TP Sand Solver (fast metode)

A fast way to recreate sand inside 3dsmax with TP.

After TP Sand video on vimeo: I received diferent request for comercials doing similar effects but normally they wanted physical interaction between particles. This first video works well for desintegration stuff but not if objects need to interact between them or with other rigid bodys.
So I developed a way to make this work efficiently. Instead of using a FLIP or SPH solver I use a Fake metode.
First I drive a simulation with bullet with a procedural joint systems on it quite low res (2 to 4K boxes) This takes as much 3 seconds per frame and is very directable. Once Im happy with it I cache this first sim and I add a bunch of particles over it (around 4Milion on this examples), this particles has no physics at all, they only look around and follow the velocities from the first simulation. Based on densities and velocities they go apart to another group. This second simulation is also really fast, around 3 seconds frame for the examples you see on the video. I saw an example on vimeo using Houdini that use pretty much the same technique.
As you can see is really fast to sim, every video takes around 30 minutes to sim 250 frames for base+detail, the only problem is render times. Since Im rendering this with vray, and Thinking Particles has only instancing geometry for final render, Im always out of ram, I will handle as maximum 10M particles with a 64Gb of ram. Solution will be or move to final render, or use Frost, or pray to Edwin to implement an efficient instancing system for other renderers.

You have a link to download here, I think 7$ its quite affordable and a way to say thank you. You have also the free tutorial below with all the steps.

You need 3dsmax 2013 or up. And Thinking Particles 5 or 6.  Open the scene and cache the “rbmaster” dynamic set. When its done activate “detailboost” dynamicset. (when you cache the “rbmaster” I suggest to have 1 substep per frame, when you run the “detailboost” go back to no substep per frame for faster feedback)



Lets create first the Base simulation

You need on your scene an object to emit particles from,  can be a cube, a letter, or a teapot, you select this object with a “node” operator, read his volume with a “volumePos” and use “raster” option. With a “PositionOp” we create particles, select here “shot” as we want to emit particles only at the beginning, for number of particles add here a very high number since the total number of particles will be created with the “raster” option.  Adjust raster as you wish, I will go from 2 to 5K particles as maximum we dont need a really high number of particles at this stage. We create a cube geometry shape, and use as size the same value as your raster or little smaller to dont have interpenetrations (I used 1.5 for raster and 1.49 for cube size). All this particles goes to rb group.


Just after we have a gravity dynamic set, I will not explain this one, its just our rb group piped into a force operator. After we have the joint dynamicset. We want to create the sensation of cohesion between particles having some bigger frags we use a PPassAB with “rb” group in groupA and GroupB and we adjust when a joint will be created using the distance parameter. With a Joint op we create procedurally the joints as you can see on the image, I create point to point joints but use wathever you want.  With a BTJointData I turn on the option to break the joint when we reach a break impulse. I assign a random value per joint to have more natural feel (I use 1 to 7, but you can increase that amount if you want more compact sand).

For physics I use Bullet, its faster than SC, you can use Physx if you prefer, really simple setup, I increase physics iteration to improve joints calculation, also I create a subsample per frame to dont have particles moving crazy. After you are happy you can cache this rbmaster dynamicset and go to the second part.

With the RB dynamic simulation done its time to move to next step and add detail to our simulation. We use the same box we used to voxelize our system but now we dont need to use the “raster” option. add the particles you want on “PositonBorn” Be carefull with that and moving your timeline can be slow. I will go from 2 milion to 19 milion depending your available ram for rendering and if you use krakatoa to cache or no (we will talk about that later). For tests start with 5K particles to see how react and swith to final number only for rendering.

We need to mesh that, I use some very low poly goesphere with some noise on it, I used also vertex color to have some color variation on our sand, a random alignment and a breakup system to dont have so uniform sand. Note that here the group is set to All, the correct one will be to only mesh “detail boost” and “detail boost lost” groups.  Also if you plan to do that in frost this step is not needed.

We need to link this created particles to our main rb simulation we did before. for this we use a Psearch and use the found velocities to drive our new detail particles. Also when the detail particle is alone (low found density) we will send them to “detail boost lost”.

Also I send particles to “detail boost lost” by time. I use a “random” helper with “per frame activated, and with a threshold and always if the particles are moving I send this to “detail boost lost”. This step is not really necesary, only use if  you wish and adjust to your needs.

This “detail boost lost” has only gravity and deflectors, add all deflectors you need. Since its not physics based the system will run fast and some particles will interact more closely with your geometry.

Thats it! is quite an easy system and as you see is really effective. If you use a lot of particles I will suggest to use krakatoa to cache them and after mesh it with frost. Will save you a lot of ram and faster render times since you will not need to load all the geometry.



  1. Jop

    Very nice !
    I found a workaround some time ago for your proxy problem, check it out :

    Hope it may help you !

  2. nickolay411

    Looks really cool! Good work.

  3. pawel

    Hi, I have a problem with your tutorial. I cache “first part” of this tutorial (volume box), but i have problem in next step. When my new particle stick to cache box?

