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SteelVis (aka CIS/2 Viewer)


SteelVis is a viewer for CIS/2 files and a translator from CIS/2 to IFC files.

The CIMSteel Integration Standards (CIS/2) is the product model and data exchange file format for structural steel project information.  CIS/2 is intended to create a seamless and integrated flow of information among all parties of the steel supply chain involved in the construction of steel framed structures. CIMsteel stands for the Computer Integrated Manufacturing of Constructional Steelwork.

CIS/2 has been implemented as a file import or export capability by many steel design, analysis, engineering, fabrication, BIM, and construction software packages. A CIS/2 file exported by an analysis or design program could be imported into a detailing program to detail the connections.  CIS/2 itself is not a software package that you buy.  The user will see it as a file format, just like DXF is a file format, that is imported or exported in steel related BIM software.

The CIS/2 standard covers everything from nuts and bolts to materials and loads to frames and assemblies. Structures can be represented as analysis, design, or manufacturing (detailed) models. There is a logical relationship between the different types of models. For example, a beam in an analysis model that has to be subdivided for analysis is logically only one beam in the detailed model.

The use of CIS/2 and the Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) is an important part of improving the delivery of structural steel projects in the steel supply chain. It can eliminate the redundant and error-prone reentry of information. Interoperability between different CAD software packages using CIS/2 and IFC is also a key driver of Building Information Modeling (BIM).

CIS/2 was developed at the University of Leeds (UK) and the Steel Construction Institute (UK) in the late 1990's. Georgia Tech was also instrumental in the development and implementation of CIS/2. AISC adopted CIS/2 as their data exchange format for structural steel in 2000, however, IFC is now the focus of their interoperability strategy.

CIS/2 Resources:


Generating VRML

SteelVis visualizes CIS/2 files by generating a VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) file that can be viewed in VRML software or web browser plugins. SteelVis provides a variety of ways to view a CIS/2 file including how the model is colored, text popups, a summary table, and debugging features.

Generating IFC

SteelVis can translate a CIS/2 file into an IFC file. IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) is the product model and file exchange format developed by buildingSMART to facilitate interoperability between BIM software in the building and construction industry. This capability is useful to transfer models from software that only exports CIS/2 files to BIM software that only imports IFC files but not CIS/2 files.

Sample Screenshots:

SteelVis screenshot showing SteelVis user interface, VRML model, spreadsheet, and model in BIM software


Type of software: Windows, command line, and online versions



SteelVis runs on Windows computers. The online version runs in any web browser.

A VRML viewer or web browser plugin is required to view the VRML files generate by SteelVis.

Instant Reality is required to generate optional X3DOM (WebGL) files. X3DOM files can be displayed in web browsers that support WebGL.

Download information:



SteelVis was developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology by employees of the Federal Government in the course of their official duties. Pursuant to Title 17 Section 105 of the United States Code this software is not subject to copyright protection and is in the public domain. This software is an experimental system. NIST assumes no responsibility whatsoever for its use by other parties, and makes no guarantees, expressed or implied, about its quality, reliability, or any other characteristic.

Although SteelVis checks for many syntax errors and should create a VRML model that looks correct, it does not imply that the CIS/2 file conforms to the CIS/2 schema. Conformance to the schema can be checked with other tools. A VRML model that looks correct also does not imply that the CIS/2 file follows recommended practices, software implementers agreements, or that it can be imported into another CIS/2 application.

There is no IFC to CIS/2 translator. There also is no VRML to CIS/2 or IFC translator.

We would appreciate acknowledgement if the software is used.

Development of SteelVis stopped after 2011.


Robert Lipman, robert.lipman@nist.gov