer is technically no. There are free “stripped down” versions, but if you want a BIM viewer with a full spectrum of functionalities, you always have to make a (relatively modest) investment. Fortunately, as a construction company or project developer, you do have several good options to choose from. We list the best and most popular BIM viewers for you.

Solibri Anywhere

With this tool, formerly known as the Solibri IFC Viewer, you can view IFC and SMC files, but also load multiple IFCs into one file, for example. In addition, you are able to create your own issues in Solibri Anywhere. For example, you can create your own presentation or open a BCF file for presentation purposes. It is also possible to keep up your own topics and notes within BIM models. This information is easily shared with other parties that are involved in the construction project. 

Unfortunately, Solibri Anywhere does not (yet) offer the possibility to filter within models on specific elements. This makes it difficult to quickly gain insight into certain specific elements of a construction plan.

Dalux BIM Viewer

Solibri Anywhere is certainly not a bad BIM viewer, but it falls short for project developers and construction companies that use very complex models. The Dalux BIM Viewer is a more powerful workhorse that is better tailored to visualising complex building models. Dalux is free to try out, but if you really want to get serious, the free version falls short, and you need the paid version.

Dalux supports open-BIM and allows you to upload one or more IFC files to a dedicated BIM engine. The viewer supports and displays drawings in PDF, DWG, DWFX, PNG and jpg formats. You can view 2D blueprints along with the 3D model. With the Dalux BIM viewer you can easily navigate through models and cut, measure and view various BIM properties. This can be done both on the computer and on a mobile device.

Another advantage of the Autodesk Forge 3D Viewer is its smooth integration with other building software and systems.

Autodesk Forge 3D Viewer

The Autodesk Forge 3D Viewer is for many construction professionals the standard within the current market for BIM viewers. It is the Rolls-Royce among BIM viewers, the strongest tool on the market. This BIM viewer offers you freedom of model format (you can choose IFC or RVT) and provides advanced development tools that allow you to check the properties of all objects in a model against the calculations that are made. In addition, it is possible to view and analyse the individual elements of a building at a detailed level by virtually dividing the drawn structure into different components.

Autodesk in Prostream.
Autodesk in Prostream.

The Forge 3D Viewer also allows you to create a horizontal or vertical cross section of a 3D model. In addition, there is the possibility of a virtual walk through a building, which enables you to make all available construction and interior options visible and tangible to a buyer, for example. Another advantage of the Autodesk Forge 3D Viewer is its smooth integration with other building software and systems. For example, the tool is integrated into Prostream by default, allowing you to naturally combine document management and BIM.  

Choices to be made

Hopelijk ben je door dit artikel wat wijzer geworden in de wereld van de BIM-viewers. Misschien weet je nu precies wHopefully this article has made you a little wiser in the world of BIM viewers. Maybe you now know exactly which one is right for you and maybe you still have some questions and doubts. If you would rather talk to an expert about this, we are here to help you.