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How to convert Universal Scene Description (.usd,.usda, .usdc.usdz) to DGN (MicroStation)?

PolyTrans|CAD+DCC performs mathematically precise CAD, DCC/Animation, GIS and BIM 3D file conversions into all key downstream 3D packages and file formats. Okino software is used and trusted throughout the world by many tens of thousands of 3D professionals in mission & production critical environments, backed by respectable personal support directly from our core development team.


Universal Scene Description

The USD format (“Universal Scene Description”) is an open 3D model and scene format designed for efficient storage and streaming of 3D asset data. It is a high-performance extensible framework and ecosystem for describing, composing, simulating, and collaboratively navigating and constructing 3D scenes. An extensive overview of USD is provided in the Okino USD documentation.

Pixar Animation Studios originally created the USD platform (as its fourth generation variation after its Marionette & Preso systems) to improve studio-wide collaborative workflows. USD provides a concept of "scene composition", building a unified scene from potentially thousands of loosely-coupled source assets. For example, the mesh, rigging, materials, and animation for a single model might all come from different "layers" (files), each created and maintained by a different artist or department. Layers can store multiple "variants" of any given data, helping to solve problems of versioning/approval. The coupling between layers is very dynamic and loose, allowing for greater flexibility during the production process. The entire USD system is designed to facilitate a large studio making feature films, with all of the scale that that implies.

USD should be considered more of a code framework (“OpenUSD”) for use in group collaboration, to help with the aggregation of various 3D data sources into a unified scene through a process referred to as scene composition. A subset of that code framework provides for reading and writing USD disk-based files as well as rendering USD scenes (Hydra). The system is rather complex to implement (for software developers) and to use (from first principles) as a 3D graphics artist. The USD file format itself is not for faint of heart and is best read/written using the OpenUSD SDK + various programming APIs. More commonly used ASCII 3D file formats such as COLLADA, VRML2 and Wavefront OBJ are much easier to manipulate/understand/use on a human level basis.

File extensions used by the standard include:

  • .usd, Either ASCII or binary-encoded
  • .usda, ASCII encoded
  • .usdc, Binary encoded
  • .usdz, Zero-compression, unencrypted zip file



DGN is a 2D/3D file format, with its roots going back to the early 1980s, that is used as the native file format of such programs as Bentley's MicroStation and Intergraph's PDS software packages. Relative to deep history, DGN could be considered a competitor or rival to the Autodesk DWG file format. Okino considers both DGN and DWG rather "crude" and old file formats, depending on what vintage of file is used and whether the files contain ACIS-SAT/Parasolid "BREP solids" geometry or just 2D/3D vector geometry.

Okino considers a DGN V8 file to be of two varieties: (1) "GIS" like models defined using basic primitives like lines, curves, arcs and 3D objects defined by the extrusion and revolution of these basic elements - these types of files are typically glutted with an enormous number of basic elements which can result in massive scenes that can very slow to display and take up a lot of memory. (2) The second variety of DGN file uses the more modern "BREP solids" geometry type to define the 3D objects as lighter weight and more efficient NURBS surfaces and solids.

Okino spent over 20 years developing its DGN importers and exporters. As such, we understand the nuances of DGN and its related conversion issues. Please refer to our DGN importer WEB page which has extensive information on (1) the history of DGN and when to use DGN, (2) how to import massive DGN files (such as PDMS 3D plants, oil refineries, etc), (3) how to import from AVEVA PDMS and Intergraph PDS, and (4) our suggestions about using STEP or VRML2 as alternative conversion methods from Bentley's MicroStation.