  4. Carol

    You´re simply a genious. Be aware of that. The way you manage TP is INCREDIBLE. I wished to have a little percent of your knowledge!
    I am a TP user and I always try to improve my skills in it, but you… you make me feel like a kinder girl :(

  5. Izat

    Hey, man, great tutorial, really clever idea on cheating with collisions!
    Would be more even usefull if you could reupload screenshot images from 2 to 5

  6. Izat

    Nope. Didn’t reup yet. Waiting

  7. ups I so that now, Im not sure if I still have the screenshots, I will try to fix it asap.

  8. Hi! I ‘m trying to follow the tutorial but like someone already mentionned above, image 2 to 5 are just thumbnails and we can’t pop them bigger like the others. Could you please make them bigger?

  9. Luis

    There is really no way to work with vray instance under TP?

  10. lin

    holle,I am pay for this file,how download that?

  11. Thank you very much for a great tutorial. I’ve been trying to understand how to setup similar scenes with TP for quite a while now but without this help it would have been impossible to squeeze out the last bits to make it all complete!
    I will make sure to post the final results once done :)
    Best luck in the future,

  12. Kev

    Hi and thanks for the great tutorial.
    I puchased your scene file yesterday, I was curious how you get your Bullet Physics drop down onto your rb master system? All I have when I try to rebuild the scene isthe Shape Collision Dynamics and the Shape Collision Optimize.
    Thanks again,


    • Not totally sure if I understand you. If you are talking about BTRigid bodies properties, be advise that this tutorial is done in TP5. In TP6 they changed how you setup Bullet. Now instead of going to the group, you need to create a BTrigidbody node and you will found the options there.

  13. Den

    Hello man. So im interested with your TP setup so I decided to pay for your max file but it seems I dont get any download link for it. Thanks for this awesome tuts btw!

  14. Tom


    I’m trying to follow your setup on free TP 6.0 and have trouble with Joints. The dynamic set they’re in doesn’t seem to be changing anything accept sim time. I tried to connect diffrent values to each input in BTJointData operator or even turning on/off whole Dynamic Set. It seems it just doesn’t have any affect on the whole sim. I tried to fix that by changing the PPassAB distance or PositionBorn size/raster but it doesn’t have any affect on the joints.

    Since I’m trying this setup in TP6 I’ve added Group RBcreation -> BTRgidBody in Bullet Dynamic Set – this seems to freak out when I set shape of the particles in BTRigidBody to something else than Box (i.e. Convex Hull just blows up in every direction – and i think it should have the same output as Box since I’m using boxes for this)

    I really can’t figure out what’s wrong here :) Sorry for long post but I’d really appreciate your help and time!

    Anyway – great result and tutorial! Best regards! Best TP site I’ve found! :)

  15. deokmun

    holle,I am pay for this file,how download that?

  16. mixman

    holle,I am pay for this file,how download that?

  17. kirk

    Hi Eloi !! Love the work u did !!
    It was awesome !!
    I follow the tutorial until step 3 ,but my particle doesn’t collide with the floor and fall through it instead. Did you know why?

  18. Anton

    I paid for max file, but
    not received the link :(


    hello! I paid this scene,please sent to me thanks!

  20. Mohsen Mousavi

    I just paied for this tutorial but did not get a link. Can you please instruct me on how to download it ?

    TransactionID : 0GE15770EB977244F

  21. bildcode


    awesome stuff ! I like it.

    Two things disturbed me, though.

    Stating this:
    “You have the file to download here, I think 5$ its quite affordable..”

    Lets visitors assume, that there’s a direct download link, but there isn’t.
    Also you’re actually charging 7$, not 5$.

    You should update the text accordingly. It’s quite misleading, to be honest.

    Thanks for the great tutorial. Lovin’ it.

    • admin

      Thanks for the feedback! Sorry about that, this post is quite old, and I changed the price without changing the post. Now its arranged. Thanks again!

  22. Amr Salman

    please my email is
    I just paied 7$ and didn’t have a link yet
    Transaction ID: 78033164Y8603964B

    thank you for your work

  23. EricGirar maglie calcio a poco prezzo IrvingLec
    Stephanie fotballdrakter barn SamaraDea
    ShawnAvel fu

  24. HawTyh Yang

    TransactionID : 97758801SD549825J

  25. Tan

    Hi, Eloi. Always a big fans of yours. I paid for the scene.
    Transaction ID: 7PP534522H095893V
    Can i know how to download it?

  26. Dave

    Purchased the scene file, trans – 00V992550E120525Y
    when can I expect a link,

    Best Regards,

  27. Sino

    great tutorial but I didn’t received the link of the scene file
    transaction ID:0772-0828-7247-0251
    thanks !

  28. sajeel

    Hi just purchased it
    my Transaction ID is : 2JX64441BY6595020

    Thank you for this

    • admin

      Sended to your email!

      For everyone else. If you dont recive the automatic mail in 4 hours after paying, (sometimes fails) please send me directly a mail and I will send it ASAP!


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