PhysX for research

Hello! I am new to PhysX. I am hoping to use PhysX for some research work. Is it easy to simulate bodies of combined materials in PhysX (joining meshes of different properties for soft body)? Also, can I simulate moving bodies without rendering them and get information on coordinates (want to quickly compute distance travelled for example)?

As far as PhysX 3.3.4 is concerned…

I don’t think there is support for softbodies. You can construct a system of bodies attached by soft joints to sort of emulate a soft body. That’s not exactly the same as a soft body as the individual parts are still rigid bodies. However I’m not sure how other physics engines which do claim to support soft bodies do it so for all I know the standard soft body solution is just a network of rigid bodies.

You can create a rigid body comprised of multiple rigidly attached shapes with each shape having different material properties like friction and restitution.

PhysX is a physics engine, not a renderer. You can absolutely simulate without rendering though I suspect you would regret not having an option to perform some sort of primitive rendering as it’s a very convenient way of diagnosing problems in your setup or unexpected outcomes of your simulation.

Depending on what exactly your research involves PhysX may not be a great choice. It’s not really a physically accurate simulation for scientific purposes. It does a pretty reasonable job of satisfying laws of dynamics but it’s not a guarantee made by the engine. If your research is in dynamics, mechanical engineering, materials science or something like that you may need a more specialized tool.

Personally I use PhysX a lot for research (though like stated above: mind the application!), but only with rigid bodies. Soft bodies can be simulated, though only in PhysX 2.x or PhysX FleX. The Bullet engine (sorry for using bad words on this forum ;) also has (seemingly) good soft bodies. The there is Sofa which focuses entirely on soft bodies. I think there are no other free engines with (good) soft bodies.

The simulation tool I use has a render build in and allows to ‘hide objects’ and record data (with limited to non delay in the simulation). Here are some videos for ideas:
and some of our research for ideas:

Heemskerk, C. J. M., et al. (2011). Extending Virtual Reality simulation of ITER maintenance operations with dynamic effects.

Boessenkool, H., et al. (2013). Analysis of human-in-the-loop tele-operated maintenance inspection tasks using VR.

Oosterhout, J. van, et al. (2015). Haptic shared control in tele-manipulation: Effects of inaccuracies in guidance on task execution.